By Davies Iheamnachor
OKOCHIRI- RESIDENTS of Okochiri community, Okirika Local Government Area, Rivers State, have pleaded with the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta to prevail on authorities of the Port Harcourt Refinery, Port Harcourt, to re-channel the company’s chemical waste away from the community’s river and the locality in general.
The villagers grumbled to members of the committee, led by Hon. Nassir Ali Ahmed, who were on a fact-finding visit to the home of ex-militant leader, High Chief Ateke Tom, on controversies relating to disbursement of monthly stipends to beneficiaries of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP.
They claimed that the chemical waste from the firm flows through the community into its river, causing people to fall ill. Some aggrieved PAP beneficiaries had petitioned the House of Representatives on alleged non-payment of their stipends by their leaders, especially Ateke Tom.
Weird ailments: Addressing the House Committee after a closed door meeting, High Chief Ateke Tom said that Okochiri and Okirika people were suffering from chemical waste pollution from the refinery, adding that it causes bizarre sicknesses.
Ateke reiterated his commitment to peace, saying that if not for the sake of peace, he would have clamped down on the refinery, even as he urged the management to introduce modern technology to recycle all its waste to save Okochiri community from danger.
He promised that he would continue to support the Federal Government to sustain peace in the Niger Delta region and to resolve the difference with beneficiaries of the amnesty under him.
Beneficiaries of the amnesty
The former warlord tasked government to empower the youths of the region in agriculture, stressing that such would close the chapter on ongoing agitations.
Our mission— Hon Ahmed
Earlier, the leader of the House Committee, Hon. Nassir Ali Ahmed, urged the leaders of the different camps to ensure that peace is maintained among their subjects.
Ahmed who promised that the lawmakers would ensure sanity in the area, expressed happiness at the success the programme has recorded in its seven years since inception, said: “We are here firsthand how the beneficiaries are faring and to ensure that all stipends are being paid.
“We have seen the different leaders of the different camps. We thank these ones for accepting the Amnesty programme in the first place.
“The committee on Niger Delta will make sure that all the beneficiaries of this programme are supported. The second phase of the programme has to do with rehabilitation and integration. We will make sure that this second phase commences and is successful. The national assembly will definitely step up to its responsibility to ensure that there is peace in the region.”
Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator, PAP, Brig-Gen Paul Boroh (retd) said the amnesty beneficiaries in the second phase of the programme would be trained and empowered in the gricultural scheme.
Boroh stated the ex-militants would be trained in agro allied, fishery, poultry and other areas, and empowered to own their own farms in line with the ongoing federal government drive on diversification of the nation’s economy.