Of dead fish and Boko Haram

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In Nigeria News Feed
Feb 1st, 2014
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There was death in Lagos waters, blood-flow in the Northeast. One second, the picture looked like that of millions of grains of rice left to dry in the sun. The next, it became clear that what lay in the sun was not rice but thousands of dead fish washed up on a Lagos coast. The picture led our paper on Tuesday, beneath which a caption simply said the fish were killed in a creek by fuel from a ruptured pipeline in Imoren village. Curiously, there was no report accompanying the award-winning aerial shot. And since then, nothing has been said about the violence to aquatic life and to nature. All that was reported elsewhere was that vandals breached a supply line of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Imoren village near Navy Town. There were warnings by state emergency management officials to the locals whose community was awash with the gushing petrol. They were told not to strike a match, whether to cook or to smoke a cigarette, and that they should not also start their cars. Anything could happen, the officials warned, if there was as much as a spark anywhere. Many moved their entire families out to neighbouring communities. There is a crime there, isn’t there. There is also violence to humans and to flora and fauna. It is unclear if the authorities understand the horror of the Imoren oil spill or that they are doing anything about it beyond mop-up routines. Is there any credible and effective plan by the NNPC to protect the pipelines or catch the vandals and severely punish them? Is the health ministry concerned that Nigerians are seriously endangered any time fuel spills? What is the ministry doing to prevent any health compromises resulting from such spills? There may be no wildlife activists in these parts, which may explain why we have heard nothing on the dead fish. How long will it take the surviving fish in that poisoned water to regain its lost population? And, by the way, who can be sure that what exterminated the fish in a matter of hours will not have any adverse effects on humans not only in that community but also beyond, since water is essentially borderless? Has anyone pondered any possible harm on other forms of life beyond fish and humans? Is anyone worried that the spill occurred near Ijegun which has been hit by pipeline fire before, claiming scores of souls? Or that the weekend incident happened not too far from Navy Town which hosts perhaps the largest military armoury in West Africa? There are questions and more questions. No answers. In the Northeast, the Islamist militant sect Boko Haram is still running riot, spilling blood wherever it goes. Last May President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency on three states in the Northeast but it is clear that the sect’s fighters do not care. At some point during the military onslaught, it was thought that the group was being pushed back. Now people are starting to revise that position. This week the sect’s fighters wasted enough lives for everyone to believe that they are neither ready to retreat, nor surrender. They even seem to be emboldened by the day in spite of the best assurances of President Jonathan or his security chiefs. The latest onslaught of the sect started shortly after newly-appointed Chief of Defence Staff Air Marshal Alex Badeh announced that the insurgency would end in April. There is a distressing pattern to the violence when you consider that the more the authorities denounce militancy and promise to crush it, the worse things get. Recall that back in 2007 when Mr Mike Okiro was appointed Inspector-General of Police, he threatened to bring down fire and brimstone on Niger Delta militants. He said the police were ready to contain them. He failed. Even the military did not succeed to crush the fighters, until the late President Umaru Yar’Adua wisely got the combatants to embrace amnesty in 2009, a strategy that his successor Jonathan adopted which substantially scaled back aggression in the region. Air Marshal Badeh has started off in the Okiro path, and like the retired police officer, he has also been rudely shocked by the gang he swore to put out of circulation. Shortly after Badeh issued his April deadline for the end of Boko Haram, the sect unleashed a bloodchilling wave of violence in Adamawa State. On Sunday, men bearing guns and explosive devices picked out a Catholic Church in Waga Chakawa village in session and set off bombs among the worshippers. The congregants who did not fall by the bombs were felled by bullets. But that was not enough. When they left the church, where some 22 reportedly died, the invaders began to burn houses, one after another. In four hours, according to reports, they terrorised the villagers, some of whom were taken hostage. On Monday, it was the turn of Kawuri, one of the largest towns in Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State. There, over 300 houses were reportedly set ablaze. Fifty-one residents were killed and many more wounded. One soldier died. In Bauchi State, on Thursday, 10 gunmen sacked a divisional police headquarters, leaving a policeman with bullet wounds in the leg, as they fled with a security van, which they abandoned later. Surely, that was a week of violence and of unanswered questions. It was violence to life in the waters, violence to life on land and violence to other lives. Can Jonathan and his security chiefs find a way to stop the blood-flow?


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