ONE of the Niger Delta former Governors, in a chat told me late last year, how he accused the nation’s current Service Chiefs at a meeting in Abuja of their involvement in oil theft in the region. “You’re the actual pipe lines vandals and bunkers, beyond being precursors of oil theft”. In the said encounter, if everything he told me was true; as he sat right in front of neatly kitted top brass, loaded beretta pistol tuck around their waists, with starry-eyed Military Generals, Naval Admirals, Air Force Commodores, DSS Director General, Inspector General of Police, NSCDC Commandant General, and their timid responses were accurately captured, then we’re doomed as a nation?
On Friday last week, Asari Dokubo, a former Niger Delta militant, publicly exposed and disgraced the nation’s Armed Forces, over their alleged involvement in oil theft in the Niger Delta. Regardless of the Military and Navy’s passive denial that they’re involved in oil theft – which turned out to be a national embarrassment – hardened cynics who are against Dokubo’s outburst are beginning to think twice. If they’re leisurely denying their involvement and are unable to reveal those who are truly involved over the last three decades, and no drastic actions are taken against Asari Dokubo, then, the Armed Forces are their own worst enemies?
The crust of this piece is based on Alhaji Asari Dokubo’s celebrated position, that the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), that is constitutionally empowered to protect pipe lines, has been intimidated, harassed, brown beaten and chased out of their duties by the overbearing Military and Navy ratings in the Niger Delta creeks, who regularly wire millions of dollars to their ‘Ogas at the top’ from Abuja who post them to the lucrative oil rig beats.
The conundrum here is, how did we arrive at this constitutional logjam, where the nation’s Military, Maval and all other security architecture are gravitating themselves into pipe lines and oil wells crisis; of phoney protection by forcefully chasing the NSCDC away with statutory power to carry out surveillance, on the pipe lines across the country?
How come that the Military and the Navy are falling over themselves to grab a piece of the oil cake in the Niger Delta, while terrorists are having a field day maiming, raping and killing the citizens they’re supposed to protect? What type of education and training the nation’s Armed Forces leadership is giving to the officers concerning its constitutional role and the citizens rights? Does it include to wade off external threats and protection of the territorial integrity of the nation as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution?
(Part 11) of the Act that established NSCDC is unambiguous on the role of the security agency. The Act in the first schedule says:
“(l) The Corps shall-
(a) assist in the maintenance of peace and order and in the protection and rescuing of the civil population during the period of emergency; (ii) seal up any private guard company which operates without valid licence; (e) maintain twenty-four hours surveillance over infrastructures, sites and projects
for the Federal, States and Local Governments-
“(i) enter and search any premises and seize any material suspected to have
been used in vandalisation or suspected process of vandalisation; (ii) enter and search premises of any suspected illegal dealer in petroleum products or material used by Power Holding Company of Nigeria, Postal Services, Nigeria Telecommunication or for any other public utility or infrastructure; (vi) power transmission lines, or oil pipelines, NIPOST cables, equipment,
Water Board pipes or equipment vandalisation.”
The Navy’s constitutional duties is also well spelt out in an unequivocal terms:
“The Nigeria Navy is to defend and maintain the sovereignty of the country’s waters. It is responsible for protecting the country from any threats within its domain. The Navy’s other function is to maintain law and order within the internal and territorial waters – contiguous zones – and exclusive economic zones. This can be done by enforcing and assisting in the coordination of national and international maritime laws acceded to by the country”.
Also, it is within the exclusive power of the Nigerian Navy Department, to ensure and protect the country’s prestige. Relevant officials represent and protect the interests of the nation, initiate and facilitate strategic agreements, and promote friendly relations with other countries. The Navy is constitutionally empowered by exercising control of shipping. It is responsible for the movement, routing, and convoy organisation of ships. It is also involved in the tactical diversion of allied merchant shipping.
If President Bola Amhed Tinubu is not joking about ‘Renewed Hope’, he should, as a matter of urgency – redirect the Military and the Navy to their constitutional duties and urgently turn them away from pipe lines and oil well protection – with stringent boundary to avoid unwholesome inter-agencies rivalry and meddlesome interloping preoccupation of the Military and the Navy?
The other accusations made by Asari Dokubo against the Armed Forces, were outright sabotage, to say the least. He told the bewildered nation that the Nigerian Military often abandoned its assigned duties of keeping the internal peace, since the Nigeria Police appeared completely helpless, while running after oil wells and the proceeds of billion of dollars from oil theft. By so doing, Dokubo alleged that his armed militant men with 1% of weaponry, contracted by the Nigeria Government had no choice than to clear off terrorist-saturated Abuja-Kaduna highway. If fact, Dokubo alluded to the fact that the Military is obviously blackmailing the Government with continuous claim that there are no arms to fight terrorists.
The former militant said, “I am a participant in this war. I fight on the side of the government of the Nigerian state in Plateau, Niger, Anambra, Imo, Abia and Rivers. And in Abuja today, you are travelling to Kaduna on this road. It is not the army that makes it possible for you to travel to Abuja or travel to Kaduna, and vice versa. It is my men, employed by the government of the Nigerian State, stationed in Niger.
“Today, you travel to Baga, you go to Shiroro, you go to Wase. We have lost so many men and in all these engagements, we don’t even have one per cent of the armament deployed by the Nigerian military. One per cent and we have had resounding success.”
Nigerians are yet to come to terms with the revelations last year that the Muhammadu Buhari administration gave multi-billion pipeline surveillance and protection contract to a private firm called Tantita Security Services led by a former militant leader, Government Ekpemepulo, popularly known as Tompolo. Here we are again talking about contracting the national security protection to a quasi-military organization headed by Asari Dokubo, which he said he has been securing many parts of the country with. The question is, where are the nation’s security agencies? Is it safer to engage rag-tag and unprofessional private security personnel than to retrain and overhaul the totality of the nation’s Armed Forces?
In the face of glaring evidences of security men’s colluding with oil mafias, what other proves is President Bola Tinubu waiting for, before he flush out the Service Chiefs, when non-state actors are being employed to assume the constitutional role of the Armed Forces, to protect Nigerians and other assets in the country against internal and external aggressors?
At the moment, the Nigerian State is in acute distress, convulsing under economic hemorrhage, infrastructure deficits, fuel subsidy and electricity collapses. Nigeria can ill afford another inter-agencies rivalry between the Military, Navy and the NSCDC over who is constitutionally empowered to protect the pipe lines. One day, NSCDC operatives might bounce off the Military and Navy in bloody clash, and assume their constitutional role of protection of the nation’s pipe lines and the security of oil wells. Then, this inter-security colonization will end abruptly, since the Federal Government can’t think for itself.
Erasmus Ikhide can be reached via: email@example.com