By Emma Amaize, Hugo Odiogor, Emma Aziken, Sam Oyadongha, Emma Arubi, Jimitota Onoyume &Festus Ahon
WARRIâ€” GOVERNORS of the nine Niger Delta states and other stakeholders, including South-South elder, Edwin Clark, MOSOP leader, Barrister Ledum Mitee and others are already in the oil city of Warri, Delta State, to proffer solutions to the multifarious problems facing the Niger Delta region.
The two-day national dialogue, an initiative of Vanguard Media Limited is fully supported by the Federal Government and the nine states that make up the oil rich Niger Delta which has been racked by militancy and kidnappings.
Billed to attend the event are the Minister of Defence, General Godwin Abbe, Minister of Niger DeltaÂ Affairs, Chief Ufot Ekaette. Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State is the host governor.
The other governors expected at the event are Obong Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, Chief Theodore Orji of Abia State, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, Chief Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State, Mr. Liyel Imoke of Cross River State, Chief Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State, and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State.
Equally expected to attend are Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Professor Pat Utomi, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, the leader of Arewa Consultative Forum, General I.B.M. Haruna, President-General of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, Chief Ralph Uwechue and leader of Oodua Peoplesâ€™ Congress, Dr. Fredrick Fasehun.
Gen. A. O. Azazi, the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, is the chairman of the Post Amnesty Dialogue which is scheduled for the Government House Annex, Warri.
The issues to be discussed include reconstruction and rehabilitation of the villages devastated by the open military confrontation between the Joint Military Task Force, JTF, and the militants in May 2009;Â evolving a new security framework for the Niger Delta region; capacity building, industrial and economic development; women and youth development, resource control, equity and social justice.
Amaechi advocates holistic approach
The Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has insisted that a holistic approach was vital and necessary to address all issues concerning the Niger Delta in this post amnesty era.
Amaechi who spoke through his Senior Media Adviser, David Iyofor, said that to tackle the problems of infrastructural development, the challenges of economic empowerment of the people and several other problems bedeviling the people of the oil rich region in this post amnesty era, there was need for the involvement of all stakeholders in the process, adding that there was also the need for all the issues to be tackled holistically.
He said: â€œIt is imperative that the Federal, State, local governments, the legislature, oil companies, the oil bearing communities, etc., are involved in the process. Every stakeholder must be part of it and play its role. No party should play the ostrich and pretend that it doesnâ€™t concern them.â€
Governor Amaechi also advocated that one way of tackling the issues is giving the oil bearing communities a slice of the oil wealth. He noted: â€œThere should be appropriate legislation to give the oil producing communities in the Niger Delta a part of the oil wealth. This will give them a sense of belonging. These communities would then see oil installations and facilities in their various communities as their own and would always protect these facilities.â€
He stressed that for this to be done, appropriate laws like the Petroleum Industry Bill must ensure that the oil bearing communities would no longer be neglected and treated with disdain.
Clark suggests way forward
South-south leader, Chief Edwin Clark, in an interview with Vanguard on the way forward listed proper rehabilitation for the boys, payment of proper allowances to them and proper training
He added: â€œBesides, the infrastructure development of the area is paramount. Provide houses for those people whose houses were destroyed during the fratricidal war between the JTF and the people in Gbaramatu.â€
Stakeholders that made suggestions at the commencement of the programme include Barrister Ledum Mitee, Chief Isaac Jemide, Barrister Casey Omon-Irabor, Victor Ebikabowei Ben, a.k.a. General Boyloaf, Dr. Akpo Midiaga-Odje and Mr. Abdul Oroh
The Dialogue is a fall-out of Amnesty Programme which took effect from October 4, 2009 but has suffered setbacks owing to the ill-health of President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua, who took a medical leave in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The issue of the Presidentâ€™s health had become a major political and diplomatic debate as the process of governance was almost brought to a halt.
In his maiden speech as the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan tried to rekindle hope in the Amnesty process when he said his brief leadership of the Presidency will give fresh impetus to the quest for lasting peace and development in the Niger Delta.
A statement by the co-ordinator of the Dialogue, Mr. Mideno Bayagbon, said leaders of defunct militant groups are part of the Post Amnesty Dialogue. The statement noted that â€œthe Post Amnesty Dialogue is a vital instrument in the process of conflict resolution as it affords the disputants the opportunity to engage in diplomatic approach to resolving the conflict in the region.â€ It is, therefore, â€œuseful for state and political actors and all those involved in dealing with human relations to explore dialogue where there are conflicts of interest and world views.â€
When the Federal Government announced an Amnesty for the angry youths that took up arms against their fatherland in the Niger Delta region, many peace loving Nigerians welcomed the gesture as a window of opportunity for all the aggrieved parties to exploit the arena of interaction offered by dialogue to bring an end to the spate of violence, insecurity and loss of human lives.
Vanguard Newspapers, as a responsive corporate citizen, belongs to the group of those who saw the Amnesty Programme as an opportunity to contribute its quota towards promoting peace and sustainable development in the Niger Delta which has suffered neglect and deprivation, despite being the goose that lays the golden egg.
For over six years the oil bearing region has been rocked by militant agitation for equity and social justice. It began with passive agitation for control of the resources taken from the oil bearing communities which have been left out of the Nigerian dream by both the Nigerian state and the multinational oil companies operating in the region. Faced with dire poverty in a land literally flowing with the black gold since 1958, the sense of injustice and deprivation was insufferable
The pollution of the environment, lack of access to basic life sustainers such as clean drinking water, electricity supply, medical facilities, roads and schools, employment and all forms of amenities in the region, sparked off militancy and acts of domestic terrorism which manifested in form of hostage taking, disruption of oil production activities, street gun boats and all forms of criminalities.Â The conflict reached a crescendo when the global price of oil hit the roof top at $145 per barrel while Nigeriaâ€™s production capacity dropped from about 2.2million bpd to about 800bpd.