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Nigerians Condemn President’s Call For International Help On Restive Oil-Rich Niger Delta

The call by Nigeria President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua for international help to solve the military crisis in the restive oil- rich Niger Delta is generating intense debate in Nigeria. He made the call at the margins of the ongoing G8 summit in Japan. President Yar'Adua reportedly accused international crude oil cartel smugglers of sponsoring militant activities in the Niger Delta and called for an international clampdown. But his Nigerian critics blamed his ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) of arming the militants in the Niger Delta region to intimidate other opposition parties during last year's Nigeria elections. Chudi Chukwuani is a Nigerian economist. From the capital, Abuja he tells reporter Peter Clottey that President YarAdua's international call for help to resolve the ongoing crisis in the Niger Delta is misplaced.

"The reaction here is that we are at a lost. The call is a clear failure on the part of the government to properly secure our national asset, to protect our sovereignty and our territorial waters. All of us know that the origin of the so-called Niger Delta militancy started from political thuggery. Most of the so-called militants were associates of the ruling party, and the ruling party was using them, and arming them in order to fight opposition parties. If you recall some years and months back, people like Dukubor (a militant) have alleged that they were not properly settled after they had helped the PDP to win the election. And in order to fight back they decided to go into kidnapping and all sorts of extortionists measures," Chukwuani said.

He reiterated that the ruling party should share the blame of the crisis in the Niger Delta region.

"The genesis of the whole militancy actually arose from this political thuggery, which was carried out by the major party, which is the PDP," he said.

Chukwuani said there are various options available to the government to resolve the problems in the Niger Delta region.

"The solution is very clear and direct, everybody can see it. What they need in the Niger Delta is shelter, housing, the youth need to be gainfully employed and be productive. So, all these things are things that can be provided by a government that is well focused that has a well-defined objective and that has the will to implement the social responsibilities to the society," Chukwuani noted.

He said previous talks at finding ways to resolve the problems in the Niger Delta region have not yielded any positive results.

"We've been in these talking workshops for a very long time. Obasanjo (Nigeria's former president) went through his own rounds of workshops, but at the end of the eight years he could not point to one single primary school anywhere in the Niger Delta that he built. So, you find out that we have had a series of governments both past and present who believe in talk shops instead of actually going up to the field and implementing social programs," he said.

Chukwuani said the ruling party could help end the crisis in the Niger Delta region by stopping financial and political support to the rebel groups who are allegedly causing problems in the area.

"Since he (President Yar'Adua) is the leader of the PDP, we can agree with him that if they stop funding political thuggery using the militants as a political thug in order to fight opponents that is one major way of stopping the Niger Delta militancy because most of the weapons that they are talking about were weapons that were bought by politicians and given to the youth to use against their political opponents. So, if they as a political party have decided to put a stop to that, then that goes a long way in trying to curtail militancy in the Niger Delta," Chukwuani pointed out.