- Oshiomhole asks Niger Delta Avengers to have a rethink
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja and Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Nigerian military wednesday continued its siege on Oporoza, Gbaramatu and its environs in Warri Southwest, Delta State wednesday in search of members of the violent group, the Niger Delta Avengers and Government Ekpemupolo, aka, Tompolo, declared wanted by federal government.
THISDAY also learnt that if the blockade does not ease before Monday next week, students who are supposed to sit for their Junior Secondary School (JSS) assessment, popularly called Junior WAEC, could miss their exams, as they have all fled the community for fear of attack.
A source in the community told THISDAY wednesday that though the fighter jets deployed three days ago had stopped flying around the town, the troops deployed in the area were still in control there.
Students of the only two public schools in Oporoza, a coastal area, the Gbaran Grammar School and Syewe Primary School, it was learnt have also fled into the bush from the troubled zone.
The source added that the king was still under house arrest, noting that all the sources of water and electricity supply to the community were still being controlled by the troops.
Three foundation students (those on scholarship) who live just behind the school, the source noted, were also rounded up by the Joint Task Force, who are in charge of the operation.
But the military had defended its action, saying that those who had no hand in the bombing of pipelines should go about their normal duties, promising that they would not be molested.
Also, Chairman of the Federal government’s Amnesty Office, Brig-Gen. Paul Boroh, during a visit to the place, had noted that the security operatives were on a ‘’cordon and search operation,’’ to recover arms and ammunition he said were in the wrong hands.
When contacted, one of the community sources who said he had fled into the bush and was on his way to an unnamed community near Oporoza, said that even the aged women who had remained in the area had started fleeing.
“They (military) are still there. Some old women have started fleeing too. People are in no hurry to return. Our children who are supposed to start their junior WAEC on Monday next week, cannot even return. They have all fled into the bush.
“There are no teachers. The fighter jets that we saw on Monday have disappeared, but the soldiers are still everywhere. Even the king has still not been allowed to move. As we speak, I am running away,’’ he said.
He added that other neighbouring towns like Azama and Kurutie, which the soldiers had earlier stormed in search of Tompolo’s father, Thomas Ekpemupolo, had become ghost towns.
Another source, who said he was still in hiding, told THISDAY that residents have continued to live in fear of a sudden attack in the pattern of what happened in 2009 when Oporoza was levelled by the army.
“We are still looking for some of our children. Some children are looking for their parents. Even my in-law who was arrested, we haven’t heard from him,’’ he lamented.
The Commander of 4 Brigade, Benin, Brigadier General Farouk Yahaya, had while parading some suspects noted that the army recovered 28 detonator cords, two pistols, 196 rounds of 7.62 special ammunition, one round of nine millimetre ammunition, a live cartridge and five daggers.
Other items found in the area, he said, were 15 handheld radio sets, 18 phones, 203 SIM cards, five swimsuits, two headlamps, a laptop, two ipads and a camera.
Meanwhile, Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, has called on militants in the Niger Delta to embrace peace saying that the region would not benefit from blowing up oil facilities.
Oshiomhole, who spoke with State House Correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari said such destructive tendencies would leave the region worse off.
He said: “I appeal to all of us in the South-south, we need to wake up, it is for our own self interest that we make the region the most investor friendly that even challenges that we face, the assets being destroyed are not just national assets, they are our own assets.
“It is what makes the South-south the hub of the Nigerian economy and when we nutralise that through whatever pretenses, there is something Abiola said which I think is apt in this case, that if a tree falls in the forest chances are it can only kill somebody in that forest not somebody at home.
“So if somebody for whatever reasons decide to destroy pipelines and thereby compounding the problem of pollution, the cost of cleaning up that area making it attractive either for fishing, farming or other business is a huge cost. Cost not just naira and kobo, cost in terms of time and in terms of human lives.”
He said Buhari deserved the support of everyone adding that there was no part of Nigeria that could be better off without the other part.
He said: “The sooner we accept this reality the better it is for all of us. The days of ethnic champions and imaginary divides will not help anyone.
“I believe that the president has shown leadership, he has shown determination to keep the country going, for once we are enjoying respect in world capitals, in different continents.”
The governor stated that part of the challenge the country was facing was lack of job for many young people.
He said this informed the decision of Buhari to devote as much as half a trillion naira to social investments targeted at the poorest.
He said: “We don’t need to be security experts to accept the universal truth that wherever there is insecurity there will be no investment because no investor will go to where is unsafe. And where there is no investment poverty will be endemic because there will be no job for our people.”
Oshiomhole said blowing up oil facilities would not bring the nation closer.
He said all Nigerians should converge around a common idea on how to ensure that the nation’s natural endowment remained truly a blessing.
He said: “And that if there are environmental issues arising from certain negligence on the part of certain key players, that as the president has shown for the first time a commitment to clean up Ogoni land and any other area, these are the things we all ought to work together and encourage the president and the federal government to continue to do.
“But to compound those problem by breaking pipelines, stealing crude oil and destroying farmlands, destroying water ways, I don’t see anybody benefiting from that. So is very unfortunate, I think is important to say that the Nigerian state must not be demystified by gunmen and accept that the environment will be governed by gunmen.”
He said a number of intervention had been put in place and that a whole ministry had been created for the Niger Delta.
According to him, that is unprecedent in our history and is manned by people from the area.
“We also have the NDDC, a commission exclusively devoted to addressing the challenges of the region. If the development has not developed faster than it is, we probably need to look inward. Why is there a gap by what is purportedly spent and what people can find on ground. These are issues this president is dealing with, the issues of corruption. Corruption exposed the gap between huge allocations, contracts awarded and the reality that even with torchlight you can’t find those things on ground,” he added.
Oshiomhole said that even n Edo State many projects were awarded but never to the right contractors.
He said the money was stolen and the people left as witnesses to exploitation.
Oshiomhole siad that Nigeria now had a statement who was determined to fight corruption adding that, “If we can defeat corruption in the south south, and if the money given to NDDC is truly used to address infrastructure, and the Niger Delta ministry will focus on addressing the challenges in the region, then we will begin to see things change.”
He said Nigeria as a state should not submit to blackmail
He said: “For me I believe in Nigeria, I believe no part can do without the other, I believe our unity is not negotiable, I believe the responsibility of the political elite is to strengthen the bridge of unity, to discourage preaching hatered, implify weak points rather work to strengthen those points.”
He said governors met with the president on Monday to discuss the challenges with the states.
He said states were facing huge challenges.
He said: “Part of the manifestation is that many workers are not being paid, is a very serious problem because if you have a situation where the state government is the main employer of labour and not just the largest employer of labour, that creates a vicious circle, landlords can’t pay their rent, market women can’t sell, you have a depressed economy.
“These issues were discussed yesterday and as usual President Buhari who has been extremely supportive even though we all agree including PDP governors among us that the crisis that we are being faced was as a result of the misrule of the past.
“The challenge of today is as a result of the abuses of yesterday. But inspite of that President Buhari has been very helpful but for that many states would have gone into… I don’t know what you will call a state that is completely insolvent and bankrupt.
“We have to appreciate the President for the leadership he has provided, I mean we all have a greater sense of security today than was the case around this time a year ago. “