The Niger Delta Coastal States’ monarchs yesterday gave six conditions to the Federal Government, which, they said, must be fulfilled if sustainable peace could be achieved in the region.
They urged the central government to constitute a dialogue team that would facilitate discussions with stakeholders in the Niger Delta on the way out of the current militancy in the oilrich region.
The royal fathers who made their position known when they paid a visit on the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, also demanded the release of 10 “innocent” school children arrested by the Nigerian Army on May 28 in Oporoza and the return of the Golden Sword, the symbol of authority of the Gbaramatu traditional institution.
Chief Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo, a fugitive wanted ex-militant leaders has been declared wanted by the Federal Government over some financial crime related offences had in a letter sent to President Muhammadu Buhari accused the army of theft of his staff of office as traditional chief at Gbaramatu kingdom.
The Bolowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Wellington Okrika, who read out the conditions on behalf of the royal delegation, listed other conditions to include the return of the three traditional council speed boats in custody of the Nigerian Army; the cessation of hostilities said to have been perpetrated by the military in the Niger Delta region, as well as the re-opening of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State for the 2016 /2017 academic session.
Okrika gave assurance that the monarchs would continue to support every effort that would help restore peace and sanity to the region. In response to their demands, Kachikwu commended the monarchs for the visit, stressing that the restoration of peace in the region was imperative. He said the ceasefire announced by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) was a welcome development, adding that every effort must be made to sustain it.
The minister said that it was unfortunate that after the declaration of ceasefire, a pipeline was vandalised in Nembe community, which led to the loss of about 150 barrels of oil and a huge quantity of gas. “This inability to stay steadfast creates military intervention because government cannot sit down and watch oil production go down.
The president has shown a lot of patience and believes that engaging the communities is the best model. You should continue to reach out to others to ensure total ceasefire because as production goes down, it affects both the federal and state governments in tackling their financial burdens,” he said.
Kachikwu disclosed that the Federal Government had spent about $40 billion dollars on the Niger Delta region in the last 10 years.
According to him, there was the need for all revenue accruing to the region to be applied judiciously and royal fathers to ensure that monies were channelled properly to ensure the development of the region.
In the last one year, the federal government lost about 50 per cent of its revenue to the dwindling price of crude oil and the situation was worsened by the renewed militancy in the region. Presently, oil production has reduced from 1.6 million barrel per day to 1.4 million. This may translate to further drop in revenue by about 60 per cent.
Nigeria has lost huge revenues owing to the sustained attacks on oil and gas pipelines in the Niger Delta carried out by militant groups. Meanwhile, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to respond positively to the outreach from the militant groups to arrive at a holistic and comprehensive solution. He said at the moment, the militant groups feel that the government is not seriously responding to their own outreach. Soyinka, who made this call yesterday in Lagos at a press conference to announce a cultural exchange initiative, tagged “The SAIL PROJECT – Lebanese-Nigerian partnership”, said he is not part of any international intervention group.
His words: “I wish to make personal appeal to the government to respond positively to the outreach from the militant groups; that is a request which have been made by some of the groups which got me into this interventionist role in the first place.
At the moment, they feel that the government of President Buhari is not seriously responding to their own outreach. “I’m not part of any international group, but I was approached personally and I have been responding personally to some of these groups just like I did when President Jonathan was in power and MEND was the umbrella group of insurgents.
“So, I make an appeal once again to the government to please respond to the efforts of these militant groups to arrive at a holistic and comprehensive solution, this is Wole Soyinka speaking; it is not an international group. I repeat, there is no international group in existence, but I hope one gets formed very soon and active too.”