WARRI- ITSEKIRI riverine communities in Delta State, Sunday proposed an 11-point demand to the Federal Government for reasonable peace and development to ensue in the Niger Delta region.
They include shoreline line protection and reclamation of sinking Itsekiri communities, re-allocation of oil blocs to benefit host communities, electrification of Itsekiri and Ijaw communities along the Escravos Bara and commencement of work on the Export Processing Zone, EPZ project at Ogidigben.
The communities in a position paper signed by the Ajuwaoyiboyanmi, aka Akulagba of Warri, Chief Ayirimi Emami, said: “Oil and gas facilities in Itsekiri areas should be allowed to be secured and maintained by indigenous /community- based companies or contractors with capacity in collaboration with other companies with required expertise outside the communities.”
They said: “Since the groundbreaking of the Export Processing Zone, EPZ, Ogidigben in March, 2015, the project has been lying fallow with no indications of work in progress. Based on this, we call on the Federal Government to commence work on the site, as it will help in curbing criminal activities by restive youths in the area.”
“The Itsekiri riverine communities along the Escravos axis and some in the Benin River axis are now below sea level during high tide seasons. Most of these communities lie along the same plane with multinationals whose primary activities are oil and gas exploration in the localities. Government should, therefore, commence immediate shoreline protection and reclamation/sand filling necessary for human habitation to avert the communities being washed off into the Atlantic Ocean.
“Government should dredge and widen the Escravos Bar-mouth because its shallowness militate against the accessibility of cargo vessels to Warri Seaport, which would have helped to boost the economy of the region by means of providing employment for restive youths through commercial activities,” the communities asserted. .
Lamenting the high level of unemployment in the area, they said: “The federal and state governments and IOCs operating in Itsekiri localities should make it an obligation to engage indigenous youths and qualified individuals within their areas of operation during recruitment process.”
On oil bloc allocation, they noted: “It is impracticable and unprecedented for people to be hosts to oil blocs, yet do not benefit from the proceeds. This will make the people have no choice than resorting to vandalism and sabotage.”
“Based on this incongruity, it will be necessary for the federal government, especially the Petroleum Ministry to scrutinize the oil blocs’ allocation and put measures in place where Itsekiri with relevant capacity can be included as beneficiaries. Even others without capacity can also be made to benefit by proxy. If people have a sense of belonging, working against the principles of federal government will be elusive,” they said.
The communities noted that there was a signed contract documents by the previous federal government on the electrification of Itsekiri riverine communities, along Escravos axis, Ijaw inclusive, but it is yet to kick off. The federal government through the NNPC should dust the documents and facilitate the commencement of the laudable project,” they added.
Furthermore, they noted: “The federal government should, as a matter of importance, advise the management of NPDC to take-over the abandoned world-class office facilities in Warri, Delta State, instead of squandering resources on building new facilities somewhere else. This is necessary; else these facilities will further deteriorate.”
The Itsekiri communities also called on the federal government “to build military buffer zones along the Escravos axis (especially at Kpokpo community) and any choice place on the Benin River axis.”
“As a major host to Chevron Nigeria Limited Tank Farm and installations, Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, NNPC and other IOCs, the Itsekiri nation with coastal routes connecting the South -West geopolitical zone and other parts of the Niger Delta should be made to host coastal marine hubs developed in either the Escravos axis of Warri South -West local government area or the Benin River end of Warri North local government area.
“It will compliment haulage activities at Delta Ports, Warri and boost socio-economic life in the riverine communities, thus reducing over-dependence on crude oil and gas related jobs,” they said.
The communities also stated: “Recognized and respected traditional institutions/authorities should be paid royalties monthly/yearly because they are the custodians of the people’s customs and cultures. They have over lordship on their people; hence the government must appease them and in return, calm their subjects at all times.”
Chief Emami, who spoke to Vanguard on the 11-point demand, said: “From my experience and interface with other stakeholders involved in the struggle/agitation for resource control in the Niger Delta region since 1999, I will conclude by saying if the above 11-point demands are properly looked into and treated with urgency without disdain, the desired atmosphere for government to discharge governance in the Niger Delta would be realized.”
He insisted: “Violence, evading justice and criminality under the pretext of agitation should as a matter of urgency be immediately discouraged by both the federal and state governments.”
“People should not be rewarded for perpetrating economic sabotage because it definitely sets the stage for ethnic nationalities and people, who pursue their agitation in lawful manner without the needed attention to mull violence, as well as illegality as the proper option.