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Tribune (Nigeria): Alamieyeseigha, Dokubo, Niger Delta and Nigeria’s oil industry

Nigerian Tribune image 

Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, former
Governor of Bayelsa State

By Martin Ayankola, Lagos

Former Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, was on Friday released from the Ikoyi Prisons, Lagos, following the expiration of the two-year jail sentence handed down to him on Thursday by a Federal High Court in Lagos. The release came after a plea bargaining arrangement that resulted in Alamieyeseigha pleading guilty to charges against him and the Judge sentencing him to 2 years imprisonment with forfeiture of assets.

The release is in connection with government’s efforts to bring peace into the Niger Delta area. Even before President Yar’Ardua assumed office we had written that the boys in the creeks had sympathy for Dokubo Asari and Alamieyeseigha and that their continued detention was exacerbating the crisis in the Niger Delta. It is clear that most of the militant groups operating in the Niger Delta creeks comprise mainly of militants of Ijaw extraction and the continued detention of their “heroes” was worsening the security situation then. We had written then, based on information gathered from the oil industry that the release of the two was key to reducing the intensity of the attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta. And truly, in less than three months of Yar’Ardua sojourn in power, he had released the two. It shows that this government is genuinely interested in bringing peace to the creeks.

Right now, the security situation is improving in the Niger Delta with Shell temporarily returning to its western operations hub, the Forcados Terminal, last week to export some cargoes of crude oil. With the release of Dokubo Asari and Alamieyesegha, the ground may have now been prepared for the full return of Shell to its Western Nigerian operations. Since February last year, Shell had shut in about 477,000 barrels per day in its fields in Western Niger Delta. Also there is now hope that the crude line that feeds the Warri Refinery that has been down for long could now also be fixed if the situation improves. At every point of their frequent attacks on oil installations, they were always insisting that their leaders in detention must be released as one of the main precondition for peace in the creeks.

With the release of Alamieyesegha completed through deft political and legal moves which also entailed his former deputy and now Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan meeting secretly with him, it now seems that a groundwork has been laid for a sustainable peace in the creeks. Although, it will be naive for one to think that the release is a total solution to the problem but it is sure that it is a step in the right direction. At least, the spate of attacks has reduced considerably and most of the kidnappings that are now committed are done by gangs of criminals and not necessarily the militant groups. Nigeria is currently shutting in about 700,000 barrels per day of oil and the nation with its joint venture partners has been losing so much per day to the crisis.

The slow execution of the Brass LNG Project is also attributed to the unfriendly environment of Brass where the plant will be located. Thus, Nigeria has a lot to gain by working hard for peace in the area. But besides releasing these leaders, the Federal Government must have a solid arrangement for the development of the Niger Delta area. So many commentators have emphasised that the key to solving the problem of youth restiveness in the Niger Delta is to develop the area massively so much that opportunities are created for the citizens. It is a truism that an idle hand is the devil’s workshop, although the Government of Yar’Ardua has shown goodwill by releasing the two Ijaw leaders, they should also find ways of holding constructive dialogue with leaders of the militant groups. The Vice-President did something similar to that recently when he held meetings with leaders of militant groups in Delta State. It is an effort in the right direction which should be sustained by the government.

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