Until resource control issue is addressed, agitation will continue in the Niger – Delta region – IYC
- Says it is difficult to pin- point specific achievement of President Buhari FG in the region
By Kingsley Abavo
Barr. Eric Omare is the current National President of Ijaw Youths Council. Last weekend, he was in Gelegele, Edo State and in an interview with journalists on prevailing issues affecting the community, and the Niger Delta region generally, he did not betray the image of the Group as ever most corrosive and articulate rights group in Nigeria. Vintage Omare hits the nail on its head in response to every question.
You are in Gelegele community. May we know your mission here?
Of course, you are aware of the issues surrounding the Gelegele community and the proposed sea port. There are great tension between specifically Ijaw youths of the Gelegele community and youths of the Benin extraction and we feel that as leaders we need to take steps to nip in the bud whatever that tension may generate. We are here to let the world know specifically the relationship between the Ijaw people and the Benin people.
We are interested as the media knowing about the history, who was the first to arrive this land: Gelegele?
The Gelegele community and the Ijaw people of Edo State will brief the press on the historical aspect but suffice it to say that my mission here is to appeal to Ijaw youths of Gelegele community and Ijaw youths in Edo State to keep the calm because we have passed the stage where two communities, or ethnic group would be fighting. No, we have gone beyond that.
We are in the level where people must collaborate that is why PANDEF was found. On behalf of the IYC, I signed. I am a signatory to PANDEF and the idea of PANDEF is to bring the ethnic nationalities of the Niger Delta together to work for our common good and not for the different ethnic nationalities to be fighting. That is the primary reason I am here.
But some persons have vowed to take to the path of hostility. What message do you have for them?
My message to them is that they should stay calm. Not only to the Ijaw youths, but also to the Benin youths because, I am not just a local leader, I am a regional youth leader so I appeal to Ijaw youths and Benin youths to remain calm while government and relevant stakeholders work towards achieving peaceful resolution of the issues.
So far, the intervention of the government what is your judgement?
From the information I have, Governor Obaseki has indicated so much interest in resolving this problem. He is interested in seeing the takeoff of the Gelegele deep sea port. Of course you know that no investor will come to an environment that is hostile. Gelegele is peaceful as you can see here. Part of my coming here is to demonstrate to the world that Gelegele is peaceful, investors can come to this place; the Ijaws and the Benin people can resolve their differences.
Right at the centre of Gelegele community, gas is being flared by Dubril Oil. What is your take?
The flaring of gas in the centre of Gelegele community is appalling and unprecedented. This is something which does not happen elsewhere in Nigeria or any part of the world. For gas flare to be situated in the centre of the community and the people of Gelegele have been living in this harsh environmental condition for decades, it is unacceptable, it is condemnable and it also shows that the Nigeria government have no respect for the life of the Ijaw people especially that of Gelegele. The Federal Government should as a matter of urgency ensure that the gas flaring in the centre of Gelegele is removed and most importantly, the people of Gelegele must be compensated for the several years of environmental disaster that has been caused by the gas flaring in the community.
All right, you are a national leader of the Ijaw youths. So, let us digress a bit. Taking the Ijaw nation as a whole, I think the federal Government has done a great deal of work in Ijaw land. Do you agree?
Not really. I do not know, you have to contextualize it when you say done a great work; in which area?
From argument available in many quarters, they say the federal government has brought so many intervention agencies like the NDDC, the Amnesty programme, and recently, the recognition and proposed approval of modular refineries in the region.
I would not say Ijaw land specifically. I will say there have been efforts in the past by the federal government to address the Niger Delta challenge. But we have not been able to have a lasting peace in the region because the root cause of the crisis has not been addressed. And I have always said, the root cause of the Niger Delta problem is the unanswered question of resource control and ownership. Until we address the resource control issue, the Niger Delta agitation will continue.
Talking about resource control, the little we have so far, how well has the indigenes of the Niger Delta particularly the governors and all others at the helm of affairs been able to manage it?
I think the reason why we have not seen the evidence of the little we have, is because of the defective structure we have in Nigeria. Now, if you are asking the Niger Delta people to account for the 13 percent derivation, then we will also ask those managing the remaining 87 percent to account for it. The reason why you do not have evidence of the 87 percent with the Federal Government is the reason why you do not have evidence of the 13 percent. So, we have a defective structure in Nigeria, and we must restructure Nigeria for her to progress.
What is your take on the visit of the Vice President to the Niger Delta region and Government approval of the Marine time University?
The visit, so far, I think it was to build confidence, and I think he has succeeded in that respect, now that there is relative peace in the Niger Delta region; we commend the Federal Government for that. But like we have said, it is not enough to visit, you know that after the amnesty was declared by President Yar’ Adua, we had relative peace in the Niger Delta for some time and there was renewed hostility because the root cause of the crisis was not addressed. So, I will appeal to the Federal Government when the leaders of the Niger Delta visited President Buhari on the 1st of November 2016, they presented a 16 – point agenda to the President. And the understanding was that the Federal Government will set up its own negotiation team and the Niger Delta people will set up its own negotiation team to discuss those issues and up till now, those issues have not been discussed. So, without a negotiated dialogue on those issues, I am very sure that there will be hostility. What we are having is just relative peace.
So, what are you specifically saying the Federal Government should do right now?
The Federal Government must set up its negotiation team to dialogue with the Niger Delta people to resolve the issues affecting the Niger Delta especially the issue of resource management.
In General term what would you say is the achievement of the current Federal Government as regards taking steps to addressing issues in the Niger Delta region?
It is difficult to really pin point the specific achievement of this Federal Government in the Niger Delta region. The Government is just two year old; I think that we will be able to give a holistic assessment at the end of four years.