Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Ultimate Warriors of the Niger Delta (UWND), one of the numerous militant groups in the region, yesterday described Tuesday’s visit by some leaders in the area to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari as a mere photo opportunity.
The militants expressed doubt over whether the meeting would yield any substantial results, arguing that the federal government has not shown any commitment to resolving the Niger Delta question.
In a statement in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, spokesman of the group, Sibiri Taiowoh, maintained that a resolution of the problems in the region did not lie in unending meetings with President Buhari.
They insisted that it was condescending for leaders in the region to have visited Abuja, questioning why the Niger Delta would always agitate for something before getting it.
“It does not even need leaders of the region visiting Mr. President, like they have just done, which to us is like going cap in hand to beg, before critical decisions about the region can be included the budget.
“This is one of the reasons we had opposed this option right from beginning and had canvassed for the federal government to leverage on the ceasefire to come out and implement its blueprint.
“This kind of arrangement is the reason why in the Niger Delta, bombing of oil facilities would continue to fester because successive governments wait until there is renewed insurgency in the region,” it said.
It added: “OMPADEC, NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta and the Amnesty Programme were all products of agitations and insurgency. The Nigerian government has never on its own volition, marshalled an executable plan for the region.
“What has the FG really given to us (Niger Delta) on its own? Nothing! We had expected the federal government to make a policy statement on November 1, but what we got is noncommittal on the part of the government.
“We are seriously dissatisfied with the federal government’s position and it will only bring us back to the trenches in the days ahead.”
The militants argued that the Niger Delta issue having been on the front burner for years, the president could not say there were no immediate solutions.
“How can Mr. President announce “No quick fix” on issues that have been on the front burner for months? It only portrays how unserious and non committed the government is.
“It shows this government is not prepared right from onset to do anything right for us. Their interest is to keep the crude oil running, to the detriment of our people.
“The meeting with the leaders of the region was planned for months. At a time, it was postponed for re-planning, yet it ended up being a mere courtesy visit, talk shop, handshaking and photo panorama with Mr. President,” the group posited.
It said the meeting would have afforded Buhari the opportunity to make policy statements, stressing that when it comes to the issue of Niger Delta, it has always been agitations.
“We want to know if the demand for the infrastructural development of the FCT made northern leaders lead their own delegation to Mr. President or before the North-east Development/Reconstruction Commission was set up?
“Why is the case of the Niger Delta region always different? Must we go cap in hand begging all the time before what we duly deserve is given to us?,” the militants queried.
They however reaffirmed their decision to give peace a chance and nominated Chimennma Okolo, a lawyer, youth activist and environmental rights campaigner to liaise between them and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum led by Chief Edwin Clark.
Among the issues, the group said, were resource ownership/control, reallocation of 65 per cent oil blocs, pipeline surveillance to the communities, a stop to gas flaring, payment of gas flare penalty funds and demilitarisation of the region