By Abdullahi M. Gulloma and Saminu Ibrahim,
The federal government has called on the Niger Delta Avengers to be patient and not to disrupt oil and gas operations in the region, assuring that efforts were on to address their grievances. Speaking to State House correspondents after a closeddoor meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani, said government had already resolved some of the challenges in the region.
“We haven’t discussed the avengers per se, but it is of essence as the President has always shown indication that whatever we need to and can do to sustain peace in the region, we would continue to do it. And of course, the benefit of that, you are aware that the Vice President has been chairing the committee that handles the issues they are raising. “And so, while that goes on operationally, headed by the Vice President’s position in the committee, the President just needs to be briefed on our efforts.
Though we know that the Vice President is briefing him from time to time, but as per the Avengers issue, it was not discussed. On a general note, it is understood that we have to be engaged to be able to sustain the peace that prevailed for a while. “My message is not just verbal, but it has been demonstrated by the fact at all times.
The government of which I am part, my role as minister in charge of the region, we have been appealing with them to just be patient with us, because, most of the time, the issues that are brought up are those that tend to portray the quest for development of the region,” he said. He said the federal government would continue to dialogue with all aggrieved groups in the Niger Delta region with a view to ensuring peace and stability in the country.
The minister also told journalists that he briefed the President on the current development at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and other projects being executed to uplift the quality of life of the people in the region. “For a while, he has not been around and there are things he needed to know from me.
So, I had to brief him on issues pertaining to the ministry, the projects that are going and other anthropogenic issues that have to do with the general matters concerning the Niger Delta region especially, at the throw up of some of the concerns bordering on who is right to speak for, who not right to speak for, and then the issues of the Niger Delta Development Commission.”
FG Meanwhile, Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, has urged President Buhari to stand firm and confront renewed threat by the militants, saying the group is not interested in peace and development. Speaking in a chat with Blueprint in Abuja, Mohammed said the recent threat was orchestrated by the political class, allegedly behind the Avengers, and financing the group to blackmail the federal government into making some political concessions. He observed that despite the billions and trillions of money spent on Niger Delta insurgents in the past, the group has remained undaunted, alleging that the Avengers wanted to go for the jugular and “be masters of economic, political and security reality of Nigeria.”
“So, in dealing with the Niger Delta insurgents, they should also deal with the political master class who are behind, who are financing them and who want to use them to blackmail the federal government into making political concession for them. And the sooner they do that the better, because, these boys and their masters are like Oliver twist.
The more you give them, the more they come back. “Niger Delta insurgents are not in any way interested in peace or in development. Billions, if not trillions have been spent on them and they don’t care about that, they want to go for the jugular, they want to be masters of the political, economic and security reality of Nigeria today, and I can’t see any government give in to them now or in the future.
“And if this government decides in its misguided way to give in to them, it will make it impossible for the country to have peace and for successive governments in the future to deal with similar insurgency. So, the sooner they stand firm and confront them the better.” Continuing, he said: “What the government needs to do primarily is to make sure that those who want to live in peace are allowed to live in peace, that is people who are not involved in terrorism in the Niger Delta should be allowed to live and transact their legitimate business.
“Secondly, the nature of oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta is such that they are exposed, in the sense that a lot of it is on ground not underground. These terrorists know the terrain better than most soldiers, and they also know what they can do to infl ict maximum damage to the country.” Th e former lawmaker, however, stressed the use of force, saying, “what are they advocating should be used? Because paying them money has not worked, so they should tell us what to use.