By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South –South
A community leader at Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, Apostle (Dr) Clement Tonfawei, popularly known as the Nabodi 1 of the Universe, has said that if given the chance, the locals could rally round government to trail the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA. Apostle Tonfawei, who was among the Niger Delta stakeholders who met with a Federal Government team led by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu and National Security Adviser, NSA, May 25, in Abuja, said the militants were human beings living in the various communities in the region and the basic thing required to track them was intelligence.
Tonfawei, a native of Oporoza, told Saturday Vanguard that: “What is happening in Oporoza is a painful experience because we were victims in 2009. We are doing all we can to make sure that what happened in 2009 does not happen again because we know what we lost in terms of lives and property.” “Until date, we have not recovered what we lost then and today we are having such experience again. It is not a happy experience at all. Therefore, we are using this medium to appeal to the President to device peaceful means in their effort to track down the Niger Delta Avengers.
“What led to the sad situation we find ourselves again is the destruction of oil facilities in our environment by the group called Niger Delta Avengers. The people of Oporoza, as well as Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, whom the government has been looking for have condemned the activities of the Avengers. “We have all agreed that their activities are criminal and have called on them to desist from what they are doing. All hands were on deck to looking for solutions when all of a sudden the military came to occupy our communities,” he said.
Who are the Avengers?
Nabodi I said: “They are human beings like us, living in various communities in the Niger Delta region, but cannot be identified. However, I know that with intelligence, we can trace them because we know ourselves very well in that kingdom and in the riverine areas of the state. If given the opportunity to trace them, we can locate them. However, for now, we do not know them.”
What we told Kachikwu, NSA
“The Niger Delta Avengers are people we have already condemned for their activities. I also want to thank the Federal Government for its kind gesture in listening to the voice of the people and calling for meeting with the people in Abuja on 25th of May. The Federal Government asked us what the solution to the problem is and we told them that the only thing which the Niger Delta region enjoys is pollution and degradation of our environment.
“There are no federal projects in the region, there are no hospitals, no schools – the only school they managed to give us has been taken away from us. Therefore, the people are in perpetual pains and they do not know the value of these pipes. The only way out of this is to engage meaningfully with the communities and make them feel the impact of the oil exploration in their environment,” he stated.
According to him, “The federal government agreed with us that it will not go violent. Therefore, I will still encourage the government to hold on to that. Violence will only enslave the innocent souls in the creeks who do not know anything about the Avengers and who do not have any means of livelihood, but feeding from hand to mouth.”
He asserted: “I will still appeal to Federal Government to stick to the agreement reached on the 25th of May on how we can solve the issue peacefully without fighting. We are not preventing the military from entering our communities. In 1997 when Lt. Lukat was piloting the peace process between the Itsekiris and the Gbaramatu people, who were having communal clashes then, what he did was to partner with all the community leaders and engage them in fruitful deliberation. He told them that the crisis was making both sides to lose lives and property.”
We agreed on cessation of hostilities “The communities agreed to cease fire. Therefore, the federal government today should follow the same parth. We are a very accommodating people and that is why you can see that every tribe is living in our communities. We are against the intimidation of our people and our old men and women and making them to run into the bush.
“Consequently, if the government knows that they have people in our community and they want to hold them, we are not stopping them. They can come in peacefully, telling them why they are there and that they want to stay around and monitor the activities of these people”.
“We told the federal government to meaningfully engage the people and develop the region so that the people will begin to feel the impact of the oil that is coming in from their communities. The NSA was there, the Minister of Petroleum was there, Governor Adams Oshiomhole was there, the NDDC boss and the Amnesty boss and other people were all at the meeting.
“At the end of the meeting we all agreed that they will not use military force against the people. All we need to do is to collaborate with government to see reason with them. They should use intelligence to fish out the Avengers who they have identified,” Tonfawei added.
Appeal to Avengers
He said: “We are appealing to the Avengers to stop their illegal activities, which have been condemned and which Tompolo and other people in the region have also condemned as a criminal act. The times where you made money from armed struggle had come and gone. The armed struggle going on in the region is destroying the lives of our children yet unborn and we are not teaching our children the right parth to follow.”
Govt should develop region
“My message is simple. Let the Federal Government come out and develop the region so that the people would have a sense of belonging. There should be synergy between the communities and the security agents to fish out the Niger Delta Avengers.
Itsekiri shouldn’t instigate FG against Ijaw
“In addition, I want to appeal to our Itsekiri brothers, because we share the same land space, we have intermarried, I have brothers that are Itsekiri and I have friends, who are also Itsekiri and vice versa, the Avengers issue is not a personal issue. This is a group of people and we are not happy about what they are doing. We want to appeal to the Itsekiri not to instigate the federal government against the Ijaw people. It t is not all the Ijaw that are members of Niger Delta Avengers. We should cooperate with one another to see how we can make our communities peaceful for companies to operate in. I also want the Federal Government to monitor those who claim to be mediating between the Federal Government and the Avengers,” he added.
Put surveillance on negotiators
Continuing, he said” “They should also monitor those who are giving out arms in the country. They are giving money to the Avengers and this is why they continue to fight. The oil companies also encourage armed struggle and I want to use this opportunity to call on them to stop empowering those people who are carrying arms.
“I want them to concentrate on the development of the area instead. We want the Federal Government to stop paying money to the people, who are carrying arms too. I also want the communities to be calm and bear with the federal government knowing that very soon, peace will return to the region. I then appeal to the media to report objectively to avoid further break down of law and order in the region,” Nabodi 1 asserted.