Traditional leaders and some other indigenes of Nigeria’s Niger Delta have presented 16 things they are confident will end militancy and bring development in the region if the government will consider them.
They presented the requests to President Muhammadu Buhari at a meeting held on Tuesday in Abuja.
Addressing reporters after the two-hour meeting, the leaders of the group, the traditional ruler of Amanyanobo Kingdom, King Alfred Diete-Spiff and Mr Edwin Clark decried the lack of infrastructure, human resource, manpower and welfare of the people years after oil exploration began in the Niger Delta.
They want the government to empower its people through training, open up the economy of the region through adequate investment in infrastructure and cleaning up of oil spills that have affected their farmlands and waters among others.
President Buhari was also asked to pull the army out from the oil hub, order oil firms to move headquarters there and spend more on development to end militancy in the region.
16 Points Presented By the Niger Delta Leaders
- Pull the army out from the region
- Order oil firms to move headquarters there
- Oil firms to employ more of its youths
- More funds for the development
- More funds for the amnesty plan for ex fighters
- Empower its people through training
- Adequate investment in infrastructure
- Cleaning up of oil spills …Read more
King Diete-Spiff said: “The list also includes the withdrawal of the military in oil producing communities in the region.
“We don’t want the communities militarised”.
They also want firms to move headquarters to the region so unemployed youths – who often work for militants – could get more jobs. Foreign firms active in Nigeria are often based in the commercial capital Lagos.
The Niger Delta leaders also asked for more funds for the development and an amnesty plan for ex fighters which Buhari had planned to cut, which has upset the militants.
President Buhari had in May sent in army reinforcements to hunt down militants, a move that stoked anger, triggering more attacks on oil installations in the region, with a demand for more share of the oil revenue.
The meeting became necessary, after months of attacks on oil facilities, brought down crude oil output and dipped the nation’s revenue.
On his part the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, expressed joy that leaders in the region had come to put the demands forward, said that crude oil production in Nigeria had appreciated to 2.1 million barrels per day following the peace that was gradually returning to the region.
He has a responsibility to ensure that Nigeria meets its quota in the oil market and he observed that relative peace was necessary to achieve it.
The Niger Delta region has been described as the goose that lays the golden eggs.
But years of neglect have led to degradation of the region and subsequent administrations in Nigeria have done nothing about it.
Youths in the region have come in various colours of agitation, blowing up the pipelines, adding to the degradation of the region
But President Buhari’s administration may bring a turnaround to the region, if the agreement reached at the two-hour meeting of Tuesday would be implemented.
Also at the meeting were the Vice President, state governors, ministers, service chiefs and other well-meaning citizens from the Niger Delta.
Talks at the meeting also focused on how to end the constant destruction of facilities in the region.
Over six militant groups have sprang up in the Niger Delta region, the latest being the Niger Delta Avengers.
Reports from some of the groups indicate that they may not be part of the meeting called by the Federal Government, raising doubt as to full representation of all agitating splinter groups.
This is just one in the series of meetings the government has designed to bring a lasting peace to the Niger Delta region.
With the meeting and demands presented to the government, it is hoped that hostility in the region in form of attacks on oil installations would cease.
Channels Television’s correspondent, Chukwuma Onuekwusi, says the next few weeks will determine if indeed the youths of the area have agreed to sheathe their sword and let peace reign, as government works towards meeting the needs of the people.
A group that calls itself the Niger Delta Avengers that has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks had at a point announced a ceasefire decision and its readiness for negotiations with the Federal Government but later attacked an oil facility, saying it was a warning to military in the area to stop harassing youths and residents of the region.
The military had established two operations in the region, operation Delta Safe and Operation Exercise Crocodile Smile, to quell militant activities.