By Victor Ahiuma-Young
NATIONAL Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), weekend, said reports that the detained leader of the Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), Mr. Henry Okah, had accepted the government’s amnesty and that President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua had ordered his release, was a good omen for peace in the restive Niger Delta region.
NUPENG President, Mr. Peter Akpatason, told Vanguard in Sagamu, Ogun State, at the just-concluded Lagos zonal delegates conference of NUPENG that with the MEND leader accepting the amnesty, he would be in a better position to influence members of the group to follow his lead and renounce violence and accept the amnestyâ€™s offer.
Akpatason, who had earlier told Vanguard that the increasing attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta by the militants was the greatest threat to the nationâ€™s economy and called on the militants to take full advantage of the amnesty and join in the efforts to develop the Niger Delta region in particular and Nigeria in particular.
According to him: â€œThe reports that Henry Okah has accepted government amnesty and that President Yarâ€™Adua has ordered his release is a welcome development.
“It is a good omen for peace that has eluded the Niger Delta region for a long time.
“I am convinced that when he eventually regains his freedom, which obviously will be a matter of days if the reports of President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s order for his release is anything go by, he will be in a better position to talk to and influence other members of MEND to abandon violence and amnesty for the general good of all.
“It is definitely a good thing. We hopeÂ leaders andÂ members of other militant groups in the region will toe the line of Okah, to restore peace in the region,â€ he added.
Akpatason, also the National Trustee of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), had earlier at the conference, argued that if the destruction of oil facilities in the region was not checked, the nationâ€™s economy that depended almost 90 per cent on oil would be heading for total collapse.
He called on all well- meaning individuals and groups in the region to give theÂ amnesty plan their total support. He, however,Â advised government not to politicise the amnesty issue to reduce the tension in the area.
He posited that though those that were sabotaging the oil facilities could not be said to be genuinely fighting for the betterment of the region, but government should ensure that it reached everybody or group to ensure that the nation was saved from the violent militancy in the region.
The NUPENG President lamented that on daily basis, both the nationâ€™s economy, lives and property of oil workers and other innocent people were being put at risk because of the attacks and violent militancy in the region.
Speaking on the efforts of government in the zone, especially the Lagos state government to sanitise road transportation in the state, Comrade Akpatason appealed to members of Tanker Drivers branch of the union to cooperate with the government in its effort at making the road traffic free and less stressful for users.
He however called on the government to curtail the excesses of members of the State Transport Management Agency because ofÂ they do not see the tanker drivers as normal human beings, stressing that Tanker drivers were reasonable human beings who also appreciated the works the government was doing to ensure better living condition for residents.