By Bellarmine Nneji
THE renewed militancy in the Niger Delta, especially the bombing of oil and gas pipelines and other oil facilities in the region has been gleaned at from different perspectives. Many agitators in the South and other like minds are in support of it. Others see it as economic sabotage as well as political sabotage. Some see it as a justified struggle to salvage a dire situation. A lot equally condemn the methodological approach bearing in mind that dialogue is the best way towards resolution of issues and conflicts.
In political engineering and craft, the pacifists condemn violence in all its ramifications. In philosophy of war, this theory and philosophy has become somehow redundant with the nature and dimension of aggression in the current millennium as any nation can go extinct with just a mere push of a button from a control room by any crackpot leader. (Whenever issues like this crop up, usually the North Korean leader comes to my mind. I see him as a ‘randy’ nuclear weapons monger) Pacifism remained a good philosophy of war during the era of the old means of warfare but not now that we have high-tech weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which is digitalised and coupled with the advanced nature of terrorism across the globe. It is believed that if such weapons enter the hands of major terrorists in the globe, they will not hesitate in unleashing terror with that in the face of stiff challenges and when they are running out of strategic options.
The bombings of oil and gas pipelines and facilities by the Niger Delta militants have serious boomerang effects on the territories in the region. I do not think that these militants did their feasibility studies. If they did it well they did not do their impact assessment well. It might be a rash and juvenile decision, a decision they will forever regret for which posterity will forever blame them. If the Niger Delta militants are not a political tool of some individual(s) who felt they have lost out in the grip of power, I think they must have a rethink on their approach of pipeline bombings. This militancy has entered into a vicious circle. Our people have a saying that the sheep thought it was dealing with its owner by messing up everywhere with its faeces without knowing that it was only messing up its anus and sleeping abode.
During the course of my research in environmental ethics, I had interactions with the World Wide Fund for nature (WWF). I came across studies in their reports and other materials on environmental pollution and degradation where it was reported that due to chemical pollution of some streams and rivers many animals and other aquatic lives were obstructed and mutated. Some alligators started giving births to half-male and half-female offspring. In some other cases, there were births of deformed young. Some were born with three legs, some with one eye, etc. These were as a result of pollution of their biosphere. The chemicals found in the waters affected the DNA constitution of these aquatic animals.
Recently, in the news we have seen reported cases of Niger Delta women reporting of birth deformities. This is a typical replica of the reports of the studies by the WWF. It was reported in one of our online news media Naja.com that oil spill from bombing of oil and gas pipelines in the region is causing birth defects in the region. It reported, quoting Vanguard reports, that oil spillage in Bodo, Bomu, Kpe, B-Dere and K-Dere and other Ogoni communities in Gokana local government area in Rivers State has resulted in women giving birth to abnormal babies. The report further stated that although oil spill due to oil exploration has been a problem, the degree of exposure to hazards has multiplied of recent times due to multiple bombings of pipelines by militants.
The report further stated and was corroborated by a Commissioner for Health in the area that they have recorded some cases of births with such anomalies as ‘anencephaly, omphalocele’ and others. These may be some of the manifest cases. There is no gainsaying the fact that there will be cases of increase in cancer-related diseases in the area. Aquatic life must have been affected by this oil spillage as a result of these indiscriminate or coordinated bombing of oil and gas pipelines. The major means of livelihood in this area has been threatened and must have aggravated the hardship and widened the poverty margins in the area.
On a serious note, the people of the Niger Delta should note that technology is fast overtaking humanity and its ways and means of operationality and functionality. There is a grand plan to divert attention away from the oil economy and politics. Fossil fuels and its technology will in no sooner time become a thing of the past. Nuclear, solar energy and bio-energy are fast becoming the order of the day. Bio fuel technology is not distant. It is a matter of decades or a century and oil will be a thing of the past as was coal.
There are posers for the people of the Niger Delta and the various groups of the Niger Delta militants. What if these oil and gas pipeline bombings damage the environment to an extent that it may lead to relocation due to the high toxicity of the pollution which the cost of solutions far outweighs whatever perceived benefits you are fighting for today? If by the time you achieve whatever you are fighting for today and oil is no longer relevant for a burgeoning economy and you are left with a hopeless and helpless environment that can no longer adequately sustain life what have you then achieved? Will posterity be proud of this style of your struggles and legacies? Niger Deltans, the globe is turning away from oil. This will happen very soon. Rethink.
Looking at this issue from another perspective, the discovery of oil in the Northern region adds a new dimension to the analyses of the entire scenario. If the bombing of oil and gas pipelines in the Niger Delta region is a well orchestrated economic and political sabotage, is this not defeated by this finding? Some might argue that before the process is finalised as to put the products into use, it will be decades. Lets assume the present regime channels its major resources towards this project, knowing full well that the major albatross on its neck with regards to the present economic recession is as a result of fall in oil production due to pipeline bombings and the new found oil wells begin production, will the Niger Delta militants move to the North to attack these facilities. This will now tell the whole world that the reason for their militancy is political in nature and therefore not as a result of the struggle for survival or neglect of the region. This is because, by then, the government will no longer be hundred percent bordered in arresting the insurgency in the region. The pacifist position and attitude to war and aggression has earlier been seen as no longer tenable in the present millennium.
This is only however true in times of real war and aggression. But in the case of the Niger Delta, one thing has to be made clear, the people took up arms on their own without any ‘armed provocation’. Here, there is no gainsaying the cogency of dialogue. This is bearing in mind the environmental implications of the dimension of their struggle.
Dr Nneji is a visiting lecturer at the Department of Philosophy, Seat of Wisdom Major Seminary, Owerri, Imo State.