Why we’re opting for dialogue, by Ndokwa leader
President General of Ndokwa National Union (Ndokwa Neku), Chief Johnson Ossai Opone, in an exclusive chat with select editors in Lagos explained why dialogue is the best way to resolve hostilities in Niger Delta, saying communities should apply diplomacy in tackling issues affecting the region. He also spoke on the way out of the herdsmen menace, the 600 megawatts Okpai Power Plant step down and foreign investors for the oil-rich zone
Chief Johnson Ossai Opone stated that he has made his recommendations and suggestions to the authorities concerned, much as he is still studying the situation.
But he appealled to those agitating and all concerned to tow the path of peace, adding: “We can get better deals through negotiations. Windows for such should be exploited by both sides.
“I am not in support of the destruction of our national wealth, so also I am not in support of military options in the Niger Delta. Dialogue remains a better option.
“I am glad that the Presidency is already seeing a reason in that direction.”The former Delta State governorship aspirant listed the critical areas that would attract his immediate attention to include commencement with a peace move, so as to bring everybody back on board, working with the immediate past executives of the union to make his job of moving the region forward easier.
Opone stressed: “We won’t be talking about a blueprint without first bringing everybody together. Based on that, therefore, our first task is to light up the entire Ndokwa nation, while working with our representatives at both the national and state Assemblies on a speedy passage of the much talked about PIB Bill.
“That Bill, more than anything else, will help assuage our people and make so much difference for speedy grassroots development.“This is because, like in our own case, despite hosting a major power plant that supplies over 600 megawatts, servicing about six states in the country, with several oil companies flaring gas there, the entire Ndokwa nation remains in darkness.
“Ironically, the step down of the Okpai Power Plant is located at far away Obosi in Anambra State. We intend to work with the three tiers of government towards having a 33kva transmission line and a step down in any part of Ndokwa land, for a start.
“That will serve as main hub of supply and transmission of light to homes and factories, as we intend to industrialise the entire Ndokwa land through our worthy sons and daughters, as well as friends of Ndokwa.”
On his leadership style, the chartered accountant explained: “I am not the type that brags about my personality. I am very accessible and remain humble as ever.
“In fact, our second item on priority is engaging all stakeholders, including the oil companies and the three tiers of government on the issue of motorable roads across the three councils that make up the Ndokwa nation.
“We will ensure that all our dilapidated roads are fixed, so that our people can enjoy good road network.”He explained his plans away from oil, especially with slide in the price of the product: “Our people are predominantly fishermen and farmers, so we are pursuing vigorously three main agro revolutions in production, processing and marketing.
“This will ensure that our people will not only participate in cultivation, but also be involved in processing, and we will take them through the dynamics of export trade, where applicable.
“Interestingly, the federal government has listed cassava as a major foreign exchange earner and our people are predominantly cassava farmers.“Furthermore, we will collaborate with the federal and state governments to look into the injustice done to the old Aboh Division, part of which makes up the present Ndokwa, on the issue of at least a higher institution in the area.
“So, one of the things I must have to work on is justice on the revalidation of the Act of Parliament on Kwale Industrial College of Technology passed by the late Professor Ambrose Alli regime in the old Bendel State.
“Kwale, the hub of Ndokwa people, being one of the oldest council headquarters in Nigeria without a single higher institution, deserves an urgent attention in that aspect, especially as the approved institution has remained on the drawing board decades after. We will ensure that school becomes functional during my tenure.
“There is a state polytechnic recently approved by the Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan administration at Aboh that is not fully operational due to lack of basic amenities. We will be working with our eminent sons and daughters and oil companies operating in Ndokwa land, the federal and state governments, through their agencies, such as Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Delta State Oil Production Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC) and Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), among others, to assist the institution, in terms of facilities needed to enable the place to properly take off.”
Speaking on employment generation, lack of which has been fingered as a major reason behind the consistent restive situation in the Niger Delta, Opone said his team has designed a robust youth programme that would keep them better equipped in any profession of their choice to tackle unemployment.
He explained: “For those who may want to pursue their careers outside the academia, we are going to empower them after seminars and workshops. “For our women, we will ensure a sustainable micro-credit scheme that will properly help and encourage them in improving and sustaining their entrepreneurial skills. Though we won’t be building centres, but there will be seminars and skill acquisition programmes where we will bring in experts from Nigeria and across the globe as resource persons.
“Thereafter, we will donate tools needed by the participants relevant to their acquired skills. “We will also be carrying out several activities using both local and international agencies, such as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), through joint venture funding.
With marching grants, in conjunction with Delta State government, we will be able to create an enabling environment to tackle the unemployment issue in Ndokwa land.”
His main challenge is the issue of power supply, which he referred to as the catalyst to his programmes, bearing in mind that without power, nothing meaningful could be achieved.
“So, we intend to meet with Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC) and the federal government, because when former President Olusegun Obasanjo came to commission the 600 megawatts Okpai Power Plant, he did mentioned to all stakeholders involved on the need to electrify Ndokwa.
“Having been a partner in charge of National Electricity Power Authority (NEPA) from 1985 till 1987, I am very conversant with the power sector in Nigeria,” he noted.
On the menace of armed herdsmen menace, he said: “Though the issue is presently with the federal government, however, we will be at the forefront to encourage the federal government to have a programme that will be check their excesses.
“Cattle rearing did not start today, but they have become more dangerous, because they are being armed. When I was growing up, they came around, but they don’t destroy people’s farms. Today, they are let loose, because they are armed.
“So, we will want the federal government to disarm them, because it is dangerous for them to be parading with AK47. When you say people are militants, is it not because they are armed? I see this people as terrorists.
“However, we will ensure that those settlements they are talking about do not encroach in the farmlands of our people, especially as the federal government is planning to settle them in ranches, because all over the world, it is the man that own cattle that provides his ranches.”