Saturday, 1 December 2012

IT IS TIME TO ACT


IT IS TIME TO ACT

While security agencies are doing everything humanly possible to contain the activities of Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria, it is apparent that Nigeria’s oil and gas infrastructure is emerging as a primary target.  Oil and gas accounts for more than 90% of Nigeria’s earnings, consequently the nation’s economy is especially at risk were ulterior forces disrupt the flow of this important commodity.

The Niger Delta Militants besiege the oil and gas industry as agents of negotiation for socio-economic development. A demand that the Federal Government of Nigeria is doing everything practically feasible to accomplish even though slowly as the system remains bedeviled with corruption. On the other hand, Boko Haram has proved to be agent of destruction with no known attainable demand from the government and people of Nigeria, but to destabilize Nigeria as a nation and kill the 21st century emerging World Power.

The entrance of Boko Haram should be of concern to all well meaning Nigerians and true friends of Nigeria. Boko Haram is not only extending its tentacles in northern Nigeria and widening its choice of targets  but is also beginning to consider the possibility of attacking Nigeria’s oil and gas facilities.

Boko Haram is more dangerous an enemy today than it has ever been before. Its reach has spread throughout the north where it has developed a large cadre of followers and built a strong cell of operatives, and in the west where it can claim the support of some disenfranchised Muslims locals. Boko Haram has mounted a successful propaganda campaign to make itself and the ideology it tries to champion the primary symbols of Islamic resistance in Nigeria.

What is particularly ominous for Nigeria is the radicalizing of the new generation of Muslim youths from Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroon who can readily travel to meet with a-Qaida in Maghreb and back, facilitating communication, radicalization and training for jihadists. This individual can also move into Nigeria without check because of the existing cordial relationship between Nigeria and these countries and more importantly because of the porosity of our borders.   

Boko Haram literary set out to abolish western education, forbid interaction with the western world, support opposition to genuine Muslim establishments and the Government of Nigeria, domesticalization of  Islamic law in Nigeria and the enthronement of Islam as a sole religion in Nigeria. These are unattainable goals that only point to a planned destabilization of Nigeria, a hatched assassination of the giant of Africa and an invented stoppage of an emerging black World Power; forbidden demands coming from the kingdom of darkness.  Boko Haram’s is out to provoke and bait Nigeria into bleeding war. The tide is heading southward. The wind is blowing the direction of our oil and gas facilities. Government must sum up the political will to act now because the time of urgency is now.

As the Boko Haram activities gradually advance towards the Middle Belt and down south, the country preparedness deserves overhauling. Nigeria economic mainstay is oil and gas and this dependence creates serious security vulnerability that if exploited, could result in widespread economic dislocation and increased instability. Even a small reduction in oil and gas output arising from terror attack coupled with increasing crude oil theft would result in tremendous problems for the country.

Nigeria should as a matter of priority take appropriate steps now to protect it economic interests, especially oil and gas facilities across the country by:

1.      Increasing efficiency of oil and gas use and eliminating of corruption in governance.

2.      Making oil and gas infrastructure more efficient and secure.

3.      Employment of modern security technologies, skilled and motivated manpower.

4.      Diversification of the economy by increasing investments in agriculture and improving the nation’s industrial base through visible and realistic encouragement of small and medium enterprises.

5.        Invest in new energy technologies.

6.      Explore the nation’s foreign policy arena, through the making of fewer enemies and creating of more friends.

7.      Importantly, generate the much needed employment and provide infrastructure that encourages self employment and economic investment.

Those entrusted with the security of Nigeria’s energy assets should wake up and make diligent attempts to ensure that the country’s oil and gas infrastructure is made less vulnerable to disruption caused by natural disaster or terrorists attacks.  Planning to manage such events must involve the following:

a.       Risk analysis,

b.      Facility security survey,

c.       Countermeasures that include well trained security officers, modern technologies and world-class motivations, not just for an oil producing facility but also for the supply chain and components of production in the economic sense of the word.

Similarly, accountability, preferably ensured by proper legislation, is necessary so that the hard work and sacrifice to protect this sector is not undermined by a small number of facilities not acting responsibly. The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) could be made functional in this regard.  

Boko Haram terror attack is today a national issue with its tentacles extending and becoming wider and deeper by the day. Neither the army nor the police are speared. Its attack on the military, law enforcements, academia and the Churches have added impetus to their campaign. Let it be pointed out here that because of the increased counter-terrorism, preparedness on the part of the government Boko Haram may now be looking at the other direction for soft targets, including parts of the nation’s energy infrastructure and facilities.   

 Boko Haram may also be considering going after energy because the targets are often convenient, have a high impact, and highly provoking on the part of government. Assets damage, which may be significant, is only one effect of an attack. Others include but not limited to business interruption, loss of key staff, corporate/national reputation and value which could substantially outweigh the tangible damage to a facility.

Ensuring security from the pipeline to the pump is essential. Our oil and gas industry should be considered a critical infrastructure in the war against terrorism now. It is more important than ever for us to take the protection of our energy facilities serious now. To be forewarned is to be forearmed!

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