• INC warns Buhari not to treat N’Delta militants like Boko Haram
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt, Shola Oyeyipo and Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
A coalition of ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta region, the United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy (UNDEDSS), has alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari is not prepared for a peaceful resolution of the Niger Delta crisis.
This is as the umbrella socio-cultural organisation of the Ijaw ethnic nationality, Ijaw National Congress (INC), has asked President Muhammad Buhari not to heed calls by some groups and individuals for the Federal Government to treat Niger Delta militants like the Boko Haram.
Also, Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has pleaded that recourse to violence was not a panacea to the festering Niger Delta issue. He appealed to those disenchanted with the plight of the region to embrace peace as a means of seeking redress.
The allegation by UNDEDSS is contained in press statement issued and signed by its Secretary General, Tony Iprinye Uranta, after the coalition’s emergency National Working Committee (NWC) meeting held in Akure, Ondo State capital, yesterday, noted that “The FGN is insincere about desiring to end the Niger Delta imbroglio peacefully and expeditiously!”
According to the group, “The increasingly excessive and anti-people attempts by the Federal Government of Nigeria to seemingly intimidate and coerce the peoples of the Niger Delta, via military harassment, into submitting to what is perceived as an attempt to openly steal its resources and rights, worries all right-thinking people of the world, especially since all this is at a time that the Chief Edwin Clark-led pan-Niger Delta group has succeeded in getting the armed agitators to cease fire unilaterally and express their collective readiness to embrace dialogue”.
While calling watchers from around the world to note that the armed agitators had kept faith with their ceasefire, and that the creeks of the Niger Delta were now relatively at peace, except for the activities of the Nigerian military, Uranta stated that: “We do not understand how any peace-intent government would waste weeks before accepting any olive branch that would help free all Nigerians from the present nationwide economic hardship being suffered, when we can trace dwindling government revenues, power instabilities and mass impoverishment directly to the ongoing imbroglio in our region.
“Would we blame the men in the creeks if they lose confidence in the FGN’s sincerity”, Uranta wondred and went further to claim that “the delay in the FGN responding to these positive peace moves from the region as a whole, is making many lose faith in the sincerity of this Administration to see Nigeria as its constituency; and has again resurrected the bogey of a virtual 97-5 per cent dichotomy which Mr. President appears not to have progressively renewed his mind on.”
UNDEDSS affirmed its confidence in the Clark group’s ability to find a lasting solution to the crisis and insisted that that federal government needed to work in line with late president Umar Yar’ Adua framework to resolve the problems in the region.
“We want the world to know that there appears to be a myopic hawkish agenda at play within FGN leadership circles, we unconditionally reiterate our 100 per cent confidence in the Chief Clark-led pan-Niger Delta Group; we strongly reiterate our position that only a sincere embracing of the 2009 Yar’Adua Niger Delta/National Peace template can comprehensively and sustainably bring this impasse to an end, once and for all.
“We unequivocally condemn harassment of innocent citizens and communities under the guise of a thinly-disguised military offensive, aka aptly as ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’; we urgently call on all international observers to keep keen watch on the FGN and the Niger Delta; we advise President Buhari to show that he really is president of all Nigerians, and begin demonstrating true positive change that begins with him doing the right things at all times; and, we call on him to urgently issue a presidential position embracing the peace overtures from the Niger Delta armed agitators, and summoning all to a negotiation table, so as to more help speedily ameliorate the hardship currently bedeviling most Nigerians nationwide”, the group urged.
The INC however restated their commitment to one indivisible Nigeria. Addressing journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday, the President of the INC, Boma Obuoforibo, said the demand for equity, fairness and justice by Niger Delta youths could not be equated to terrorism.
His words: “The Niger Delta youths demand for equity, fairness and justice is not terrorism and cannot be likened to the activities of Boko Haram that has killed and maimed thousands of Nigerians, kidnapped and raped several innocent women and girls, brought about untold hardship on thousands of Nigerians making them refugees in their own country.
“Besides, the world knows the sympathetic issues at stake in the Niger Delta and would always support the demanded equity, fair play and justice to a people facing annihilation. What is Boko Haram fighting for? Why is Boko Haram seizing territories? That they do not want western education? And what has the likes of Professor Ango Abdullahi done all these years to assuage the Boko Haram combatants to end their activities?
He said the crisis in the Niger Delta had lingered because of insincerity on the part of successive governments and operators of the oil sector, adding that various intervention agencies set up by government had not lived up to expectation.
Obuoforibo also berated those who claim that a lot of resources had been invested in the Niger Delta region.
“Some uninformed neophytes in the corridor of power have sensationally publicised that over 40 billion dollars have gone to the Niger Delta region without visible impact. Disappointingly, the evaluation did not indicate how much money was produced and derived from the region all these years to develop the federal capital territory, the cities of Lagos, Kano, Kaduna and indeed the sustenance of the rest of the nation”, he said.
He therefore called on Buhari to disregard calls for military action in the region but rather withdraw the military from the region.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to disregard the calls for military campaign against the restive youths as peaceful discourse remains the best option in resolving the issues in the Niger Delta especially now that the boys have heeded the wise counsel of elders and leaders within and outside the region, and are embracing the offer of dialogue with the government.
“It is expedient that comments and actions that would aggravate the situation should be avoided. We equally implore the government to urgently de-militarise the Niger Delta and withdraw the military from all our communities”, he stated.
The INC president also said the Ijaw people of the Niger Delta were completely in support of “an indivisible, united and prosperous Nigeria where equity, fair play and justice would be upheld.”
He however called for a restructuring of the country along the lines of the 1963 Constitution with greater autonomy to regions.
“What is needed now is the restructuring of the existing framework to allow the federating units greater autonomy to administer their affairs,” he said.
Mohammed made this appeal in Abuja at the command screening of
”Oloibiri’, a feature length movie based on the life of the community where oil was first discovered on commercial scale in Nigeria.
The movie that featured Nollywood leading cast like Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, Richard Mofe- Damijo and Olu Jacob, is the story of frustration and anger of the impecunious people of the oil-rich Niger Delta region.
The minister admonished that violence and military confrontation will only leave a spectre of trauma and the wounded, adding that will be no victors irrespective of whichever end of the divide one falls.
”In its essence, ‘Oloibiri’ the movie speaks of the Niger-Delta to us Nigerians; to our essence as humans, as a nation, as students ‘ of history and hopes of our tomorrows. ‘Oloibiri’ in its form points out to us that in addressing wrongs, the place of diplomacy can never be successfully replaced with violence; for the violent creates victims of himself and others, and in all of these it is the land who loses precious citizens’, ‘Mohammed said.
He said the implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP) on the Environmental Assessment
of Ogoniland, which was launched in June by President Mohammadu Buhari, was one of ways that government was laying a strong foundation for the speedy development of the Niger Delta. In addition, he noted that the Federal Government had commissioned the Central Ogbia Regional Water Supply Project in Bayelsa, as part of efforts complete all abandoned water projects to improve livelihood.
Among those who witnessed the command screening of the film were the
Minister of Environment Amina Mohammed, Minister of
Labour and Employment Chris Ngige, Minister of State for Environment
Ibrahim Usman Jibril and the Special Adviser to the President
on Niger Delta, Paul Boro.