BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
WARRI – Niger Deltans have been urged to shun violence and continue to explore dialogue as the most dependable social instrument to redress challenges of underdevelopment in the region.
Making the appeal, at a session of Niger Delta dialogue with the theme , : Two years on: Reflections on the past and planning for the future on the Niger Delta Dialogue,” Executive Director of a Warri based non governmental organization, Academic Associates Peace Works, Dr Judith Asuni and facilitator of the dialogue said the region should not stop talking, stressing that stakeholders should continue to dialogue until the myriad of underdevelopment in the area were redressed by the government.
She recalled that the Niger Dialogue which started in 2016 with attendees from the circle of ex militants, traditional rulers, religious leaders and other sectors in the region gave rise to PANDEF, adding that it also made Professor Yemi Osibanjo who was acting President to visit the region to interact with the people on the way forward.
While urging youths to shun any temptation to go the path of violence Dr Asuni said the region should continue to present it demands on the table.
“The Niger Delta Dialogue started in June 2016, then government was not talking on matters of the region and we asked why the government was not talking. We got government leaders and stakeholders to talk. There were 50 stakeholders. We concentrated on the militant groups, traditional rulers , King Alfred Diete Spiff was Chairman of the group “, she said
Former Ambassador to Ethiopia, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo who also spoke called on various ethnic groups in the region to as a matter of right demand to see the budgetary provisions for their areas, noting that this way development could start coming to the region.
She said the Niger Delta dialogue, had made appreciable impact in the last two years, adding that the region should begin to press for new model of development
She said the amnesty program had failed to meet its expectations in the region so there was need to redefine the model of development, stressing that this would be possible when stakeholders continue to dialogue.
“The existing model of development has not worked , the amnesty has not worked . When they started it, more militants starting springing up.
By the time ethnic groups start asking questions on budgetary provisions for their areas things will start getting better. As a follow up to our meetings the Vice President started visiting the region. It is your responsibility in the region to ask questions on development of Niger Delta . we have to replace the current development model with a more effective one.”, she said
“We have made a lot of progress. We will continue to talk. No option to talking, it reduces antagonism. We have to engage the process. By the time ethnic groups start asking questions on budgetary provisions for their areas things will start moving “, she stressed.
Others who also spoke were Her Royal Majesty, Obi Martha Dunkwu , Omu Anioma, Delta state, Professor Barineme Fakae and several others. They harped on dialogue as the reliable tool to attract federal government attention to the area.