23 June 2008

Nigeria: Bonga Attack - Niger Delta Crisis Out of Control, Says AC

Lagos — The Action Congress said yesterday the long simmering Niger Delta crisis had finally spurned out of control with the shocking and unexpected attack on Shell's deep offshore Bonga oil field last Thursday.

"This hitherto unimaginable attack has finally turned the Niger Delta violence to a crisis of immense proportion that can only spell doom for the Nigerian state," the party said in a statement issued in Abuja yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

It called for a probe into the circumstances leading to the attack on such a deep offshore facility by a supposedly rag-tag band of militants. "Since the militants' favoured means of mobility - speedboats - will find it difficult to travel that far offshore, such a probe must find out how the militants were able to reach Bonga. Could they have been assisted by a mother vessel? If so, who owns such vessel?

"Also, what kind of security cordon is in place for such an important facility as the Bonga, which produces over 200,000 barrels of oil per day - which is about one tenth of the country's total oil production?" AC queried. But the party warned the Federal Government against embarking on its usual knee-jerk response to the crisis, especially the resort to a military crackdown and the jamborees in the name of "summits of stakeholders."

"As we have said many times through this medium, the real solution to what is fast becoming a declaration of war in the Niger Delta is for the Federal Government to talk to the real stakeholders, not the so-called elders whose stock-in-trade is to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds to maximise their gains.

"As it is, the Federal Government has either totally ignored the real stakeholders or allowed itself to be deceived into inconsequential MoUs and accords with groups that are only interested in looting the commonwealth for their personal gains.

"We also make bold to say that past made-for-television summits on the Niger Delta have yielded no positive results. Bringing in even the secretariat of the UN will not make a success of another summit for as long as the real stakeholders- the people in the oil communities themselves - are not involved in such an effort," AC said.

The party said the attack on Bonga, which is located hundreds of kilometres offshore, had shown that the militants in the Niger Delta could attack, without qualms, any facility that caught their fancy in the Niger Delta.

The attack, it said, "has also shown that the military option cannot and will not work in resolving the crisis that has been the biggest threat yet to Nigeria's economic well-being. After all, thousands of soldiers have been deployed to the region to help protect the same facilities that are being attacked at will by these militants. "According to government figures, Nigeria is losing $84 million daily to the incessant attacks in the Niger Delta. That translates to about $2.52 billion per month and more than a whopping $30 billion per year.

"Just imagine the impact on the national economy that will result if we inject these funds into our power sector alone - as long as we avoid the Obasanjo-type wastage," it said. The party said since it was now obvious that the Federal Government had run out of options in resolving the crisis, "which is capable of consuming us as a nation, it should immediately summon a crisis meeting that will include representatives of the oil communities as well as political parties, religious organisations and the civil society and of course the oil companies, especially the NNPC among others, to look at fresh options in tackling this crisis.

"Delay is dangerous, and prevarication is tantamount to abdication of responsibility. The time to act is now," the party said.

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