Elders of the Niger Delta region on Tuesday, gave conditions for a lasting peace in the region, just as they expressed the need to address the contentious issues of long time neglect of the Nigeria’s oil rich region.
In the 16-point requests to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, read by the Amanyanabo of Tom Brass, Bayelsa State, HRM King Alfred Diette Spiff, the elders stated that the region has been shortchanged in the allocation of oil blocks, while its citizens are alienated from their own resources, including access to jobs.
But briefing State House Correspondents after the meeting with the President, elder statesman and former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, who is the leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, said President Muhammadu Buhari assured the delegation of prompt response to their requests.
“The President was very pleased that the Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, organized the meeting and he assured us that he will look into our requests as soon as possible.”
The elders, under the aegis of Pan Niger Delta Forum, also lamented that none of the oil companies has strong presence in the region, but instead, have located their operational headquarters outside the region, while bringing in Expatriates to take up all available jobs to the neglect of their citizens.
They therefore, appealed to the President to prevail on them to provide jobs for Niger Deltans, as well as relocate their operational headquarters to the region.
“In the process of trying to broker peace in the region, we have conducted a very rigorous assessment of the problems that brought about the recent resurgence of Militancy. It can be said that this has been due, largely, to a feeling of alienation and lack of meaningful development.”
“We have identified the following broad dialogue issues, not in any particular order, where quick wins could be achieved, that would be enough to restore hope and confidence in a region that has grown skeptical of dialogue and engagements that have hardly produced results.”
On issues of economic development and empowerment in the region, they appealed to the federal government to include Brass LNG and fertilizer plant project, including the Train 7 on their plans reviewing and updating the national gas master plan to integrate the economic interests and industrialization of the region, creating a Niger Delta industrial corridor that would process some portions of the bat hydrocarbon natural resources, expediting work on the export processing zones, harnessing the huge rain-fed agricultural potentials of the area through the development of farm estates, fishery development projects and agro-allied industrial clusters.
Leaders of the region also lamented non-implementation of the Presidential Amnesty Programme initiated by latePresident Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, despite decision of the militants to hand in their weapons and embrace peaceful resolution of issues.
“We note that regrettably, only the Disarmament and Demobilization component of the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) is being implemented to date.”
According to them, “Tension over the fate of the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, seven years after inception, owe a great deal to the long- standing absence of any genuine exit strategy.”
Other highlights of the elders’ requests include the need to check the effect of increased military presence in the Niger Delta, which has raised the issue of internally displaced persons to a proportionately high level in the region.
The elders also called on the federal government to take the issue of oil pollution in the entire Niger Delta holistically rather than concentrating on only Ogoni clean-up and environmental remediation.
The elders urged the federal government to increase access to Key regional critical infrastructures, as well as security surveillance and protection of oil and gas infrastructures.
Others issues raised include the restructuring and funding of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and strengthening the Niger Delta Ministry.
The Bakassi question also featured prominently as the elders recommended a comprehensive resettlement plan for the people of the area in order not to render them stateless.
On fiscal federalism, the region, the elders said, supports the call for true federalism and urged that federal government should treat the matter expeditiously.