President Muhammadu Buhari has been asked to focus more on intelligence gathering and collaboration with host communities in identifying the location of the resurgents Niger Delta Avengers who have been taking credit for blowing up pipelines and grinding oil and gas production of the country to a halt.
Chairman of Grassroots Initiative for Peace and Social Orientation and one of the facilitators of the amnesty programme, Mr. Richard Akinaka, who condemned the renewed attacks as not representing the intention and interest of the Niger Delta blamed it on protection of individual business interests of some unscrupulous people from the region.
To avoid collateral damage and hurting innocent, villagers whose lives he said had been battered by neglect and lack of development, Akinaka said soldiers should desist from mass arrest but focus on identifying where the Avengers were located and take them out.
According to him, “What is happening in the region does not reflect the common interest of the people of the Niger Delta. It is orchestrated by few disgruntled people for their selfish interests. We just finished six years of a presidency headed by one of us, former President Goodluck Jonathan, why didn’t the Avengers carry out their agitation during his regime? We produced a president who did nothing in six years to better the lot of his people, not even the road to Otuoke was touched under him while the East-West Road was left undone; so what justification do they have to protest now?
“Those breaking pipelines do not have a moral right to agitate under the government of President Buhari. If they wanted to agitate for an independent republic, they should have done it under Jonathan. Nobody in the Niger Delta has a point to agitate just a year into another administration. If they wanted a separate republic, they had all the time to achieve it under one of their own, so coming now to ask for a separate Niger Delta state beggars the question.
“What the security agencies should do is more of intelligence gathering to get to the people behind the Avengers which I think is a fluke. It is a ghost name people are hiding under to pursue personal interests and ambitions. They should avoid arrest of innocent villagers and treating the region like an occupied territory.”
Akinaka carpeted political appointees from the region, especially the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Dakuku Peterside, for their failure to help the government arrest the situation, pointing out that if they were grassroots people, they should have come up to do something to assist the regime they serve to solve the problem in their region. He however noted that the coordinator of the amnesty programme, Brigadier-General Paul Boro (rtd), had been running from state to state over the issue.
He blamed poor funding for the stretched amnesty programme, pointing out that voting adequate funds to conclude the programme might help remove the mind of those hoping to be brought into the scheme from it and quieten the region.
He blamed ignorance for the agitation for a separate region based on having fossil deposits, and submitted that even if such a republic was reaslised, it would lead to further fragmentation because those with oil in their domain would lay claim to it to the exclusion of others which he insisted was the case in similar circumstances globally.
He said the panacea was enthronement of fiscal federalism whereby states or regions were allowed to source and exploit natural resources in their domain and pay a percentage to the federal government.
He said attacks on facilities in Bayelsa were not by militants but by those flexing muscles over Agip pipeline protection, pointing out that the person who was given the contract was an APC member while the government in the state was PDP and those who were organising the attacks wanted to take over the contracts.
Akinaka called on Government Ekpumopolo aka Tompolo to make good his promise to Buhari as severally published to ensure that peace reigned by doing all within his powers to stop the Avengers as the environment and the people were at the receiving end of the attacks. He also charged the Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu to streamline his intervention to enable him achieve results as the stakeholders meeting he held in Abuja was too bogus for anyone to volunteer information without the proper screening.