ByÂ Kenneth Ehigiator
Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) has called on the Federal Government to rescind its decision to dredge the River Niger without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, describing it as a deliberate ploy to ease the Ijaws out of existence.
The group also implored the government to concentrate more on addressing developmental issues in the Niger Delta rather than its unnecessary excitement over mopping up of arms being surrendered by militants in the region.
Rising from an emergency meeting of its National Executive Council (NEC) in Patani, Delta State, the IYC said in a statement issued at the end of the meeting, that it would be wrong for the federal government to dredge River Niger without first addressing all attendant fundamental issues surrounding the project.
In the statement signed by IYC national President, Dr. Chris Ekiyor and five others, the IYC said:Â â€œ Council is disappointed with the federal governmentâ€™s deliberate move to program an extinction design of the Ijaws through the strategic ploy to dredge the River Niger without addressing attendant fundamental surrounding the project.
â€œWhile we admit that it is universal practice to dredge the waterways from time to time to create easy navigation and enhance marine activities, as it is being done in developed/developing economy everywhere in the world, we are, however, disappointed by governmentâ€™s continuous disregard of fundamental concerns of communities along the spread of the River Niger.
â€œIt is unfortunate that government has resorted to use the JTF to enforce this project without minding the environmental hazards it will bring upon those who live at the mouths of the Niger River.Â We want to state unequivocally that any forceful attempt to dredge the river without recourse to universal standard will not be acceptable.â€
Continuing, the IYC said â€œ as a people, we are advocating for a properly conducted environmental impact assessment (EIA) with programs that safeguard the interests of people living and depending on the river before actual dredging exercise should begin.
â€œCompensation, occupational remedies, alternative water supply and means of transport e.g. connecting roads and river trained works (shore protection) should, as a matter of necessity, be provided. We are yet to see any of these happening, contrary to submission made by Minister of Transportation in this regard.Â Rather, there had been continuous excursion of dredgers by heavy gun boats and military hardwares”.
â€œWe believe that no part of this nation should be hurt in the process of dredging of the River Niger, hence it is our unalloyed resolve that the Ijaw people will take steps to enforce our right to existence through any possible means necessary to ensure that the right things are done in line with universal standard.â€
The group noted that provisions had been made for ports at Baro, Niger State; Lokoja, Kogi State; Idah, Kogi State and Onitsha, Anambra State, wondering why the core Niger Delta States were excluded from the list.
It queried: â€œ With the total exclusion of the core Niger Delta States of Bayelsa, and Delta States, what happened to Warri, Burutu and Koko ports, and also the Patani Inland Port that had already been in existence since the colonial era?
â€œIs this another deliberate attempt to further impoverish and enslave the Niger Delta people in the same vein as in oil exploration?â€
On the amnesty granted militants in the Niger Delta, the IYC described it as a welcome development, but urged government to focus more on issues od development in the Niger Delta than mop up of arms from militants.
According to the group, the federal government should review its approach of show of desperation in arms mop up in the region and begin an immediate short-term measure in addressing the issues with a follow up of medium and long term plan.
â€œThis call has become necessary because already, the hue and cry from the various concentration camps of the said militants is akin to Prisoner of war (POW) camps and alarming, an indication of a failing process,â€ the group said.
The IYC also advised Bayelsa State government against the N100 billion bond it plans to source from the capital market, warning it against subjecting the state to too much debts.
It said it would be inexpedient for a state already owing separately N60 billion and N75 billion debts respectively to start eyeing another N100 billion bond, stressing that Bayelsa State would be perpetual debts, if the government went ahead with the plan.
â€œCouncil strongly call on the Timipre Slyva-led government of Bayelsa State to be wary of the proposed N100 billion (if you like, call it â€œBondâ€) as being anticipated, against the backdrop of an already existing huge debt profile of N60 billion and N75 billion collected from a consortium of banks as well as $40 million procured for Bayelsa Oil Company, among others, which is yet to result in meaningful development in the state.
â€œWhile we admire the governorâ€™s desire to fast-track economic development in the state, we are worried that the state may not have the enduring economic strength to withstand the strain of expending credit facilities serviceable overtime.
â€œProcuring another loan will further increase the already existing huge debt profile of the state to over N235 billion,â€ said the group.
It cautioned Govrnor Sylva to beware of sycophants who are pushing him to go for the bond, but would turn around when the bubble burst to disown him.