Delta - Vioelnce in the Niger Delta may soon increase unless the government acts quickly and decisively to address long-simmering grievances, the International Crisis Group (ICG), warned.
The organisation said the costly Presidential Amnesty Program for ex-insurgents due to end in a few months, there were increasingly bitter complaints in the region that chronic poverty and catastrophic oil pollution, which fuelled the earlier rebellion, remain largely unaddressed.
“Since Goodluck Jonathan, the first president from the Delta, lost re-election in March, some activists have resumed agitation for greater resource control and self-determination, and a number of ex-militant leaders are threatening to resume fighting (“return to the creeks”),” the organisation said.
It said while the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East was the paramount security challenge, President Muhammadu Buhari rightly identified the Delta as a priority.
“He needs to act firmly but carefully to wind down the amnesty program gradually, revamp development and environmental programs, facilitate passage of the long-stalled Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and improve security and rule of law across the region.”
ICG said the outcome of the presidential election had also heightened tensions.
“While most people in the region acknowledge that Jonathan lost, some former militant leaders and groups accept Buhari only conditionally,” ICG said.
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For instance, ICG said, the Niger Delta People’s Salvation Front (NDPSF), the civil successor to the militant Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF), claimed Jonathan’s ouster was the product of a conspiracy by northerners and the Yoruba from the South West against the Delta peoples and the South East.
“Apparently influenced by that view, some groups are resuming old demands, hardly heard during the Jonathan presidency, for regional autonomy or “self-determination.”
ICG noted local tensions generated by the polls also posed risks, particularly in Rivers State, where Governor Nyesom Wike of Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party and former Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Buhari’s All Progressives Congress were bitter foes.
“With many guns in unauthorised hands, politically motivated assassinations and kidnappings for ransom, already common, could increase,” ICG warned.
- CAJ News