Niger Delta human rights activists have warned President Muhammadu Buhari to tread with caution concerning the current issues that have befallen the region.
Speaking separately on Thursday at the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) event to mark Major Isaac Adaka Boro’s anniversary celebration with the theme, "The Ideals of Adaka Boro and Renewed Militancy in the Niger Delta Region: The Way Forward," Niger Delta activist and Executive Secretary of United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy (UNDEDSS), Tony Uranta, and English-born Nigerian environmental and human rights activist, Annkio Briggs, noted that President Buhari was being misled on issues concerning the Niger Delta region by some sycophants and political jobbers who have no interest of the region at heart.
According to Mr. Uranta, some people around President Buhari were undermining the very critical issues of the Niger Delta, thus creating more crises in region. He stressed that those claiming to know about the region were misleading the president and trying to return the region to the trenches because of their selfish interest.
Mr. Uranta expressed disgust over a statement credited to Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi concerning the purported cancellation of the Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Warri South-West Council of Delta State, which he said has sent the wrong message about the Buhari administration and is currently one of the vexed issues in the region.
“How can Amaechi make such a careless statement? I doubt he actually cancelled the university. He cannot do that. He has no justification whatsoever for doing that and I don’t think the institution is cancelled. But because it has been made public that he cancelled it, the way forward is for the federal government to come out and allay fears of the people. They have to reassure the people about this and that the amnesty program is not ending….
“The Niger Delta struggle which was championed by the likes of Isaac Adaka Boro and others had always been the struggle for self-emancipation of the Niger Delta people and the issue still remains the sole reason for the re-emergence of the Niger Delta Avengers today. The panacea to true peace in the region is true federalism. The government must restructure Nigeria to practice full federalism where justice, equity and the rule of law are sacrosanct. We did not fight for amnesty but we have been fighting for true fiscal federalism for all regions. All regions must control their resources and look for ways to develop their regions themselves. Nigeria is what it is today because of the intervention of the military," Mr. Uranta stated.
He therefore cautioned the federal government to stop using the military to intimidate the people of the region in the name of hunting pipeline vandals, saying that at no time has the government replicated its deployment of troops to Boko Haram’s stronghold in the North even as he called on the people of the region to change their tactical approach towards the struggle and adopt a strategic approach.
On her part, English-born Nigerian environmental and human rights activist Annkio Briggs noted that the agitation of the Niger Delta has been ongoing since 1952 when a Niger Delta Development Plan was first presented to the British government by the colonial government. But according to Ms. Briggs, successive governments in Nigeria have always violated the region with various interventionist agencies which were only set up to deceive the people and further rip off the region.
“The Niger Delta people have had their resources and political rights taken away from them by oppressive Nigeria governments and made to beg for crumbs. But there comes a time in any situation when it is right to say ‘enough is enough.’ This is such a time for us in the Niger Delta, the time to stand firm and demand self-determination. What the Niger Delta region has been agitating about over the years is self-determination as recognized by the African Charter and the United Nations. Self-determination, which the Niger Delta forebears have been agitating about since the amalgamation, creation and independence of Nigeria, is not automatic secession but the freedom to exclusively exercise its rights to choose the way it is governed, to own and control its resources.
“Self-determination is our inalienable right to freely determine our political status, pursue our economic, social, cultural and religious development. We are advocating for a non-violent agitation because we know that the world today is better governed by superior knowledge, logic, propositions and intellectual capacity," Ms. Briggs stated.
The activist stated that she could not in anyway be forced to condemn the new militant group which claims to be agitating for the same cause as her.
Speaking earlier, the President of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide, Udengs Eradiri, said that there was no militant group called Niger Delta Avengers anywhere in the region and called on the Nigerian government to settle the issue of underdevelopment in the region so as to make militancy a thing of the past.
According to Mr. Eradiri, the renewed attacks on oil facilities was a result of years of neglect of the Niger Delta region by successive governments, saying that the new militant group that is now blowing up oil facilities were following the footsteps of their predecessors because successive government have failed to address the core issues and injustice in the Niger Delta since the time of Isaac Adaka Boro.
The IYC president warned the federal government to stop playing politics with the issue of the Niger Delta struggle and face the critical issues raised by the Niger Delta Avengers and other ex-agitators. He further called for the immediate reestablishment of the Maritime University located in Okerenkoko by the federal government.