By Victor Ahiuma-Young
NIGER Delta Christian Leaders Christian ForumÂ (NDCLF), has petitioned President Musa Yarâ€™Adua, detailing a seven-point suggestions for lasting peace in the Niger Delta region and other oil producing states.
In an open letter by the forum issued by its Chairman and Secretary,Â Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor and Rev. Eddy Bebor, as well as representatives of nine oil producing states, appreciated ongoing amnesty exercise for the Niger Delta militants, the Presidentâ€™sÂ recent visits to some Niger Delta states and the creation of a Niger Delta ministry, and the setting up of the Technical Committee for the Niger Delta Development amongst others.
Specifically, the group raised issues on the amnesty package, Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB),Â the Federal University of Petroleum Studies from Effurun, Delta State, recent re organisation in the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC),Â report of Technical Committee on the NigerÂ Â Â Â Delta Development,Â Â the Minister of Petroleum and religious intolerance.
According to NDCLF, on the amnesty package, the forum said: â€œ we suggest that a well articulated package that will include employment, skill acquisition training, scholarships and soft loans be provided for the ex-militants to enable them be gainfully employed and reintegrated to the society to avoid relapse. Furthermore, we strongly recommend that a communication platform be provided by the Federal Government to enable government and the ex-militants to dialogue on the way forward vis-a-vis sustainable peace from the Federal Government of Nigeria on one hand, and the Niger Delta on the other.
Commenting on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), NDCLF, posited that â€œinformation available to us suggests that the Petroleum Industry Bill does not adequately address the needs of the oil producing communities and this is the crux of the agitation and restiveness in the Niger Delta.
A bill that addresses royalties to the Federal Government to the exclusion of the oil producing communities considering the ecological devastating effect of the oil exploration cannot be said to be fair and just to the oil producing communities, it is our honest recommendation that the Petroleum Industry Bill be amended in the Senate and the House of Representatives to accommodate the views and interests of the oil producing communities.
This to a great extent we believe will ensure the success of the amnesty and other developmental package of the Federal Government to the oil producing region.â€
â€œAt this juncture, we wish to express a cautious satisfaction that the controversial issue of relocating the Federal University of Petroleum Studies from Effurun, Delta State to Kaduna has been addressed by your government, that the said University is still in Effurun, Delta State.
We must say that it was a most welcome clarification. This, in no small measure, will assure our people that the Federal Government of Nigeria means well for theÂ people of the Niger Delta. However, we request that this clarification, as important as it is, should be backed up with visible developmental projects at the University site. We therefore implore the Federal Government of Nigeria to release adequate funds for the full take off and the running of the said University in Effurun.â€
The group argued that the recent re organisation in the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) â€œis of great concern to our people in the Niger Delta, considering that prominent sons and daughters from the South are being dropped from positions in the NNPC while being replaced by their counterparts from other non_oil producing regions.
Mr. President, we know that you are a man of fair play and of high moral integrity who is sensitive to the plights and aspirations of the oil producing region. We, therefore, suggest that qualified indigenes of the oil producing areas be used to replace any Niger Deltan who, for any reason, is relieved of his position in the NNPC, other Federal Government Parastatals and Agencies in the Niger Delta.
In addition, we call on the Federal Government to address the issue of illegal oil bunkering and un_mask the individuals behind this act of sabotage and bring them to book no matter how influential in the society. The allegation that some senior serving and retired military officers and the so_called cabal in high places of government should be seriously investigated and made to face the wrath of the law.â€
It added: â€œWe wish to call the attention of his Excellency to the dangerous and provocative trend that religious intolerance has assumed in recent times, especially in the Northern part of Nigeria. A situation where the slightest misunderstanding between people who have little or nothing to do with religion, results in the burning of churches, killing of Christians and pastors and destruction of properties belonging to Christians, to say the least, is demonic and provocative.
We therefore call on the Federal Government to fish out all members of the Boko Haram Sect; and other similar militant groups and fundamentalists, their leaders and sponsors, no matter how highly placed in the society and made to face the long arm of the law. Furthermore, we implore the Federal Government, beyond the panel of enquiry, to ascertain the actual level of destruction and pay adequate compensation to churches and all families of victims, and take immediate steps to avoid a repeat of this carnage.
Your Excellency, history will be made by you, if sustainable peace and visible development finally come to the Niger Delta, in particular, and the Nation in general. It is our prayer that God will guide every step you take and every move you make in the right direction to move Nigeria forward.â€
September 10, 2009