By Emma Amaize, Editor, South-South
VICE Chairman of the Oporoza Federated Communities, Gbaramatu kingdom in Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, Apostle Clement Tonfawei in this interview with Vanguard spoke on the amnesty programme for militants by the Federal Government, the plight of displaced persons from the kingdom and why government should embark on massive development with construction of roads, bridges and provision of other basic social amenities for enduring peace in the region. Excerpts:
What is your view on the Federal Government amnesty to militants?
To me, the amnesty is not a welcome idea for now because there are several thousands of displaced persons in my community; they are suffering in different places. Up till now, the Federal Government has done reasonably nothing about them and the best the government can offer to the Nigerian people or the militants is amnesty. The N50 billion for the amnesty is uncalled for.
Let the Federal Government be sincere about the development of the area; peace can only be sustained when there is justice. What the President is doing today by offering amnesty to the militants is to lobby the militants for him to rule peacefully and successfully and that is not the best way to get out of the problems of the region. The President must be urged to withdraw the troops of the JTF out of Niger Delta now that we are discussing amnesty and apart from that, the President should invite Julius Berger and other companies for the rapid development of the area.
After that, you can start talking about amnesty and I believe at that time, the militants will lay down their arms. There is nothing like development right now in all parts of the Niger Delta region. There is nothing like Federal Government presence in Gbaramatu Kingdom; you cannot apply force in resolving the problems of the region, it is all about negotiating with the people and take positive steps to alleviate their plight.
The government should stop lobbying for peace and face the reality on ground. This whole idea of paying some militants money or giving out money to groups of persons will not bring the needed peace and development to the Niger Delta. The government should feel for the people.
Are you impressed with Delta State government handling of Gbamaturu crisis?
I must say that I am not impressed with the Delta State government over its handling of the Gbaramatu crisis. It has faulted its three- point agenda. You are talking about human capital development in Delta State; people are displaced and the best thing you can do is to work out how to host the Under_17 World Cup Tournament and at the same time give out more vehicles armoured personnel carriers to the police. I just hope that the state government is working for peace.
The government should be seen as having feelings for the people; the government should be committed to the resolution of the Gbaramatu crisis. Governor Uduaghan should spread development to the riverine communities. He knows the plight of those living in the creeks.
He should pay serious attention to the creeks. When Chief James Ibori came, he turned Oghara into London and that is what we are expecting from Governor Uduaghan too, to turn the riverine communities into tourist centres. Developing the riverine communities will attract foreign i
nvestors to the state.
Chevron Nigeria Limited recently flooded the refugeesâ€™ camp at Ogbe-Ijoh with relief materials running into several millions of Naira. What do you have to say about this gesture from the oil giant?
First and foremost, I want to sympathize with the company for what has happened to them in respect of the genocide carried out by the Federal Government in Gbaramatu kingdom; an action that has affected the operations of the company in the area. I want thank the company over the relief materials it donated to the displaced persons, despite what it went through.
I really want to thank the company for the kind gesture. The company should set up a committee that can discuss the things affecting them with their host communities. I believe that if this is done, the ugly situation that happened to them will not be repeated.
What is your assessment of President Yarâ€™Adua’s administraion?
The Nigerian leadership has lost focus. When President Yarâ€™Adua was campaigning, he promised to make Niger Delta his first priority. Unfortunately after two years in office, the best thing he can do is to commit genocide against the people of the region. From all indications, the President has lost focus.
How do you think pipeline vandalisation can be stopped in Niger Delta?
But it is not too late to bring him back on track. He should meet with the people very often; let him set up a committee for policing the oil pipelines; he should see this as a top priority. Let him do this and he will see an end to pipeline vandalization. You cannot even repair the pipelines with force; the communities must be involved in the policing and repair of the damaged pipelines and the amnesty can only work if the area is developed.
What is your on how the region can be developed?
That N50 billion for the amnesty will take care of some problems facing the region. We want to see massive development of the region. Let us see good network of roads, higher institutions, industries and infra-structures in the area. We are tired of begging the Federal Government to develop the region.
I see the amnesty as a way of empowering the militants to buy more arms. If you take away their arms today and you give N500 million to each of them, donâ€™t you think that N500 million will still bring more arms to them if the federal government is not developing the region and so to me, the N50billion is a way of empowering the militants to acquire more arms.
I still want to put emphasis on the issue of leadership; it is very important for younger people to take over the leadership of this country. If you are not a General and you are not a brother to General, you cannot rule this country and this has been dragging us backward. Opportunities should be given to young people to rule; rich people alone should not rule this country, this is wrong.
Obama is handling America and he is doing well not by power but by wisdom; there are people that God has given wisdom to rule this country, but their limitation is because they are not rich and nobody wants to recognize them; this is very bad. We are begging our leaders in the name of God that young people should be given the chance to rule this country.