By Greg Odogwu
This is really the worst of times for Nigeria.
Niger Delta Avengers is a new group of militants that the country is today faced with. For the past few weeks they have bombed critical oil and gas installations in the Niger Delta, and thrown the national economy into a crippling shock.
The major reason they are more destructive and of deep concern to the government is the fact that they are hitting at the heart of the country’s primary source of income.
Although Nigeria has had a fair share of militants in that region especially between 2005 and 2009 when the government came up with the Amnesty Initiative, there is something that strikes a chilling note in this new militant group.
From the accounts of oil workers who witnessed them in action, they seemed more interested in inflicting maximum damage to the tools and property used in oil production than in (psychologically) harming or kidnapping oil workers – the major tactic of former Niger Delta militants.
A particular oil worker who relocated to Abuja after experiencing first-hand the attack of the new militants in his oil platform, recounted how the Avengers carefully evacuated the oil workers and staff from the rig before placing explosives on the oil installations and blowing them up.
It seems they set out to inflict maximum harm not only on the property of the workers but on the Niger Delta environment. This new group seems to be making a statement for everybody to see: We shall destroy our land to show that you have been unfair to our land!
This is the signature of eco-terrorism. I recall that in 1984, a group with a similar name with the Niger Delta Avengers wreaked havoc in Hardesty, a United States of America community. It called itself the Hardesty Avengers.
Eco-terrorism means violence done to persons and/or their property in the name of the environment or to support environmental causes. It should not be confused with environmental terrorism. The Hardesty Avengers spiked hundreds of trees in the Hardesty Mountain portion of the Willamette National Forest, Western Oregon.
Their grouse was that their community and its environment were being harmed by the American government and the tourism industry. The government had to put a reward on the Avengers, but up till now no one was arrested for the crime.
Eco-terrorism is defined by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation as “the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against people or property by an environmentally oriented, subnatinal group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature.”
In America, eco-terrorists have used tree-spiking, arson, and murder to express their grudges. It is estimated that the US government has lost close to half a billion dollars in property damage as a result of eco-terrorism.
Granted, the Niger Delta Avengers have given the government conditions for ending attacks and most of them are not related to environmental causes, but we can safely assume that every agitation from the Niger Delta region revolves around environmental justice.
Nevertheless, Nigeria being what it is, every other kind of leaves and sheets – from politics to crime – are packed inside the region’s eco-portfolio.
In this wise, the only germane demand from the Avengers’ ten conditions to the Federal Government of Nigeria is the number six demand which says: “Ogoniland and all oil polluted lands in the Niger Delta must be cleaned up, while compensation should be paid to all oil producing communities”.
However, it would be naïve to assume that the environmental demand is the core of the Avengers’ grouse because one would be reminded that Nigeria’s present administration has already commenced the process of cleaning the polluted Ogoni land of the region.
The story is also twisted when one remembers that the immediate past administration was headed by a son of the Niger Delta, who would have naturally pushed all the region’s demands as his administration’s priority policies and projects. But he did not.
It then means that Nigeria is now left in a complex situation, where every eco-terrorist strategy seems to be coloured with hidden agenda and ethno-political intrigue.
This is not good neither for the Niger Delta region nor the country, because eco-terrorism spoils everything. It is the mother of all terrorism.
The danger with eco-destructive weapons is that it turns battle into deliberate cauldron, and converts war into Armageddon. It is against the law of nature; against the philosophy of human survival. This is why the world never allows biological and chemical weapons to be used in conflict theatres. The world never allows destruction of heritage sites.
The world consciously ended the nuclear arms race because of the unimaginable impact atomic bombs has on the eco-system – permanent and hellish.
As determined eco-terrorists, the Avengers could end the survival of the Niger Delta environment by their attacks. The oil spill, gas leaks and GHG emissions from the onslaught could spell extinction for the region’s flora and fauna.
The people of the Niger Delta have suffered enough deprivation, environmental injustice and neglect even from its own elite class. These folks should not be subjected to more pollution of their air, land and water.
I am aware that the bombing of Forcados pipeline, Bonga Oil field, Chevron trunk lines and other oil and gas installations could draw immediate attention to the Avengers, but these will draw more ecological hazard to the region.
UNEP says Ogoni land would take more than 30 years to clean up; therefore incurring more pollution on the Niger Delta extends the sickly years of the region and shortens the life span of every child born in the “avenged enclaves.”
At the end of the day, not even all the money of the world can meet the demands of the eco-terrorists.