Friday, October 1, 2010

Sad News: Bombing in Nigeria, A Worrying Sign, What Next for Nigeria

On what should have been a day of reflection and recognition of its 50th anniversary on October 1, the capital of Nigeria, Abuja, was rocked on October 1 by two car bombs, killing at least 12 people. First sympathies go out to the nation, and to the families of all those who lost their lives and were injured in this terrible bomb blast. Current reports are that elements of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, better known as MEND (a loose umbrella organization of militants and militant groups) perpetrated this act to underscore the issues in the oil-rich Niger Delta Region. Peaceful political and civil society groups have highlighted over many, many years the need to end corruption of oil wealth and to increase development in all sectors (education, health, agriculture) in the Niger Delta as well as the right of the Niger Deltans to have more say and influence in how resources and profits from the oil wealth are used to help improve the lives of those living in the Region. These are very legitimate issues, which need to be addressed. There are five key Nigerian states that make up the main oil states in the Niger Delta Region (Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akom Ibom, Cross River), and acts of sabotage, kidnapping, and disruption of oil infrastructure had been the tactic of choice of not only MEND but other militant groups in the Region.
This is the second time in nearly 8 months that elements of MEND have used the car bombing tactic. I was in Nigeria the first time MEND used this tactic earlier in 2010 in Warri, a city in Nigeria's Delta State in the Niger Delta Region, and also another militant group attacked a facility in the commercial capital, Lagos during the same period. In addition, over the last 2 years, elements of MEND have threatened, through letters sent and written to the press, such attacks in Abuja, but this is the first time that they have followed through on that threat and this is a very worrying sign and trend as the country grapples with trying to get its election process right so key social sector issues can be better addressed everywhere in Nigeria and particularly in the Niger Delta.
There is a lot to be done to move Nigeria further forward than it is now, and changing the paradigms in the area of education, health, agriculture, fighting corruption, and better utilization of its oil wealth to benefit the Nigerian people are all things that need to be addressed, but peacefully. All of these sectors need more assistance and more improvement so Nigeria cannot only become the Giant that we all want it to be, but because it is necessary for the next generation of Nigerians to have a better life.
MEND is not known to have been a totally cohesive group in the past, with a singular leader, but more of a loose affiliation of different militant interests. It is unclear now with this attack, which certainly would have required detailed planning and strategies, whether the affiliation has or is morphing into something different from the loose associations of the past of various militant interests. In addition since the amnesty for militants in 2009 and despite all the many problems with truly implementing the amnesty rehabilitation program with more consistent progress on training opportunities for militants, militant-related violence had diminished somewhat in the Region. This car bomb attack in the capital presents a new and worrying trend for Nigeria that we all need to pay attention to and work to bring those who perpetrated the act to justice. No one doubts the legitimate issues in the region, but we all must assist the nation in addressing and correcting these issues in the Niger Delta Region by supporting both political and civil society groups who want to make changes in the Region and improve its development and use of resources but through peaceful means.
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