Halt, halt!! and at the nick of time, an innocent man was saved from the stake. An intriguing scene from the book, ‘coup’ by Kalu Okpi-a Longman Macmillan pacesetter, one I read with gusto in the early 90’s. In one week of hostility between the Nigerian army and Niger Delta insurgents, there’s being no halt, its being presto, bedlam; anything from anarchy to gore, 5 communities in Warri, Delta state sacked in one week of clashes.

But wait a minute, everything is in the applecart but as usual there’s been no official statistics of causalities. Just like we all had to hear firsthand from CNN and BBC, that former Nigerian despot Sanni Abacha had died in the hands of Indian prostitutes, MEND and Amnesty, this time around are the purveyors of information. MEND puts the number of dead civilians at a 1000, Amnesty is a little diplomatic preferring to say hundreds are feared dead. Hostilities have subsided but the images beamed on local TV stations aren’t the burning embers of clandestine dingy holding camps of the militants in the creeks and mangrove forests, rather it is of families cringing for dear lives in bushes, bungalow dwellings destroyed by heavy military shelling. The Military glibly  parading its spoils of war; showed several ammunition it had seized from the militants  claiming it had in its possession a warehouse of insurgents armoury but was shy in announcing eleven soldiers were missing. MEND provided the answer to the JTF’s enquiry hours earlier saying it had killed 12 soldiers in an ambush the night before.

The National Assembly has been in the eye of the storm and recklessly so, not only did it give the military a thumbs up. It fuelled the insidious appetite of Honourable N’Allah in saying that Nigeria can do without 20 million Niger Deltans. When President Yar adua in the early days described the oil war in the Delta as bloody he failed to describe that the spirit that fuelled the war as one with tribal cells. The House of Representatives must use all the apparatus within its power to sanction the erring lawmaker otherwise this war becomes tainted; this is a critical period in Nigeria’s history which calls for sombreness and well screwed on skulls.  The president hasn’t been faithful to his respect for the rule of law. There is no logical reason that says because five soldiers were killed, five communities must be sacked without an investigation. It is this brigandage that the army exhibited years ago in its attack on Odi that is rearing its tyrannical head once again. Three years ago, I asked the incumbent commander of the joint AU/UN hybrid force in Darfur, Gen Martin Luther Agwai if the army would retaliate following killing of 8 soldiers in Ughelli, Delta state. He shook his emphatically saying no. In addition he said that no matter the strength of the country’s military, the war cannot be won with guns, but rather on the dialogue table. The president cannot dangle carrots and then reign down terror from the skies and water. The recent upsurge in abductions all around the country isn’t directly linked with the Niger Delta struggle; these fellows are mainly common criminals who are exploiting Nigeria’s porous security network, which require the use of the police and law courts. As the National assembly supports the military incursion into Bayelsa and Rivers state, it must remember that its current zero price of a Niger Deltan could also be subsequently translated into a zero pricing of the Nigerian crude and ultimately, the Nigerian state


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