August 2, 2009

Delta govt to rebuild communities destroyed by JTF … as displaced persons return tomorrow

By Emma Amaize

Warri – Delta State Government is to build new settlements for  Ijaw and Itsekiri communities in  Warri South-West Local Government Area of the state that were devastated by men of the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger Delta during its aborted Cordon and Search operation in the area.

Delta State governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan revealed this weekend while speaking on the government’s plan to relocate the thousands of displaced persons back to their communities from tomorrow  (Monday) said the project would cost the state government billions of naira.

Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan  said the state government has reached agreement with the JTF to facilitate the return of the displaced persons, most of who were camped at the Ogbe-Ijoh General Hospital back to their ravaged communities.
Before now, the JTF had categorically denied that it did not destroy any Ijaw community during its search operation for militants the governor confirmed that the report he got showed that Okerenkoko community was extensively destroyed, saying the government was going to build a completely new town in Okerenkoko.

His words,  “At last we have reached an agreement and an arrangement is fully on ground for the displaced people of Gbaramatu Kingdom to start going back to their communities, especially those from Okerenkoko, Oporoza and the other villages, where there was displacement”.

“The official flag-off will be on Monday, the 3rd of August and they would start moving back. There is no doubt that some of the communities, especially Okerenkoko was really affected by the destruction and what we are doing now is to put up temporary structures for the people going back home to stay, ” he  stated

Nevertheless, Governor Uduaghan conceded that environmental problems would prevent the immediate return of normal economic life in the area, particularly as the victims were mostly fishermen.

He noted that crude oil pollution mainly from damaged oil facilities would make such activities impossible, stressing that such developments informed insistence by him and some of his colleagues from the region that the Federal Government must follow up the amnesty plan with post-amnesty programme to ensure rehabilitation of some of the boys involved in the conflict.

“Because of damage to oil facilities, there is a lot of pollution in that area and it will take quite some time for the water to be okay again for fishing purpose.

The environment needs to be cleaned up that is not something that can be done immediately because there has to be assessment and other things.

“That plan is up between the state, federal government and oil companies for the aqua life to return. But on the interim, people have to do something so there will be fish pond and land for farming and some business with the oil companies,” he added.

He also revealed plans by his government to put up skill acquisition centres for the youths of the area to be gainfully employed and useful to themselves, stressing that that informed the need for a post amnesty plans.

On the fear that the JTF would re-attack the people, he reassured that the task force has given  assurance that those returning home would not be attacked or molested by soldiers in the waterways just as pledges had been extracted from leaders of the various communities that their youths would be of good conduct during and after the exercise.