Elders, youths of Niger Delta make demands of Buhari



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* Elders and stakeholders of the Niger Delta region have called on the US to prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari

* The leaders of the region say Buhari’s government might be on the verge of pushing the region into a civil war

* The Ijaw Youth Council has also called on Buhari to put necessary measures in place to address the renewed agitation in the region

The United States has been urged by Niger Delta Stakeholders including traditional rulers from the six coastal states in the region to prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to open doors for the proposed dialogue with militants to commence.

There are fears that actions by the Buhari-led government might lead to a civil war within the Niger Delta region.

They also tasked the United States government to stop the Federal Government from pushing the region into an imminent civil war over deliberate militarisation of the region, even when the militants had announced a ceasefire for a dialogue.

The stakeholders, under the Chief Edwin Clark-led Pan Niger Delta Stakeholders Dialogue Team, stated this on Tuesday evening when the Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy in Nigeria, Mr. David Young, led a team of US officials on a fact-finding mission to Delta state.

The meeting, held at the instance of the US officials, was to find solution to the renewed hostilities in the region where activities of suspected militants had brought down oil production in the country to 30 years low.

The meeting, which was held at the residence of Alaowei Broderick Bozimo in Effurun, Delta state, was attended by leaders from the six coastal states of the region, including Prof Gordini Darah, Chief Isaac Jemide, Ambassador Dele Cole, Chief Richard Enaredei, Chief Vero Tangbowei, Mr. Vincent Oyibode and Austin Ozobo, among others.

Addressing the US delegation on behalf of Clark, Bozimo, said the current situation in the region could not be addressed through military approach, as he urged the Federal Government to respect the ceasefire declared by the militants.

Bozimo, a former police affairs minister, told the delegation that despite the ceasefire announced by the militants to allow for dialogue, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government had yet to name its dialogue team for the negotiation to commence.

He added that if the Nigerian government was sincere in her proposed dialogue, the government would name which people of the region were deprived and under-developed.

Darah, a professor of Oral Literature, stated that the resurgence of renewed hostilities in the region was principally caused by the Nigerian government‘s refusal to grant the people of the area ownership of their resources.

Darah called on the US government to prevail on the Federal Government to restructure in order to allow for fiscal federalism, as it was being practised in the US.

“The FG should create a window of discussion with our people, now that the militants have announced a ceasefire to enable us to renegotiate. We want to own our resources. So, help us tell the government to do the needful. Fiscal federalism will solve all these many agitations,” Darah further added.

Responding,  Young said  they were in the region on a fact-finding mission. According to him, the US government is committed to negotiating with all groups, noting that the visit was meant to engage the people of the region for peace.

Meanwhile, the Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Seriake Dickson, and the US, on Wednesday, called for dialogue in the handling of the Niger Delta crisis.

The call was made when the US government delegation paid a visit to Dickson at the Government House in Yenagoa.

Dickson stated that dialogue, and not military confrontation, was the solution to the Niger Delta crisi.

He said  it had become the government’s official policy to promote and encourage dialogue among all stakeholders.

The governor said: “We believe that issues in the Niger Delta are not such that can be resolved by means of confrontation and show of military strength.

“We believe essentially that these are issues of development, issues of the environment,  issues that ultimately call on all stakeholders – the government, community leaders, corporate executives, particularly oil majors that are operating here, the Federal Government and other agencies to work together to resolve issues and challenges in the Niger Delta.

“Essentially, the Niger Delta crises are issues of development; they are not issues that call for aggression; and they are not issues that call for further militarisation and the use of force.  But these are issues we think we can resolve by working together honestly and sincerely, and following a clear roadmap.”

Dickson, therefore, called for caution in using military operations in resolving the Niger Delta problems.

In a similar vein, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to put necessary measures in place to address the renewed agitation by the Niger- Avengers in the region, stating that there is a need for Buhari to meet with the Mend Aron team and resolve the issue through peaceful negotiation.

The group in a statement issued yesterday by the President of the group, Elvis Donkemezuo, called for the release of Comrade Daniel Ezekiel, Henry Okah, Charles Okah, and Ijaws youths who were arrested at Oporoza, Gbaramatu Kingdom, under the allegation of being members of Niger Delta Avengers, alongside others in different detention facilities across the country.

The statement also called for the continuity of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) which it stated has produced 40 delegates with First Class degrees in their various fields of study worldwide.

The group further called on the President to implement the UNEP Report on the Clean-up of Ogoni land, adding that there is need for Buhari to study and also implement in full the Leedum Mitee Technical Committee Report on the development of the Niger Delta.

The statement said: “The above among other cogent reasons actually necessitated the said vote of confidence. It is a strategy we adopted to get attention of the government to resolving the Nigerian problem in the Niger Delta. Everybody cannot be throwing bomb at same time.

“A lot of northern groups passed vote of confidence on former President Goodluck Jonathan when he was fighting to destroy the then dreaded Boko Haram insurgents while some equally criticised and condemned the clampdown. IYC should never be seen as enemy of government at this time in the history of the Ijaw nation because it will never be a healthy development.

“Again, we cannot achieve anything meaningful now through antagonism and violence rather we must appreciate the little the present administration is doing to better the lives of Nigerians in the midst of prevalent economic challenges which is not peculiar to only our dear and great country.

“As the umbrella body that shields all Ijaw youths, we believe that the best way to ask for more is to appreciate the daunting challenges the All Progressives Congress (APC) led federal government is facing that need our collective support to overcome rather than celebrate the dwindling economy or see it as act of failure on the side of government.”

 

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