Ondo coastal areas indigenes flay FG over sectional dialogue
People from the oil producing areas of Ondo State have faulted the recent moves by the Federal Government to dialogue with the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) over incessant vandalisation of pipelines in the region, describing the measure as a mere reprieve that will berth more deadly avengers from the Niger Delta region.
The grouse of the Ondo people from Ese-Odo and Ilaje LGAs, the two areas of the Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC) that ranks the State among the nine oil producing states in the country was, that the alleged government, Avengers’ negotiation only benefits the Ijaws, who are minority in the state, neglecting the Ilajes and Apois.
Stakeholders from the areas have cast aspersions on the sincerity of the Federal Government to genuinely solve the problem through its sectional approach. Many of them described the planned dialogue as ‘cosmetic solutions’ that will only exacerbate the situation.
A foremost human rights activist and lawyer, Mr. Myson Nejo said the dialogue can only open up the flanks for other aggrieved parties to start their own aggression, especially as it seems that the only language government understands is violence and brigandage.
Nejo, who hails from Ode-Mahin in Ilaje Council Area, described the Niger Delta Avengers as a group of militants sponsored by people who had one way or the other enjoyed government patronage in the past, but are not enjoying the same now.
According to him: “The sponsors are those who may have fed fat previously but are now being hunted or implicated over some of their shady deals. Whether this or not, the Niger Delta has not fared well.”
The lawyer inferred that the resort to pipeline vandalism might be a protest against the anti-corruption measures of the present administration, which has a large cronies and kinsmen of the former President as victims.
“Moreso that the present government is on rampage against the very few folks that took advantage of the Jonathan’s government. Invariably inviting the Avengers for a negotiation may serve the group’s interest, but not the entirety of the Niger Delta. I guess government should be reasonable enough to invite a cross section of stakeholders to discuss an all inclusive way forward and not something less,” he said.
On whether militarisation of the Niger Delta region will tackle the activities of the militants, The Olu of Igbokoda, Oba Afolabi Odidiomo, said: “Well, in some ways, yes; in another angle, no. Yes because, whose duty is it to provide security? It is the government and its agencies. When you give out the responsibility of government to civilians and individuals, we have indirectly opened a new channel to corruption.”
According to him: “The idea of engaging militants to be the ones providing security for pipelines and whatever, is an indirect way of saying that government has shirked away from its responsibilities. We are encouraging those who are not supposed to have weapons to have them and the volatility of the Niger Delta today is as a result of bad decisions in terms of who is responsible for what?
“So if the government is militarizing the Niger Delta, the Niger Delta is not separate from the country, it is part of Nigeria. So, we should not see it as a separate entity or a separate territory on its own. Just as it is the responsibility of the government to provide security for the people of the Eastern part of Nigeria, so it is the responsibility of the government to provide necessary security for lives and property in the Niger Delta.
“So, militarising it in some ways will be okay. The number of guns available in the hands of the so-called militants or those that were given the security of pipelines in the Niger Delta is being misused, let the government take over its responsibility.”
The Jegun of Idepe-Okitipupa, a neighbouring town to the OSOPADEC mandate areas, Oba Michael Obatuga, urged the Federal Government to dialogue with the people and militants in the area, stressing that the continued vandalisation of pipelines in the region is an expression of grievances over government’s inability to develop the region.
Obatuga said: “As good as the deployment of the soldiers and other security operatives in the region may be, it will never quell the agitations of the people. It is advisable for the government to create room for more dialogue, concessions and sense of belonging to the people.”