Sunday, March 4, 2012

MEND in Nigeria’s Niger Delta-Is this the resurrection of Jomo Gbomo?

 The last time the Nigerian media got an e-mail from Jomo Gbomo, the  spokesperson of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) was in October 2010.  This was after bombs exploded at the independence day celebrations in Abuja (here). Jomo Gbomo had as usual issued a statement saying MEND was responsible.

This was at a time most known militants of MEND were laying down their arms after a popular amnesty offer from the Nigerian government. Soon after the Independence Day bombs, Charles Okah, brother to Henry Okah, the alleged leader of MEND, was picked up. He was said to be Jomo Gbomo. After being picked up, a few more mails came from Jomo Gbomo, until the mail trail went dry as the amnesty programme and the emergence of  Goodluck Jonathan, an indigene of the Niger Delta as the Nigerian president seemed to have finally calmed nerves in the Niger Delta.

Thursday last week however saw the killing of the highest ranking military officer in the Niger Delta by militants and it also seem to have finally confirmed the resurrection of Jomo Gbomo (read here for reasons why militants say they struck).

 Once more the Jomo Gbomo e-mail trail is active just as the guns and bombs have started exploding in the Niger Delta. Jomo Gbomo has resurrected despite the fact that Henry Okah remains in a South African jail and Charles Okah remains in jail in Nigeria.

Is this the ghost of Jomo Gbomo, is he an impersonator or is he real? If he is real, where has he and MEND been all the while and why are they suddenly resurrecting at this time when an indigene of the Niger Delta still remains the president.

The attacks by MEND are  coming at a time of allegations that the Niger Delta region is getting an unfair share of national revenues and development projects under a Niger Delta president. Thousands of youths who embraced the amnesty programme of the Federal government are now in various countries around the world undergoing different training programmes.  A good number of ex-militants are still getting monthly allowance from the Federal Government. So what would make MEND pick up the guns again?

The rift between President Jonathan and Timipre Sylva the former governor of the President’s Home State of Bayelsa is the first reason that those familiar with the region are putting their hands on for the resurrection of MEND. The former governor has been politically outmanoeuvred by the President to ensure he does not get a second term as a governor of the state. It was in the heat of the political battle between the President and his governor, that the bombs started exploding again in the Niger Delta (here). The governor lost the political battle and is rumoured to have fled to country even as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission slammed corruption charges against him.

It is not yet clear if the resurrection of MEND is direct fall out of this political battle. There is the other view that the current hostilities is being carried out by disgruntled militants left out of the monthly payments from the Federal government and who want to be recognised. This is the John Togo faction that feels aggrieved over the spoils of the amnesty programme.

(Watch here ex-militants allegedly protesting over non payment of amnesty allowance) 

However, the resurrected Jomo Gbomo claims that they used the period of silence to rearm MEND. It is early days yet to be exactly clear if the latest hostility from MEND is flash in the pan or a return to the old bad days of kidnappings, pipeline sabotages and  explosions.

What is clear is that the new MEND seems to be deadlier than the former MEND. The first MEND was a bit reluctant to kill. This MEND seems to have no qualms about killing.

The current MEND also seems to have a taste for piracy which has been on the rise in Nigerian waters (here). 

Jomo Gbomo is quoted to have warned ships that try manoeuvres to prevent their ships from being boarded by MEND will have rockets launched at their ships and set on fire when boarded. Already a ship captain has been killed in one of the suspected MEND piracy attacks (here).

Piracy seems to be increasing with the advent of this new MEND. They are yet to state their demands. Unlike the former MEND that wanted increased resource allocation, it is not clear what this MEND want since the country already has a Niger Delta President and increased allocation.

The current threat from MEND is  coming at a bad time. The Nigerian security forces are already tackling Boko Haram activities in the North; No doubt the security forces will be stretched if they have to start tackling another major insurgence in the South South of Nigeria. 

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