Niger Delta Stakeholders have called for immediate stop to the vandalism of oil installations in the region, while also demanding for the withdrawal of the military from the area.
In a related development, suspected militants, in the early hours of yesterday, blew up another gas pipeline operated by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) at Owhrode and Orhuwhorun in Udu Local Government Area of Delta State.
The stakeholders, which included traditional rulers, elders and leaders of thought, youth and women leaders of the Niger Delta Coastal States said in a communiqué issued at the end of meeting in Warri on Friday, that stoppage of further deployment of military hardware and resources in the Niger Delta region would ensure the confidence of the people and enhance opportunity for peace and order.
After an exhaustive deliberation on matters that affect the Niger Delta Region and the Nigerian Nation generally, with particular reference to the resurgence of militant agitations in the Niger Delta region, the meeting, which held at the Petroleum Training Institute Conference Centre, Effurun, Delta State, noted the situation of threat to peace in the region.
It noted further that the federal government had deployed military resources in the area, causing fear, unease and social dislocation of innocent people. “The situation is potentially explosive and is capable of compounding the economic conditions of the Niger Delta and Coastal region,” noted the stakeholders.
The meeting called on agitators and aggrieved groups to hearken to the appeal of the traditional rulers, elders and leaders of thought to stop further attack on oil and gas facilities and give room for dialogue.
“Without prejudice to efforts made so far, the federal government should demonstrate seriousness by reaching out to the authentic representatives of the region to discuss peace and the way forward,” said the participants.
The meeting also resolved to support the popular demand for the restructuring of the Nation’s political system as recommended by the 2014 National Conference. “The practice of equitable fiscal federalism is a precondition for sustainable peace and development of our Country,” they said.
The participants resolved to establish a pan-Niger Delta Platform that would speak for and negotiate on behalf of the region. The meeting further resolved to set up the said platform with effect from yesterday.
The Meeting was addressed by the convener Chief (Dr.) E K Clark and Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State.
Clark said the meeting was convened because of the tension building in the six coastal states of the Niger Delta as a result of high presence of the military.
He emphasized that only genuine restructuring of the political administration of the country would bring peace to the region and country.
He also said that answer to many of the issues raised in the Niger Delta region were contained in the report of the 2014 National Conference.
While commending the efforts of those clamoring for fiscal federalism, Clark noted sadly that “Our forefathers lived a better life than we are living now, because they were able to manage their own affairs.
“We must find a permanent solution to the various problems that we are facing in this country, including the youth revolt in the Niger Delta, Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram, Biafra agitations, kidnapping, and recently the inability of the various states to pay their workers’ salaries and pensions.”
Okowa called for cessation of all forms of hostilities in the region, saying more would be achieved through dialogue and advocacy.
He said, “There is need to agitate, but it should be agitation based on dialogue and advocacy.”
While commending the convener of the meeting for giving room for the people of the Niger Delta region to talk, Okowa stated that more would be achieved when the people of the region have credible people speaking on their behalf rather than persons who will claim to be speaking for the people whereas they were looking for personal gains.
“Are we ready to be a true voice of the people? Today, we are talking about dialogue but it is important that we have those who can represent us, not the governors, because, with governors, it will be viewed as political, and I know that if we have well-selected stakeholders to go to Abuja to speak for us, the President will listen because those people will not be seen as speaking for their pockets.
“We should stop all forms of violence; with violence, we are taking actions that are destroying our land, our waters in anger.
“Our traditional rulers and our leaders should let the youths know that they should stop violence, with a firm assurance that the elders will speak for us; we know that fiscal federalism, restructuring of the country are important but, we should look at what we can benefit from President Buhari’s administration as a people,” Okowa said.
The governor disclosed that plans were on to reopen the Maritime University, and that when the gas revolution project comes on stream, the Escravos sand bar would be dredged.
“We should be peaceful, please let us give peace a chance, we need to create the enabling environment, we need to be ready to accommodate investors because, the gas revolution project will cost in excess of $15 billion and the process of dredging the Escravos Bar is part of the bargain,” he stated, adding that Chinese investors were already sourcing for funds to finance the project.
The burst gas pipeline supplies gas to the defunct Delta Steel Company (DSC) at Orhuwhorun community.
Security sources disclosed that about two pipelines operated by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company were affected in the incident which occurred at about 2 am.
A new militant group, Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, sources said, was behind the attack.
President General of Owhrode community, Mr. Michael Odjo confirmed to THISDAY that they heard the sound of the explosion and immediately he mobilised his co-executive members, youths and members of the local vigilante to points of oil facilities in their area but couldn’t find anything.
“So, we returned and blocked all access roads in and out of the community in a bid to apprehend the suspected militants who blew-up the pipeline but couldn’t find any of them,” he said.