The Nigerian government plans to establish a permanent security presence in the Niger Delta region. President Umaru Yar'dua talked to lawmakers in Abuja about the new Maritime Security Agency, which he said will protect ships, ports and oil facilities from militant attacks.
But community leaders say what the area needs is not a military base, but development.
The government should concentrate on development projects and not pour more men and arms into a region that’s already prone to violence, according to Obum Cletus, one of the community leaders opposed to the plan.
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“I think this is one of the wrongheaded policies of government…which is [again] groping for a solution to the fundamental issues in the Niger Delta and the Nigerian state.”
“The state,” he said, “should not engage its own citizens in the kind of military actions that are being presently perpetuated in the Niger Delta…. So this idea of a military base in the Delta is an admission and the further confirmation of the [view of] citizens that the government is not interested in the development of the area.”
The government’s pledge to use the base to boost security in the oil-rich region is misplaced and out of touch with the expectations of the people, Cletus said.
The government says it is planning base to keep open ports, protect oil facilities and provide security for the people. Cletus disagrees.
“From the beginning of the Yar’Adua administration, he (the president) made no [pretence of] the fact that he is going to continue the repression of the Niger Delta people by [budgeting more for defense].
“Observers and the Nigerian people …condemn the heavy budget on security as opposed to infrastructure in the Niger Delta.”
A comprehensive plan to develop the area does not require another military base, Cletus said.
The community leader disagrees with government claim the new plan is part of a comprehensive new plan for the delta problem.
“This should be the last option [after] peace has been attained. It is only through peace and the meeting of demands, [which] are very simple: provide infrastructure and development for the Niger Delta people and they will be [then stop supporting efforts to halt] oil production, which is the primary concern of the Nigerian state.”
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