Emmanuel Okonmah

Department of Political Science & Public Administration, University of Benin


Terror is an act of violence and intimidation to create fear in a people. Conceptually, one of the challenges in the control of either local or international terrorism (as a reader may qualify it) in the past decades, is the ambiguity on what constitutes terrorism or terrorist activities. Understanding and cooperation ought to be one of the important avenues in the battle against intimidation, oppression and threat of harm that make up terrorism. The Niger Delta region has been a centre of intense conflicts and violence. The setting up of interventionist agencies has not dosed the tension in the areas. Killings, maiming, hostage taking, kidnapping, bombing, vandalism were adopted militants as a means of negotiation, though to an extent commercialized as an industry. The Federal government in exercising its statutory functions established a security outfit (Joint Task Force –JTF) with a mandate to kill “any” at the slightest suspicion of terror activity. This paper therefore, treated the conflicting question of who is terrorizing the Niger Delta people and communities: the JTF or the Militants? The findings show that, the communities clamour for the withdrawal of the JTF from their areas indicate indictment.
Keywords: Domestication, terror, Niger Delta, militants, JTF


Martin Luther King once said: "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". Justice simply: is a boulevard leading to haven of global bliss and peace. There can be no justice without peace or peace without justice. No cross: no crown (Reiter, 2001).

Domestication of terror or terrorism exists in almost every polity because they are home grown. They are home grown because aggression originates from grievances linked with deprivations over local issues and disputes long over due for attention, but neglected. Most of the resistant groups in different parts of the world function as extremists, anarchists, state enemies among others. The Niger Delta question in Nigeria is a case in example. Because of the long neglect of the people of these oil-producing areas and their environment by the Federal government: as dejected from development, state of want and deprivation; environmental degradation, sustained poverty and bad governance, the people of the Niger Delta began to agitate for improvements in their overall well being. Late Issac Adaka Boro could not tolerate the perceived injustice against his people and he took to arms to redress the situation by organizing the Niger Delta Volunteer Force -NDVF in the heat of the civil war in 1968. When he died during the civil war, other environmental activist sprang up in the likes of late Kenuele Saro-Wiwa, Frank Kokori, Ledum Mitee, Tan David-West, E.K Clark, Oronto Douglas, and Joseph Evah among others, continued with the struggle for a redress of the region. Soon after the Kaiama Declaration of 1998, the whole of the Niger Delta region was militarized with a heavy presence of combined outfit of soldiers and the mobile police in “armless” civilian settlements. The youths in the region in a common objective agreed to take an aggressive defense strategy in a combatant form confronting the JFT fire for fire. Notwithstanding the militarization approach of the Federal government in the areas, between year 2000 and August 2009, tension, apprehension, fear of condone search for militants by JTF, hostage taking, kidnapping, killings, molestation, oil thievery, sabotage and pipeline destructions, arm proliferation etc continued. According to Bala dan Abu (2006), all these situations created national and international news but no solutions were found. 


Terrorism as a conceptual frame of analysis
The conceptual frame of terrorism is comically defined as a mystique child of doubtful ancestry. Circumstantially, it had many causes which ranges from: intimidation, injustice or lack of fair hearing, emasculation of the opposition, forced democratization, ethnic distrust, economic exploitation and poverty; clash of civilization, cultural and religious variations, bad governance or dictatorship, political oppression, ethnic discrimination and marginalization of minority tribes by the major ethnic led governments, religious persecution; cultural domination, anarchism, war, sadism among others (Wagner, 2000:482). Essentially, most governments are often to be held accountable for terrorist attacks against their nationals just like the fragile case of the Niger Delta. Terrorism include different kinds of activities ranging from assassination, murder, kidnapping, hostage taking, hijacking, shoot-out with police, sabotage  or vandalism, arson, bio-chemical attacks (Shafri, 1998), pollution, threat or hoax, extortion, armed attack, theft,  bombing, ambushing or barricade, arms struggles among others (Adefaye, 2004).
Underlying reasons of terrorism
Deprivation as a theory given by Ted Robert Gurr (1970) provides that, relative deprivation occurs where individuals or groups subjectively perceive themselves as unfairly disadvantaged over others perceived as having similar attributes and deserving similar rewards to their reference groups. To this, Walter (1999:90) contributed that subjective experiences of deprivation are essential and, indeed, relative deprivation is more likely when the differences between two groups “narrows” to the extent that comparisons can be easily made than where there are caste-like differences. The discontent arising from relative deprivation has been used to explain radical politics, the rise of social movements, industrial disputes and the whole plethora of crime and deviance that do occur.

Resistant groups under different socio-political conditions may have a specific cause/aim of operations, but several features are common to all the groups to wit: give publicity to the existence of their group(s); make their interest public to attract support of their cause of actions, discredit or destabilize the authorities that may oppose their cause and where necessary adopt resistance, and most often provoke the authorities targeted into taking repressive measures. These reasons start from the feeling of deprivation which must be considered an essential element in the cause of terror acts. Events has proved that, groups relapse to terrorism when they believe all other avenues, including economic, protests; public appeal and organized warfare has been blocked. For instance "when defence becomes aggression and offence becomes defence", the weak and the cheated may rely on terrorism or violence, to shape up. These sense of estrangements heightened the conflicts and violence situations in the Niger Delta (Mohammed, 2004).

Youth militancy in the Niger Delta
The tradition of youth restiveness through militancy in the Niger Delta region which survived till the present time predates the early period of colonialism. It can be linked with the commercial contact between the Niger Delta people and European merchant of the 19th century. Literature have provided that, the subjugation of the Niger Delta area by the colonialist was after numerous expeditions and a number of strong resistances before the people were brought under effective control, and not until the end of the first World War, the Niger Delta people did not summit to the British colonialists (Ifeka & Stride, 1971).

The cause of youth restiveness in the Niger Delta is divided into three categories, namely: Youths engage in genuine agitation of their rights and restoration of the dignity of Niger-Delta people; Youths who are seeking revenge for the “use and dump” attitude of the elites in the region; and Youths engage in self enrichment and criminal activities.
Youths engaged in genuine agitation
The Niger Delta youths in this category have assessed the exploitative advantage of the Federal government’s present socio-economic imbalance skewed negatively against their interest since 1958. The resistant movements (which sprang up from ethnic associations later turned militant groups) have a common goal against the Nigeria Federal government and oil companies because, the dialogue option failed. The resistant groups include the Martyrs Brigade (MB-the Coalition of Militant Action in the Niger Delta), Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the Niger Delta People’s Salvation Front (NDPSF), Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF) the Niger Delta Freedom Fighters (NDFF), the Aboye Boys (AB), Urhobo Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC- comprising the NDPVF, MEND and the Martyrs Brigade). Their grievances were centered on:

  • Total disconnection between the people, the oil industries and the government in terms of infrastructural development, in spite of the billions of naira sunk into the Niger –Delta by both Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the oil companies,
  • Increasing rate of Poverty, Unemployment, Economic banditry of the region, Unfaithful implementation of welfare programmes and MoUs, Illegal oil bunkering, Abandonment of political thugs who possess very sophisticated equipment during the 1999, 2003 and 2007 general elections,
  • Marginalization from adequate political representation at the national level and tax field, Destruction of the eco-system through gas flaring, petroleum products’ pipelines vandalism, pipeline rupture which have rendered farmlands and rivers barren to the extent that the youths have no other source of veritable livelihood (Ogbeifun, 2007:47) and;.
  • Accelerating infrastructural decay of educational and health institutions, Aggrandizement by major ethnic and political leaders, Lack of transparency and public accountability in the management of oil proceeds, Lack of basic welfare needs like potable water, electricity and roads among other issues of concern.

Edwin Clark (2007) and (David-West, 2006) see this category of boys as patriotic people and should not be regarded as militants, terrorists or criminals because among them are graduates, who were fighting for the liberation of the Niger Delta region. All they want is development of the region.

Youth on vengeance mission
Those in this category are very ferocious and deadly in their operations because they perceive the “Nigerian State” as being unfair and unkind to them. They operate or function at their respective community creeks and levels, agitating for compensations from the Federal government and the oil companies, as their bona fide entitlement/right arising from environmental abuse through oil  tapped in their domain. These youth groups include for example: - Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ijaw Youths Congress (IYC), and Movement for the Survival of the Ijaws Ethnic in the Niger-Delta (MOSELND), Movement for the Survival of the Itsekiri Ethnic Nationalities (MOSIEN), Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND-now a militant group), Federated Niger-Delta  Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), Isoko National Youth Movement (INYM),  Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) , Egbesu Boys of Africa  (EBA), Supreme Egbesu Assembly   (SEA), Egi Youth Federation (EYF), The Ikwere Youth Movement (IYM), The Urhobo Youth Movement  (UYM), The Ilaje Youth Movement (IYM), The Niger-Delta Federated Ijaw Communities (NDFIC), Niger-Delta People’s Volunteer Front  (NDPVF- later turned militant group) among others. In this group are those who have been used at one point or the other as thugs by politicians and oil bunkerers against their political, social and economic opponents. Their sponsors got them armed for deadly assignments and when their principals met their set targets and objectives, the youths were dumped and left in the cold to care for their needs (Anayochukwu, 2008). Worst still is the seething corruptive tendencies of political office holders who used the youths to cow and intimidate their opponents only to turn round and flaunt their ill-gotten wealth in a society where three times meal has eluded the common people.

Youth engaged in self-seeking and criminal activities:                     
This group also claims to be pursuing the interest of Niger Deltan, but their modus operandi does not give credence to this assertion. These are militant groups that kidnap for ransom. Children, students, mothers, house wives, fathers, Palace Chiefs, Clergymen among others have been victims. These militants place multi-million Naira ransoms on kidnapped victims. This group actively works in connivance with godfathers, security agencies and insiders of a family or in the oil companies for their own selfish ends. Whatever amount is realized from the ransom is shared among the group. The Joint Task Force members have been implicated in these activities actively aiding and abetting petroleum pipelines vandalism, oil bunkering, selling of vandalized oil facilities (Werinipre, 2008) among others. They use dynamites on crude petroleum pipelines, overrun oil platforms, wreak havoc on oil facilities, vandalize and cart away equipment. Jomo Gbomo- the spokesperson of MEND once posited that, what the freedom fighters want is development of the region and the genuine agitation of the people should not be lumped together with the activities of commercial hostage takers. MEND nonetheless suggested that, if the Federal government collaborates with the real freedom fighters, it believed that they (as real militant groups) can get rid of other militants considered as criminals (Ngubane, 2007). Actually, the proceeds from these activities are not deployed to any known developmental projects in the region or for any other purpose of benefit to the Niger-Delta people and so cannot be said to be working for the good of others or the region. Hence, this group can be classified as terrorist group.
Resource control agitation
Consciousness as a security measure is the state of being aware of all the ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc of a person or people’s plans of action on the things already mentioned or agreed upon (Hornby & Cowie 2000:180). Consciousness begets anxiety and alienation of oneself from his environment. This presupposes that an individual traumatized by militarization, insecurity, and threat of being hurt, will one day yearn for protection of his being and therefore moves to draw support for the protection and preservation of his inalienable right. This may be an aspect in which various ethnic groups and associations in the Niger Delta enunciated bill of rights to ensure that inner consciousness in them is not betrayed.
Resource control could mean different things to its advocates. Stakeholders from the Niger Delta region see it as any adjustment of the derivation principle from 13 percent to at least 25 percent, while others will campaign for 100 percent (Ikelegbe 2001). The resource control agitation from the time of late Isaac Adaka Boro to other heroes and environmentalists, who laid their lives for the emancipation of the Niger Delta region from marginalization and neglect. The common ideology of these heroes influenced the youths of the region to declare ownership and resource control known as the “Kaiama Declaration” of December 11, 1998.  The youth’s inspiration manifested from the proverbial postulation of “the goose that lay the golden eggs but have nothing to show for it”. The fact that the bulk of the nation’s resources come from the Niger Delta areas, resource control implies that the people get equitable share in the oil revenue accruing to the nation exploited from their various communities. However, the heroes of the Niger Delta struggle for a fairer share of natural resources available in the region knew that, full control of their endowed resource will not be possible under the framework of Nigerian federalism. Hence, their hope is to push harder for a better deal from the federal government for a meaningful development and investments in the region.

Security and the “State” actions
In Nigeria, national security is an undivided responsibility of the Federal government structured purposively to protect the nation, lives and properties of individuals and corporations from any attacks and damage. Security is a measure or are measures taken to guarantee the safety of a country, persons, things of value, etc. to Ekoko & Vogt (1990:224) security has to do with freedom from danger, or with threats to an individual or a nation’s ability to protect and develop itself, promote it’s cherished values and legitimate interest and enhance the well being of its people. These measures are strategies that an individual, groups, organizations, states or nation-states deliberately structure and put in place (openly or secretly) against premeditated attacks. But, if the government induces insecurity on the governed like the era of late General Sani Abacha (1993-1998), such act or acts could be classified as “state sponsored terrorism”.

Historically, the first usage of the phrase "terrorism" was in France during the rule of terror days is known as state terrorism. This connotes bloody, repression by government agents directed primarily at the non-arm bearing masses. Essentially, the most pervasive feature of state terrorism is that, people are detained arbitrarily and usually have no right to judicial process and protection. Other attributes of state terrorism include summary trials and extra-judicial killings, beatings, torture, death squads by shooting at sight (Adefaye, 2004). All these techniques have been used by various administrations in Nigeria (both military and civilian) since 1960 against the Niger Delta people through the Federal government organized security agents, to sustain the security policy of the government in annexing the oil in the Niger Delta and denying the oil producing communities their legitimate agitations for resource control (Ogbeifun, 2007). The core demand of the Ijaw territories is a fairer Nigeria where every ethnic group would have the right of a say over its own affairs, control over its own resources, and be on its own, Okpowo (1999) had cautioned that, if the government takes any precipitate action to aggravate the situation on the ground, the elders in the region will have no option than to join the youths to fight and protect themselves and the Ijaw race from annihilation. Unfortunately, the oil companies did not comply with the Kaiama Declaration because of the level of state support they enjoyed. The outcome was civil disturbances (demonstrations) by the Ijaw youths, Odi, and Choba communities. The oil companies invited the mobile policemen leading to face-outs which claimed many lives, left many wounded, houses were destroyed to nothing and some indigenous youths went into exile for safety of their lives from the federal troops (Okonmah, 2000). These scenarios without doubt influenced the feeling of the youth bitterness among them which degenerated into all forms of protest.

Militarization effects
It is a common attitude of the federal government to defend and often deny the deployment of troop in the Niger Delta areas for the purpose of instituting fear on the people. So, the common sense is to secure the revenue base of the Federal government through oil exports, the Niger Delta areas have been on intensive militarization by drafted soldiers under the orders of the government. One of such examples was the violence visited on Umuechem community in 1989 on the orders of the then Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (Rtd), which left scores of people dead and hundreds of houses razed down for simply agitating for a better deal from Shell PDC (Isike, 2005). This is an eloquent testimony of state violence unleashed on a people it has a social contractual obligation to protect.

Following the December 1998 Kaiama Declaration of total resource control, on the 3rd of January 1999, General Abdulsalam Abubakar (now Retird) deployed warships and troops to Bayelsa State as an approach or policy of crisis management. According to Joseph Ollor Obari [1999:1], General Abubakar claimed that the reason behind such deployment where youth protests are carried out is to prevent the threatening of the national revenue base. Warri, Rivers state and Bayelsa   were engulfed with warships and soldiers and the communities fled for safety of lives. The first heavy test of the soldier’s armoury was in November 1999 when Odi community was violently sacked on the orders of former President Olusegun Obasanjo (who was assumed to be democratically elected by the people to lead them to a better life). Their offence was that they were enemies of his administration for protesting against environmental despoliation of their community without adequate compensation. What they got in return was genocide inflicted by the JTF. Understandingly, the state policy was to check youth militancy and the criminality in the Niger Delta areas, but the soldiers went too far by killing armless people as also recorded in the case of Uzerre community and Gbadamaturu Kingdom in Delta State among others. The table below shows the views of the respondents in respect to the effects of militarizing their communities with continued presence of military troops in the Niger Delta areas for security reasons.

Presence of Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta creates fear among the people








  M          F

15-25:26-35:36-45:  46-x

Baye   Delta   Rivs

P.Em    Emp  Stu   Pol















































Okonmah I, Emmanuel (2009) Ph.D Dissertation on Youth Restiveness in the Niger Delta.

There was a preponderance view 78.3% affirmation that the Niger Delta areas are militarized as a result of the presence of oil in the region and have left them with fear and less freedom of movement and comfort. Only 21.7% of the oil producing communities does not have the heavy presence of combined military and mobile police joint task force occupation as empirically obtained.
Joint Task Force : a terrorist or protectionist outfit?
The Federal government with constitutional authority has been using all sorts of force to compel the oil-producing communities to accepting its exploitation without development or due compensation to these areas. Since the end of Nigerian civil war in 1970, no part of Nigeria has witnessed huge military deployment and their domicile than the Niger Delta areas. According to Tajudeen Suleiman (2006), looking back at over 50 years of oil drilling in the Niger Delta, all what the oil producing communities in the region are doing is counting their losses. The Joint Task Force (otherwise known as operation Restore Hope) has been in the oil producing areas for a decade now, following the Kaiama Declaration of 1998 on full resource control.
In 2001, former President Olusegun Obasanjo set up “the Special Security Committee on Oil Producing Areas” under the Chairmanship of Lt. Gen. A.O. Ogomudia (then Chief of Army Staff) comprising the Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Inspector General of Police, Director of SSS, National Security Adviser, Group Managing Director of NNPC, Managing Directors of SPDC, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron Texaco, NOAC, TotalFinaElf, etc. The Committee’s findings and conclusions provided that, the mandate of the Committee is to look at the ways and means of instituting effective security of oil operations and installations. However, the root causes of insecurity in Niger Delta are due to the neglect, frustration and the sense of abandonment shared by the people (extracts from Ogomudia’s report of 2002 as cited in Okonmah, 2009:408). The committee also observed that, enduring peace anywhere, particularly in the oil producing areas, cannot be achieved by militarization or the security approach while one cannot deny the obvious criminal elements, which have to be firmly dealt with by the application of the Law (that is the use of state force).
Therefore, the Federal government’s actions in the Niger Delta stemmed from the Ogomudia’s Committee report of 2002. The use of force through deployment of troops or catchments of soldiers based on regions of origin contributed to a general distrust of the armed forces and the magnification of oil conflicts in the Niger Delta areas.  Northern soldiers deployed in the region have been distrustful and angry. The reported brutalization by Southern troops when deployed to the North offends the soldiers of Northern origin who are stationed in the South wanting an opportunity to pay back for the Southern brutalization of their people in the North. This was the experience from the Odi fiasco, Choba, Gbadamaturu among other communities destroyed by the JTF. The youths however became suspicious of every move made by the federal government (Anayochukwu, 2008:20) because none of the decisions reached with the Federal Government had been implemented. Their conclusion is that, federal government carries out heinous activities that are detrimental to the peace of the region which is evident in the several attacks by the Joint Task Force (JTF) on several communities in the Niger Delta areas like: odi (November, 1999); In 2005, Seventeen (17) persons were killed in Odioma in Delta state by the JTF because the people insisted that Shell PDC must negotiate with them on acquisition of their land for a new flow station. Twon Brass in Bayelsa State was under attcks (June 3, 2008), Epebu community in Bayelsa State also was attacked by JTF (11 June, 2008), Safarogbo Zion in Edo state (houses were burnt and people rendered homeless), Egbema I and Egbema II in Edo state were attacked; Agge and Uzere communities in Delta State shared same experience; in 2008, the Joint Task Force (who claim to be on a routine patrol in the creeks of Southern Ijaw) shot a passenger boat, killing 12 passengers on board and claimed shooting in error (Anayochukwu 2008) on suspect of militants (Oyadongha & Amaize, 2008: 1). The question is; are women and children who were occupants of the boat, militants?  

Therefore, the new wave of militancy before the August 2009 amnesty proclamation on militants was an output of the JTF excess in killing, raping, stealing of oil, gun running, turned political thugs, colluding  with kidnappers, and destroying all the households effects of these communities in place of government’s expected provision of basic social amenities was considered bad abinitio.

As contently analyzed in the table below, having used 1200 referential of Vaguard and The Guardian, newspapers reports on the consequence of the militarization approach of the Federal government to the Niger Delta crisis represents 80.30% of Vanguard reports and 19.70% of the Guardian editorials (on the average) the support to withdraw the heavy presence of stationed combined soldiers in the Niger Delta areas.

Militarization of the Niger Delta areas increases the tendency for youth restiveness.


Withdraw of
Soldiers from the region and Replaced with Police


Committing the youths to protect oil facilities


Get the oil companies  respect MoUs signed with host communities


Total Percentage









The Guardian
















Okonmah I, Emmanuel (2009) PhD Dissertation on Youth Restiveness in the Niger Delta.

The demands of the Niger Delta people as presented is that the military occupation of the oil producing areas and the water-fronts should be withdrawn and replaced with police (Oyadongha 2008). This is informed by the soldiers’ unprofessional attitude that poses social threat to the local people. In contrast, the people of Ogbolomabiri in Nembe local Government Area of Bayelsa state have kick against the clamour for the withdrawal of JFT from the creeks in that such move will spell doom for the oil wells in the area and increase in abduction of local people for ransom (Oyadongha, 2008).
Interestingly, while the Niger Delta people are looking inwards for a better deal on their region agitations, the federal Government had gone international for military training and other assistances over Niger Delta issues. For example, the British Prime Minister-Gordon Brown promised to offer Nigeria a full security training support package to tackle the cases of militancy in the Niger Delta (Okafor, 2008). Also, both American Force command and its European Allied Force commands have been established to protect oil installations in the Gulf of Guinea and Nigeria, but denied by former Minister of Defense-Ambassador Gregory Aguyi-Ironsi, on the 23rd of January, 2007 (Oyedele & Nwachukwu, 2007) that, the federal government never hired the services of United States and Chinese soldiers to police the Niger Delta region rather, the President only ordered that militants that attacked Bonga oil field in Rivers should be fished out which necessitated the deployment of a significant number of the soldiers to the areas (Aiyetan, 2008:). This was confirmed by Major-General Emeka Onwuamegbu (spokesman of the Nigerian Army) that, the defence of Bonga oil field was contracted to a private security company.
Miscarriage of justice is singled out as one of the core reasons, man visits bestiality on man. The fundamental adjustment of attitudes necessary to neutralize resistances can perhaps be engineered only by good citizenship. There is need for societal integration among people that will cover the inequalities that that separates them from modern economics. Politicians must know that national and global fairness, peace and human dignity matter more than exploitation, intimidation and oppressions.

It is no doubt difficult to separate the group(s) genuinely fighting for the dignity of the Niger Delta people and region from the self-serving ones as they operate in a commando-like and similar fashion living in the swamps far from the maddening crowd. The impact of the excesses of the deployed JTF has necessitated the clamour by stakeholders for their withdrawal having outlived their usefulness in the region. The quantum of arms and sophisticated weapons surrendered willfully by the militant groups that embraced the Presidential amnesty, proved otherwise of their professionalism. Therefore, social justice should not be discounted as yet another panacea to terrorist or wanton destructions. To reduce significantly the problems arising from terror-induced violence actuated by injustice in the Niger Delta areas, the Federal government must disburse justice in equity to those in dire need of it. This is necessary because, most of the Niger Delta people are victims of skewed socio-economic and political situations and are in urgent need of "freedom”.


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