The Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr Seriake Dickson, on Wednesday maintained his strong opposition to the use of military force as the panacea to ending the prolonged crisis in the Niger Delta region which has almost halved Nigeria’s oil export since the beginning of this year.
* US govt calls for dialogue, economic empowerment of region
By Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Instead, Dickson who affirmed that the issues in the oil-rich area were essentially development-related, argued that purposeful engagement and consensus building would in the long run resolve most of the lingering issues.
The federal government had recently begun the massive deployment of military personnel and armament to most of the states in the region, ostensibly to quell the activities of militants that have consistently attacked oil and gas infrastructure in the area.
But Dickson, who spoke in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, during a visit by officials of the United States Consulate in Nigeria, noted that direct confrontation with the youths and brutalisation of innocent residents of communities in the region would further worsen the problem.
The governor spoke just as the high-powered delegation from the US embassy led by the Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr David Young, called for the transformation of the lives of the people of the region and indeed the entire country with the oil wealth available in Nigeria.
Young, who was accompanied by the Consul-General, Mr John Bray, and Chief of Political and Economic section, Mr Tom Hines, noted that dialogue remains the most enduring option to tackling the challenges in the region.
However, while thanking the US government for their support over the years, Dickson explained that being the heart of the Delta, there was need to pay more attention to the state and avoid actions that would promote more violence.
“Let me again use this opportunity of your visit to call for caution especially in the light of ongoing military efforts and exercises. We feel that communities should be carried along.
“In view of the recent developments in the Niger Delta, let me restate our official policy , which is to promote and encourage dialogue among all stakeholders. We believe that the issues in the Niger Delta are not such that can be resolved by confrontation or show of military strength .
“They are not issues that can be resolved militarily. We believe that these are issues of the environment and development which ultimately will require all stakeholders to resolve.
“Every stakeholder, including friends of our country should work together. They are not issues that call for force, militarisation or brutality of communities and their leaders.
“Working together honestly and sincerely and with a clear roadmap, these issues can be resolved to ensure prosperity and consensus building”, the governor maintained.