By Ochuko Akuopha
OLEH—YOUTHS, under the aegis of Isoko National Youth Assembly, INYA, yesterday, barricaded the Arhadhe axis of Ughelli/Asaba Expressway, protesting their continued exclusion from the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
The protesters, who besieged the busy road about 6 a.m., caused traffic gridlock that left travellers stranded for several hours, even as they threatened to shut down all oil facilities in Isokoland over perceived unwillingness of multinational oil companies operating in the area to dialogue with them on matters relating to oil exploration in their area.
They also listed the non-completion of the Isoko axis of Ughelli/Asaba expressway by the state government and the alleged moves by Director of Finance, Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, Chief Askia Ogieh to give funds meant for them from the commission to the immediate past executive of INYA as part of the reasons for their protest.
However, Chief Askia Ogieh, denied the allegation, saying DESOPADEC does not have a budget for youths of ethnic nationalities. “We have consultants that have been engaged to handle pipeline security issues and perhaps, most of the people they patronize in terms of intelligence gathering, falls within the youths bracket.
“But this is not to say that we pay money to ethnic youths, those issues are handled by the consultants and they have nothing to do with me,” he said.
Speaking during the protest, INYA President, Mr Ovie Umuakpo, lamented that Isoko youths were still being excluded from the amnesty programme, despite the immense contributions of the Isoko nation to the wealth of the country.
He said: “Youths of all other oil producing ethnic nationalities have been included in the amnesty programme except those from the Isoko nation and all efforts to correct this anomaly have not yielded fruitful result. We are therefore calling on the Federal Government to include our youths into the programme.”