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Don’t hunt down Avengers, ex-U.S Ambassador advises FG

Former U.S Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell has said the state governors instead of the Federal Government are to be blamed for insurgencies in the Niger Delta. He made the statement over the weekend during an interview on CNBC television station. While speaking on the continuous attacks on Nigeria’s oil pipelines by new militancy group, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), Campbell said funds for the region which have been released in the past by the Federal Government, ended in the pockets on the state governors.

“What happens in many cases is the funds arrive on the state governor’s desk and there’s no further accounting for them,” Ambassador Campbell said. “The state legislatures are supposed to hold the governors accountable, but very often, the legislatures are part of the (patronage) network controlled by governors,” he said. Also contributing, Manji Cheto, senior vice president at advisory firm Teneo Intelligence said past experiences of funds diversion by the governors, have now triggered lack of trust in the Federal Government for further negotiation.

“That system has now made the Delta people skeptical that talks between federal and local leaders will produce change,” Cheto said. Campbell further stated that the Nigerian military would do well to employ advanced method in tackling insurgency instead of the usual police method. “I think it would be very difficult to tackle this issue using essentially police methods. The delta doesn’t lend itself to military or police action, and in fact, it failed the last time there was an insurrection there,” he said. “Quite frankly, it’s almost impossible. It’s not like an insurgency in the classic sense… If they find these guys and hunt them down and shoot them, there will be another group the next day.

What else can you do if you live there?” he said. According to Campbell, the FG would be opening more grounds for breeding of more deadly groups if it decides to kill the militants. “If they find these guys and hunt them down and shoot them, there will be another group the next day,” he said. He advised that the Buhari government could conceivably build goodwill by embarking on public works projects, “construction of a long-discussed road across the Delta region, for example, would employ a huge number of workers and open new areas to economic development, provided it functioned well” he said.

“The delta ostensibly has institutions in place to execute such projects, but they have accomplished little,” said Cheto. The Niger Delta Development Commission was founded in 2000, followed by the Niger Delta Ministry in 2008. There is also an office dedicated to carrying out the 2009 amnesty program. The organizations carry out programs, but have no cohesive blueprint for development, and much of their funding falls into a “black hole,” Cheto said.

The government should merge the three organizations, she said. “Quite clearly they didn’t see this as a priority. Now, with pipelines being attacked every week, it has to become a priority,” she said. Analysts do not doubt that Buhari is committed to the anti-corruption crusade he campaigned on, but they said his hands are tied by corruption at the state and local level, where oil revenue that is distributed by the federal government is frequently misappropriated.

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