By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
June 15, 2010
Today’s news report about the meeting between the President of the Niger Delta Community in Ghana, Mr. Francis Okporoko, and officials of the Bureau of National Investigation disturbs me. Here is part of that report: “The Chronicle newspaper reports that the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) has waded strongly into the allegations of the influx of over 3,000 Nigerian militants from the Niger Delta into Ghana” (Myjoyonline.com).
My understanding of the report suggests that Mr. Okporoko has given conflicting information on the exact number of the militants or their mission in Ghana. According to the news item, he is reported to have explained that “he exaggerated the numbers and that he had no evidence to support the allegations of militants from the Niger Delta entering Ghana.”
He was reported to have indicated, however, that he had registered an association in the country that currently has 100 members and intends to advance amnesty programs for Niger Deltans resident in Ghana.
The questions that nags me are these: Who exactly are these Niger Deltans, and what are they doing in Ghana after creating mayhem in their own homeland? Did Ghana’s Registrar-General’s Department register such a group from Niger Delta despite the presence of “militancy” in its makeup?
My stance is unequivocal. The presence of these militants in Ghana is reprehensible and must be curtailed immediately. They are a danger to Ghanaians and unto themselves. The nefarious activities of anybody called a “militant” must not be lost on us. The raving maniacs and sadists that they are, these anti-social elements are always on the rampage, running amuck and destroying whatever they can’t loot. Whatever cause they may be fighting is self-serving and endangers national interests. Instead of using peaceful means to solve problems, they quickly take up arms and tyrannize the society. When militancy emerges, sanity vanishes and national stability suffers!
It appears that Mr. Okporoko and his band have a lot to hide and must be grilled to tell the truth so as to help the government identify all these so-called malcontents and deport them from Ghana. Deportation must be the only solution, not anything in the form of an “amnesty.” Ghana has no role to play in the Niger Delta conflict and must, therefore, not consider anything by way of amnesty.
Mr. Okporoko’s blaming of the Nigerian High Commissioner for failing to address the concerns of his group of militants is untenable in this circumstance. In the first place, the problem is a purely Nigerian one and shouldn’t be extended to Ghana. Furthermore, we already have our own peculiar crisis situations to contend with and shouldn’t create room for others to compound them.
More importantly, Mr. Okporoko has rendered himself incredible. In an earlier report to the Chronincle, this very Mr. Okporoko had “raised the red flag over an influx of Nigerians from the troubled Niger Delta region into Ghana. This development, he said, makes him uncomfortable, knowing its implication for the country if these people are not properly managed.”
Turning round now to tell the BNI that he wasn’t convinced that there were militants among those from the Niger Delta flocking into Ghana is irritating. Also annoying is the fact that he met 16 such malcontents at his Teshie residence to discuss issues that none of us know anything about as of now. These Niger Delta elements shouldn’t have any room in Ghana to fuel any armed struggle by disgruntled people. And there are always disgruntled people everywhere human beings are. From their heinous activities, we can tell that they are obnoxious and a danger to peace-loving people.
Anybody who knows about happenings in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria should cringe at reports that these militants from that troubled region are flocking into Ghana. These militants are known for their persistent running gun battles with the Nigerian security forces, especially the Army, Navy, and Police. They operate both on land and sea with sophisticated weapons. Their activities have caused unquantifiable damage to the Nigerian economy. Apart from sabotaging oil pipelines and oil drilling activities in the Niger Delta area, these militants have destroyed life and virtually forced the Nigerian government to bend backwards.
The security risks posed by these militants know no bounds. Without seeking to go into the history of these militant groups, let me say upfront that Ghana doesn’t need these militants and the government must act quickly to round them up for deportation to where they belong.
We are aware of the political dimensions of the operations of these malcontents in the Niger Delta area, especially within the context of the bad blood that existed between the Movement for the Salvation of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and the Sani Abacha government that culminated in the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa, the MOSOP leader. This political twist to the Niger Delta crisis has been overtaken by armed struggle, which has devastating effects on that part of Nigeria. The embers of armed agitation are daunting and we shouldn’t allow them to reach us in Ghana.
Other malcontents in the Niger Delta area (such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND) are known for their recourse to other forms of armed resistance to press home their demand for a fair share of the oil wealth. The spate of kidnappings of expatriates working for the oil companies (Royal Dutch, especially), foreign tourists visiting the area, and the virtual shut-down of operations have combined to reduce Nigeria’s daily oil production by 20 percent. The national and local economies have suffered immensely from such acts of vandalism and general mayhem. Insecurity doesn’t promote economic well-being, and Nigeria’s woes in that sense are pronounced. To date, conciliatory moves by the late Yar’ Adua’s government have not yet yielded lasting benefits for one to heave any sigh of relief that the Niger Delta crisis is over. The militants are spilling over to other countries.
The spilling over of such hardened militants from one country to the other has been the cause of insecurity and instability in the West African sub-region for some time now, considering happenings in the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, for instance.
It is in this sense that the influx of these Niger Delta militants into Ghana must be vehemently resisted and drastic measures taken to flush them out. Let’s forget about the so-called ECOWAS protocol on free movement and deal with this issue as a national imperative. We must not wait for these elements to gain a foothold here to perpetrate mayhem before bellowing out protests at international conferences.
Some years ago, Ghanaians didn’t know what armed robbery was until the era of the Agege returnees and the influx of criminals from Nigeria and other hotbeds like Liberia and Sierra Leone. Then, everything went haywire and armed robbery became the order of the day. The havoc wreaked on the society by Nigerians who found their way into the country is difficult to overlook. Who doesn’t know of the cyber fraud operations of the so-called “419” elements (and the Ghanaian version of “Sakawa”)? How about other anti-social activities such as rape, murder, visa racketeering, drug trafficking, and kidnapping for ransom by these Nigerians who have found a safe haven in Ghana under the guise of free movement of ECOWAS citizens, a liberalized economy, and some misguided culture of political tolerance?
The presence of these Niger Delta elements must not be tolerated now that we know something concrete about them. The government must ensure that the security services trace all of them for immediate action to rid our society of them.
Let us not forget that as we prepare to begin exploiting our own oil resources, conditions may be ripe for the expression of discontent by all manner of people in diverse ways. Such conditions may become nursery beds for the breeding of future militants to foment trouble in the country. There are clear signals that discontent in the management of the oil resource could become a major national problem. It is for this reason that every decisive step must be taken to eradicate possible sources of militancy.
These Niger Delta elements will be definitely poised to offer any form of assistance to future brands of Ghanaian militants and must not be allowed to create eye-opening moments for anybody; or to set off any armed resistance; or to cause mayhem in any part of the country for economic or political purposes. Ghana can do without such shady characters. We must act now to rid our country of these undesirables.