Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Prominent ex-militant leaders from the Niger Delta have written President Muhammadu Buhari, urging him to expedite action on the much hyped Ogoni clean-up programme and the completion of the popular East-West road which connects the South-South region with other parts of the country.
The former warlords from the nine states of the Niger Delta also called for an increase in the funding of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) which it said would help sustain the relative peace in the region and increase the capacity of youths.
Mostly under the first phase of the amnesty programme, the former agitators under the umbrella of the Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative (LPCDI), asked the President to compel the oil multinationals operating in the Niger Delta to engage youths from the region in gainful employment to curb restiveness.
National President of the LPCDI, Pastor Reuben Wilson, aka General Pastor, who held sway during the Niger Delta crisis, on behalf of his colleagues, noted that unemployment remains one of the topmost issues affecting the region and called on Buhari to intervene.
He ascribed the peace being enjoyed in the region to the decision taken by the leaders including Chief Government Ekpemupolo, aka Tompolo, King Ateke Tom and Ebikabowei Victor Ben, Boyloaf, to embrace the programme, and indicated that there was the need to meet with the President Buhari to brainstorm on the way forward for the Niger Delta.
He, however, commended the current administration for the increased number of appointments allocated to indigenes of the region and, according to him, the conscious effort to develop the Niger Delta.
“We make a plea to the president to help complete the East-West road which has become a death trap, causing several losses of lives and damage to vehicles. We ask the president to look into the Ogoni clean-up to ensure the project is successfully completed.
“LPCDI pleads with the president to compel oil companies working in the region to engage the youths in the areas of their operations to avoid restiveness instead of importing workers from outside and thus sidelining the competent youths of the region who have the requisite skills to be employed.
This will bring pipeline vandalism to an end” they assured.
Also, the Rivers State Coordinator of the group, Groundville Ideye, popularly called Egbele suggested that if the Amnesty Office was well funded, it will enable the leaders and their protégés to attend leadership trainings abroad to develop capacity.
On alleged personality clashes among political appointees from the region, the ex-militant leaders cautioned that it was capable of causing a setback in the development of the region.
“We must come together and support our brothers. However, in cases where such public office holders refuse to do the right thing, we should take the option of paying a personal visit to the person and state our grievances rather than resorting to open slandering over the media.
“We currently have a number of our brothers like Chief Timipre Sylva (Petroleum Minister), Senator Godswill Akpabio (Minister of Niger Delta Affairs), Rotimi Amaechi (Minister of Transport), Prof. Charles Dokubo (Special Adviser to President on Niger Delta Affairs and Coordinator Presidential Amnesty Program), Senator Ita Enang ( Senior Special Assistant to President on Niger Delta Affairs), and a host of others in those places.
“It was also resolved in the meeting to give our whole and total support to Prof. Charles Dokubo. We also implore the President to use his good offices to keep on supporting and funding the programme.
“We call on the president to do more by engaging more of our youths as we promise him our total support. We use this opportunity to plead with our aggrieved brothers to channel all their complaint properly instead of taking laws into their hands. We cannot achieve development if we do not embrace peace”.
Speaking on the content of the letter, the Financial Secretary of the group, Andrew Chidi, aka, Vokor, said the former MEND leaders also hailed the presidential order of a forensic investigation into the spending of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).