By Emma Amaize & Festus Ahon
ASABA—Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, yesterday, expressed confidence that the prevailing peace in the creeks of the Niger Delta would be sustained.
However, despite threats by Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, and Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, NDRC, to resume hostilities in the Niger Delta region, a team from the Presidency, led by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, will on Monday, January 16, commence a confidence-building visit to the region.
Meantime, Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative, IPDI, has condemned the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, ILOT, in Delta State, over recent attacks on the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, saying ILOT is looking for cheap political recognition and fame in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Governor Okowa, who spoke when the United States’ Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Stuart Syminton, paid him a courtesy visit in Asaba, said for more than four months, pipeline vandalism had not been experienced in the creeks, especially in Delta State.
According to him: “We are doing a lot to ensure that we have peace and it is our hope that we sustain the peace. It is in our best interest to do so. We are looking forward to a peaceful and progressive 2017.”
The governor insisted that it was in the collective interest of all stakeholders for the peace to be sustained and commended the US government for doing business in Nigeria, especially in Delta State.
He assured investors that the state was safe for business, saying, “our people are friendly and accommodate visitors.”
Earlier, the Ambassador who was accompanied by top embassy officials, disclosed that they were in the state to see how to deepen their business relationship with the people.
Vice President Osibanjo’s visit, initially scheduled for January 10, was moved forward, Vanguard gathered, soon after the NDA, angered by the apparent refusal of the Presidency to dialogue with PANDEF, announced its plan to resume bombing of oil installations, last Saturday.
A source at the Presidency said: “The Vice President was taken aback by the threats, but he has since been reassured that the discontent in the region was caused by the same notion that will be created if the planned visit is cancelled.”
The source claimed that the Vice President’s first port of call would be Gbaramatu Kingdom, the home of ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, in Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State.
The team would also visit Bayelsa, Eket in Cross River State and other parts of the region to obtain first hand information on the pains of the people of Niger Delta.
IPDI blasts ILOT
Meanwhile, IPDI, in a joint statement by its national President and Secretary, Messrs. Austin Ozobo and Mayor Ogobiri, described ILOT as “meddlesome interlopers.”
“The ILOT in several fora, has indicated interest for recognition in PANDEF. It seems they have not been given such recognition, which is why they are attacking the Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark and PANDEF. ILOT’s clandestine approval of military operations in Niger Delta will only add fuel to the volatile situation in the region.
“Except ILOT was in exile, there were series of agitations that almost eclipsed the Yar’Adua/Janathan administration. It is wrong to say that Ijaw were not agitating or making demands in Jonathan’s administration,” the group noted.
According to IPDI: “It was the continuous agitation of former agitator, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, and others after Yar’Adua/Jonathan 2007 presidential elections that led to the bombardment of Camp 5 and the entire Gbaramatu Kingdom in 2009. Thereafter, the then government sued for peace and rolled out the current Amnesty Progamme, and created Niger Delta Ministry to halt further agitation in the region. ILOT, except members were aloof, know that the agitation did not stop. It continued when late John Togo abandoned the amnesty programme and went back to the creeks and engaged federal troops in a serious fight for not doing what was promised by government, and Ayakoromo community in Burutu local government was bombarded in 2010. It is, therefore, wrong to assume that during Yar’Adua/Jonathan administration, there was no agitation and no demands were made.
“The continued agitation led to the 2014 pro-National Conference in Jonathan’s administration where series of issues affecting the Niger Delta were addressed. The clandestine approval of militarization of Gbaramatu Kingdom by ILOT is a clear indication that the Itsekiri’s claim of ownership of Warri is fallacious and concocted. It is our warning that peddlers of ethnic falsehood should repent, as it will only end up fuelling ethnic unrest in the region.”