Quasi-News & Commentary

by Wordworks2001 

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has thrown down the gauntlet, now it is up to the Nigerian Armed Forces to prove they are up to the task of defending their country from groups the government has almost always characterized as gangs of youth.  They may be young and they may be part of a new organization, but the irregulars of MEND have proven to be more than mere disgruntled Ijaw teens with too much time on their hands.

From their first military-style operations in January up to the most recent on December 7, this militant group has impressed professional soldiers, not only with their tactics and discipline, but also their ferocity and teamwork, when it comes to neutralizing a defending force of trained regular troops.  Not only has MEND grown in strength and numbers, it has grown in experience, experience fighting in an environment and terrain that has thwarted enemy soldiers in other wars around the world.

This is not an organization that can be beaten by physically intimidating its mothers and fathers or by bullying them and burning down their villages. It will only make these bees swarm even harder.  It appears from reports in the media and eye witness reports, the body count of policemen and soldiers is always much more significant than with the militants at the end of an altercation. 

President Obasanjo has not really turned his military loose on the militants this year as much as he has in the past. Perhaps this is because he realizes with this new breed of rebel, that would not be a prudent response. In fact, he has done the opposite. He relieved the commander of the Joint Task Force sent to the Niger Delta over a year ago to quell problems, an action that had been demanded by the militants. Was this seen as an act of weakness by MEND and the other shadowy militias that have sprung up as a result of their successes?

The government of Nigeria ordered some patrol boats from China some months ago, when the USA refused to provide the country with some. Apparently these craft are ready for deployment because yesterday, according to The Vanguard, “the Nigerian Navy has deployed 16 combat ships which are also capable of securing oil facilities in the Niger Delta Region. The vessels which include four fast attack crafts, one frigate, four cat class ships, two inshore patrol crafts and several defender boats, would next week be tested on the high sea, up to the Gulf of Guinea to ascertain their capability.”

It is imperative the government demonstrate the ability to not only defend the oil companies, their workers, property and operations, it must demonstrate that it can defeat the militants on their own territory, an event that to date still has not been proven.  This inability to provide protection is the main reason several companies have pulled back from Port Harcourt to Lagos and one major offshore construction company, Willbros, has pulled out of Nigeria altogether, after doing business here for 45 years. 

Muddying the troubled waters of the Niger Delta even more is the upcoming meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, of the OPEC states.  With the price of crude already dropping, some in the cartel are already talking of decreasing output to shore up prices. If MEND’s threats of increased attacks this week materialize, the price may go up higher than planned.
Wordworks2001 is a retired US Army master sergeant who lives in I(ndiana and works in Nigeria. He blogs at http://wordworks2001.blogspot.com 

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