Tuesday, May 26, 2009

N8.7 Billion Insult

IN the heat of the colossal loss of lives in military operations against peoples of the Niger Delta, the Federal Executive Council only mourns loss of revenue estimated at N8.7 billion daily. Nigeria’s attitude to the Niger Delta is predicated on oil revenue. Each time revenue drops from disruption of oil and gas operations, the nation goes to war against its citizens – oil money must flow at all costs.

The cost this time is the lives of ordinary Nigerians, whose communities have been razed as the military continues its operations in the region, without a care about the agony it is inflicting on ordinary people, whose fault is that they live in places where oil exploration is deemed more important than their lives.

How more insulting can this government be? While lives are being lost, the future of thousands of people fractured, Nigerians displaced in their own country in military operations that are deficient in the level of intelligence that preceded it, the Federal Government talks about loss of oil revenue.

What is the worth of a Nigerian life? The military invaded hospitals in Warri, impeding medical assistance to the injured. Elsewhere, soldiers offer medical assistance to civilians during operations. What relief provisions has the Federal Government made for those it has rendered homeless in its reckless efforts to beef up its revenue from oil?

Government is not counting the human waste. There are no statistics on the dead. No word is uttered about the sheer intensity of the bombardment unleashed on the area. The lasting damage from this operation – like the devastation of oil production – is of no concern to the government.

Nobody would support criminals, whatever name they bear. However, the current operation in the Niger Delta is not about fishing out criminals. Is government ignorant of criminals who operate unfettered in other places? Of course, parts that bear no oil are of minimal importance to government.

An obsession with oil revenue overrides all considerations. The military does not have adequate information on its foes. It covers this up by demolishing entire communities on suspicions that they harbour criminals.

Military operations in the Niger Delta reflect government’s desperation over dwindling oil revenue. It is a fight to emphasise premium government places on oil revenue above everything. It does not matter how many lives it takes to secure one more barrel of oil, the resource on which our leaders hinge their thoughts.

The National Assembly joined the Executive in approving military bombardments of hapless Nigerians. Its shameful silence to the sufferings of Nigerians (pleading national security) is another confirmation of the importance of oil over people.

Success in the Niger Delta, by this approach, would be determined by how many barrels of oil the operations would restore to national output. It does not matter how many lives would perish to achieve it.

Yet after the bombardment, government must engage the same people whose rights it annihilated by avoidable military operations – what a waste!