- IYC: Redistribute oil blocks or attacks will continue
Sylvester Idowu in Warri and Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The people of Kokodiagbene, an oil rich community in Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State are now living in fear over the invasion of the riverside community at the weekend by soldiers from the Joint Task Force (JTF) searching for members of the militant group, Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).
They have sent a save-our-soul (SOS) message to the federal government, stating that they were living in fear over the deadly activities of the militant group and intimidation as well as harassment from the military.
THISDAY checks revealed that the facilities mainly attacked by the militants were located in the community as it is hosts to the Jones Creek and Otunana flow stations operated by the international oil firms, among others.
The Chairman of the community, Mr. Sheriff Mulade, who spoke with journalists in Warri yesterday condemned the invasion of the community, alleging that while men were beaten up, women were harassed by the JTF’s team.
According to him, the oil rich community had always been peaceful and that it had never supported militancy even in the heat of the arms struggle prior to the amnesty programme.
Mulade alleged that information at their disposal suggested that the JTF was led to the community by two masked men from Koko, an Itsekiri enclave in Warri North Local Government Area of the state, warning that the military should not try to rekindle the Warri inter-ethnic conflagration as the wound of the carnage was still fresh in their memories.
The community leader, who is an environmental advocate, also spoke about the devastation of the environment by the destruction of pipelines by militants which has resulted in massive spills, oil condemning the militants for relapsing into arms struggle.
He called on the militant group to have a re-think, warning that it cannot continue to use Niger Delta communities and kingdoms as a war front to the detriment of the environment, image and people of the region, adding that dialogue was the only viable means to address disagreement.
“We condemn strongly the invasion of Kokodiagbene last Saturday by the JTF. Some people were beaten up, while others were harassed. This is uncalled for. And at the end of the day, nothing incriminating was found in the community. They entered people’s houses by force, destroyed their properties and yet no single arm was recovered. We advise the military to always do its homework thoroughly before invading any community.
Meanwhile, the umbrella body of all youths of Ijaw descent, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide monday in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, warned that unless the ownership structure of oil blocks in the region was rearranged to ensure fairness, attacks on oil pfacilities would continue.
President of the IYC, Udengs Eradiri, who spoke as part of activities to mark this year’s Isaac Boro Day, told journalists at the Ijaw House in Yenagoa that the ‘unfair’ distribution of oil wells was a major cause of the instability in the region.
The Ijaw youths had earlier ordered the shutting down of shops in the state capital as a mark of honour for the late Boro.
“One of the most salient issues that if not addressed will lead to more crises is the issue of the oil blocks. President Muhammadu Buhari was a one-time Petroleum Minister and Head of State in this country.
‘’Let’s do an assessment of that time. It was during his time that they criminally shared our oil blocks.
“Oil blocks were shared to one group. Look at it, either the person (owner of oil block) was a former military president or relative of the military president or his in-law.”
The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), the new face of militancy in the region had last week Thursday listed some oil blocks allegedly owned by former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; Minister of Defence, General Theophilus Danjuma; ex-Minister of Petroleum, Alhaji Riwalnu Lukman, among others.
The new militant group in the region had among others, issued them a two-week ultimatum to shut down operations at the oil blocks and evacuate the workers from the locations or have them blown up.
Eradiri said much of the indiscriminate sharing of oil blocks were allegedly carried out when Buhari served as Petroleum Minister or Head of State.
He accused the president of denying the people of the region ownership of oil blocks at the time while allegedly allocating same to his kinsmen and their cronies like a bazaar.
“And that is one of the biggest issues in the region, and if not addressed, there will be more Niger Delta Avengers. More groups will spring up until the issue is addressed,” he warned.
He insisted that the allocation of the oil blocks did not follow due process outlined by the government, and called for a total review of the blocks to redress the injustice which he said such a manipulated process had brought against oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta.
Eradiri described Boro as “an intellectual and fearless comrade,” who stood up for the Niger Delta despite the oppressive tendencies of the government at the time.
According to him, the issues of underdevelopment of the region for which Boro took up arms against the federal government were yet to be addressed by the authorities till now.