British philosopher – Thomas Hobbes hypothesized about an imaginary state of nature where life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short; a world or society where the philosophy of “dominate or be dominated” holds sway. To prevent this scenario, the people must enter into a social contract where they surrender some of their freedoms to a government which would like wise guarantee them certain natural and legal rights and privileges especially security and welfare.
The institution of government in any society is for the good of that society. It is the responsibility of such a government to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of the inhabitants of that society. To do this, laws are made and administered by agents in and acting on behalf of government to ensure order.
The menace of militant leaders like Asari Dokubo, Tompolo, Ateke Tom and their ilk in Nigeria cannot be ignored and must be dealt with decisively. Asari Dokubo is the leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF). Tompolo is one of the original leaders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). Ateke Tom is the leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante, an ethnic militia.
A unifying characteristic of these individuals and their groups is that they operate under the guise of advocating for self-determination, resource control and for benefits to accrue to the indigenes of the Niger Delta from the crude oil in their land. However, it is obvious that they are just opportunists out to gain wealth, power and influence. It is common knowledge that they have acquired enormous wealth from illegal oil bunkering, kidnapping, extortion and sabotaging oil infrastructure to gain government patronage in the form of security contracts. Their wealth and influence have not been utilized to improve the lives of the people they claim to fight for.
The power and influence wielded by these militants is too much for any government to be able to maintain proper order in the society. These individuals, through their activities undermine government, thereby becoming governments themselves in territories where they operate. Their activities however have a way of affecting the nation as a whole since Nigeria’s revenues accrue mostly from the Niger Delta.
It was sometime reported that Asari Dokubo owns a private university in a neighboring African country. Tompolo sometime ago took delivery of a private jet reported to have cost millions of dollars. These individuals, like Arabian Princes and Oil Sheikhs, reportedly live in palatial mansions with splendours and comforts unimaginable, oozing of abundant wealth and class.
Recently, some journalists were kidnapped by order of “Government” Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo. Their offence was carrying out their legitimate duty in Tompolo’s “territory”. Indeed, Tompolo operates as a parallel government.
A responsible government cannot allow such people to thrive except they are in collusion with them to deprive Nigerians of their common wealth. It must be stated that such individuals are birthed and nurtured to maturity because the government has abdicated its responsibility to deploy the resources of the State for the benefit of members of the State. If the government adequately invests in State security and law enforcement bodies recognized constitutionally or by an act of parliament, the wealth accruing to these individuals as a result of their illegal activities could have been accruing to the government. Maintaining adequate security to guard against oil theft will earn government more revenues to invest in social and physical infrastructure that will be of great benefit to all Nigerians, instead of a criminal few. The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has been canvassing for the acquisition of contemporary metering infrastructure to curb pipeline vandalism and illegal bunkering. The government must make it a priority to increase the personnel, acquire and upgrade modern and hi-tech equipment to safe guard oil and gas infrastructure.
Search light must also be beamed on the activities of international oil companies (IOC) receiving stolen crude oil. Their acts must be exposed and appropriate punishment meted out. The incidence of oil theft is of less impact and devastating effect than government corruption, embezzlement, ineptitude, incompetence and wickedness.
It is also imperative for the Nigerian government to adopt the political will to dissociate itself from these elements and their nefarious activities. Where it is proved that they continue with such illegal activities, they should be arrested and prosecuted. Allowing such individuals to thrive will be taking Nigeria to Thomas Hobbes hypothetical “State of Nature”.