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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NIGERIA:Yar’adua snubbed UN over Oil Bunkering in Niger Delta

Did President Umaru Yar’adua reject UN offer to set up a panel on Niger Delta crisis?

Yar’adua snubbed UN over Oil Bunkering in Niger Delta by HuhuOnline

As the international community explores the merits of the Yar’adua administration’s engagement with Niger Delta militants through its offer of amnesty, emerging indices presage that the President’s lackadaisical attitude and lack of resolve in tackling the low-intensity insurgency in the region is a well contrived government policy which offers insights into some of the political risks of haggling with Nigeria's most brutal criminals, some of them with the blood of innocent civilians on their hands.

Huhuonline.com has learnt that the UN Secretariat has written to President Umaru Yar’adua expressing its willingness to set up a panel of eminent persons and a committee of experts to examine the problem of “blood oil” - the term used to describe the misery caused by oil bunkering in the Niger Delta - but is yet to receive an acknowledgement, let alone a formal response from Nigeria, a source at the Office of the Spokesperson of the UN Secretary General told Huhuonline.com.

No reasons have been given by the Nigerian government for what many diplomats in New York consider a snub on UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, but one plausible explanation is that Yar’adua is said to be keen on keeping the Niger Delta problem a domestic concern, despite wide consensus on the international dimension of the crisis.

But the main reason; a source told Huhuonline.com is that Yar’adua is afraid of confronting very powerful interests in the military and other top-raking politicians who are involved either directly or indirectly in oil bunkering and other criminal activities, including political violence.

“Yar’adua is a spineless and charmless leader; a toothless bulldog whose reluctance to hold his close collaborators and other top military leaders accountable for their involvement in oil bunkering has undercut his ability to exercise Presidential authority, in addressing the situation in the Niger Delta, a military intelligence source noted, adding; "he is even afraid that the army will stage a coup and topple him."

The President himself did more than just a disservice to his reputation when he caved into pressure from the army not to release the names of high-ranking politicians and military officers said to be involved in the Delta crisis. The lists and other inculpatory information was seized after the army raided a camp run by a top MEND Commander, Chief Government Ekpemupolo a.k.a Tom Polo, who has been declared wanted by Nigerian security forces.

Every effort to stop the violence has failed, stymied by, among other things, political corruption and easy access for the Delta militants to guns and money. Both sides in the conflict now feed off each other, adding further to the instability.

Caught in the crossfire are the Niger Delta communities, whose close relationship with militant groups makes it extremely difficult for the army to apprehend the militants without causing great destruction and mass casualties.

The UN is worried that the Nigerian government is planning a full-scale military offensive in the Niger Delta; and the world body has been making urgent calls for the Yar’adua government to clarify its position on the crisis, as it impinges on global security.

The heavy militarization of the Niger Delta has become a regional problem as the militants have extended their criminal activities into neighboring countries like Cameroon.

But all appeals to Yar’adua have been met with what a source at the UN Secretariat qualified as “calculated indifference which is insulting.”

The status quo in the Niger Delta is “unacceptable” in the words of one diplomat; “the Nigerian government should either take its responsibility and put an end to what has now become a criminal franchise in the Niger Delta, or allow the international community to do so. Doing nothing is not an option,” the diplomat said. Huhuonline.com also learnt from sources that the United States is bitterly disappointed with the Yar’adua government over its failure to handle the Niger Delta crisis.

US Defense Department sources disclosed to Huhuonline.com that the United States has given Nigeria tracking equipment to help tackle oil bunkering and to improve maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, but the Nigerian government has absolutely nothing to show for this initiative.

According to a source at the Nigerian Petroleum Ministry, the US energy giant, Exxon Mobilhas even proposed it will offer fingerprinting technology to the Nigerian government to help its efforts to trace stolen oil. The technology uses chemical analysis precise enough to identify the oil rigs from which the oil originated. It can even identify small quantities of Nigerian oil that have been mixed in with oil from another source.

“There appears to be no good reason why the Nigeria cannot use this technology to monitor and crack down on the problem of oil bunkering,” regretted the source, who pleaded anonymity.

Huhuonline.com checks reveal that even the Defense Gulf of Guinea Energy Security Strategy, (GGESS) established between Nigeria and the United States in 2005, to address the lack of economic development and the problems of oil bunkering in the Niger Delta, including money laundering, has been hampered by the unreliability of its local partner in Nigeria, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

The GGESS includes the Britain,France, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Halfway through his first term, Yar’adua is facing a leadership crisis as the situation in the Niger Delta spirals out of control. U.N. civil servants and diplomats here increasingly portray him as an ineffective administrator whose reluctance to hold outlaw leaders to account for bad behavior has undercut the United Nations' moral authority.

The remoteness and hostile geography of the Delta region have hampered the limited attempts by the government to develop infrastructure and address some of the underlining factors fueling the insurgency. Roads in the Niger Delta cost four times more to build than those on dry land, leaving canoes and motorboats as the primary form of transportation.

The difficulty means that essential supplies - including petroleum products - cost more in the Niger Delta than in other parts of Nigeria.

Thus a combination of geography, ethnic tension, economic underdevelopment, and the presence of an industry that yields many disadvantages but few direct advantages to the people of the region, have created a ticking time bomb for the President. The USDepartment of Energy estimates that if the insurgency ended, Nigeria's effective oil production capacity could quickly be raised to around 2.7 million barrels per day.

For Yar’adua, perhaps the greatest test of his leadership will come on October 5, when its own amnesty program ends on Oct. 4. However, despite all the firepower and sophisticated weaponry that it has acquired in recent months, there is no reason to believe that any military offensive in the Niger Delta will be any more successful in bringing the insurgency to an end than any of its previous military operations.

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