By Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
The Delta State Government has expressed readiness to dialogue with militia group, Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), in the light of its reported threats to resume hostilities against oil and gas installations in the Niger Delta region.
The state Deputy Governor, Mr. Kingsley Burutu Otuaro, gave the hint while appealing to the NDA to sheathe their sword and embrace the option of dialogue to resolve whatever their grievances might be.
Otuaro, who is the Chairman, Delta State Advocacy Committee Against Vandalism of Oil and Gas Facilities, noted that much has been achieved since the resort to dialogue following resurgence of militancy targeting oil and gas facilities in the region.
Last week, the militant group made fresh demands over what it called insignificant gains, in terms of visible development in the region from the federal government since it agreed to a ceasefire about a year ago, threatening to attack oil facilities particularly those operated by multinationals.
The group warned that its intention to resume attack on critical oil assets in what it termed “Operation red economy” that would cripple Nigeria’s oil production and export capacity thereby dipping the country’s oil revenue.
Nonetheless, the Otuaro-led committee, which has former Ijaw youth leader, Dr Chris Ekiyor, as Secretary, has advised the NDA to formally lodge their grievances to the governor’s office Annexe Warri or the Deputy Governor’s Office, Government House, Asaba to set the stage for meaningful dialogue.
Against the backdrop of the renewed militant threats, Otuaro told journalists in Warri at the weekend that, “as agitators, we must be mindful not to cancel out the modest gains already made through the dialogue process with the federal government which is still on course.
“Days back, the House of Representatives passed the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Bill into law as the Senate did last year. The Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) has also just been passed. These are few pointers among others of better things to come.
“The Delta State Advocacy Committee Against Vandalism of Oil and Gas Facilities, which I chair, just concluded a two-day conference on securing oil installations in Delta State. The conference drew attendance from oil companies, government bodies and communities from both Itsekiri and Ijaw Kingdoms in the riverside areas of the state. To underscore the importance of the conference, the Country Chair/Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Company (SPDC), Mr. Osagie Okunbor, personally attended and delivered the keynote address.
“Among several issues, conference resolved that oil bearing communities must be engaged to better protect oil installations. It was agreed that oil installations vandalism was criminal and (amounts to) shooting self and future generations in the foot, having regard to con-committant environmental despoliation and loss of revenue for development of the region.”
The deputy governor and committee chairman further disclosed at a post-conference press briefing in Warri that the advocacy committee was making “arrangements to reach higher platforms to engage authorities of key issues raised at the conference towards resolving same. We have made contacts and gotten responses; I can tell you that there is yet no reason to be pessimistic.”
He, however, promised that the state government welcome other nonviolent agitation groups to present their concerns to government.
“Delta State Government efforts at peace for development of the oil bearing areas is without prejudice to other groups and bodies in commendable nonviolent agitation for the improvement of the Niger Delta region.
“Experience shows that we can achieve more through dialogue than by violence. It is not only the federal government that needs the oil revenue to develop the entire nation. We also need revenue that ensures the modest development we can bring about. While we deserve more, we cannot endanger the environment for survival of our generation, let alone future generations.”