Sunday, 11 October 2015

Niger Delta militants attack Shell facility, kill guard

Niger Delta militants attack Shell facility, kill guard

Few days after an international security organisation warned of renewed agitation by militants in the Niger Delta part of Nigeria, some armed men stormed a Shell facility in the area killing one person.

Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, on Sunday confirmed that its flow station in Bayelsa was attacked by suspected gunmen on Friday.

Confirming the incident in a statement by its spokesperson, Joseph Obari, Shell said investigation into the incident was underway.

“There was an armed attack on a Joint Task Force (JTF) sentry post at Kolo Creek Flow Station on October 9, 2015, in the Eastern Niger Delta.

“Regrettably, a community guard at the flow station lost his life in the incident.

‘’We are saddened at this loss of life and our thoughts are with the bereaved family.

“The security agencies are investigating the incident,” it said.

The guard who was killed by the gunmen was reportedly on duty when they struck. It was gathered that much havoc would have been done to the facility and personnel but for the prompt response by the JTF.

‘’The sound of gunshots fired by the suspected militants alerted the security team stationed to guard the oil installation, which repelled the gunmen, forcing them to run away,” the News Agency of Nigeria quotes a source as saying.

Friday’s attack on the Shell facility occurs few days after PREMIUM TIMES published a story warning of renewed agitations by the militants.

In its latest report issued on September 29, the International Crisis Group warned that increasing complaints over chronic poverty and oil pollution as the Presidential Amnesty Programme for ex-militants reaches its twilight, may fuel a renewed rebellion in the region.

The group observed that since the defeat of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, who is a native of the region in March, some activists have resumed their “agitation for greater resource control and self-determination” while some ex-militants have threatened to return to the creeks to resume the armed struggle that characterised the region prior to the amnesty programme.

At its peak in 2009, the insurgency in the Niger Delta cut Nigeria’s oil output by over 50 per cent and was costing the government close to four billion naira (nearly $19 million) per day in counter-insurgency operations, according to the International Crisis Group

An amnesty programme put in place by the government in 2009 helped in reducing violence in the region.

The report however said the programme failed woefully to address the inherent causes of violence in the region such as poverty, youth unemployment and environmental pollution caused primarily by oil spills.

“The government has largely failed to carry out other recommendations that addressed the insurgency’s root causes, including inadequate infrastructure, environmental pollution, local demands for a bigger share of oil revenues, widespread poverty and youth unemployment,” the report observed.

According to the report, the original arrangement where militants in the amnesty programme were paid through their leaders helped in making fighters dependent on their leaders as well as solidify the bond between them in such a way that makes it easy for the militant leaders to rally their fighters to cause trouble.

The report stated that because the stipend paid to ex-militants ( N65,000) is way more than the national minimum wage of N18,000, many ex-militants have become indolent and instead of seeking paid employment, rely on the stipend.

It however said stopping the payment of the stipend may create serious security challenges.

“There is a serious mismatch between the training the former militants receive and the job market. At the end of March 2015, reportedly only 151 of the 15,451 graduates from the training programs had found jobs with credible organisations in the country.

“Many currently being trained have high expectations of positions in oil, gas and aviation companies, but industry sources insist there presently is limited room to absorb many job-seeker. Frustrated graduates may be tempted to return to militancy or violent crime, only now better educated and more likely capable of extracting new concessions from the federal government,” it noted.

The report also pointed out that the cancellation of the pipeline protection contracts of some ex-militant leaders by President Muhammadu Buhari is likely to push some of these militant leaders to resume their arms campaign against the government.

It added many militants leaders have become stupendously wealthy and politically influential following years of government patronage during the Goodluck Jonathan administration thereby increasing their capacities to cause mayhem or make higher demands from government.

The organisation slammed former President Jonathan administration for paying “less commitment to the crucial tasks of improving infrastructure, restoring the environment and enhancing livelihoods. In spite of promises and substantial appropriations, little progress has been made”.