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‘This criminality can be stopped without negotiating with anybody’


Onengiya Erekosima

Onengiya Erekosima

Onengiya Erekosima, president of the Foundation for Peace and Non-violence in Nigeria, spoke to OBIRE ONAKEMU on the current militant attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta by Niger Delta Avengers, who he described as “criminals,” stressing the need for enabling, secured environment for the oil companies to operate.

How do you view the current disturbance in the Niger Delta?
Are we not wicked to ourselves? Is it right that we will call evil that does not exist and give it life to live? Is there such thing as militant in the Niger-Delta, going by whatever name it is called, but criminality?Until we stop calling those names- militants, and call them by their real names- criminals, who are enemies of the people. They are just common criminals.

Has there been any time when the Niger Delta came together to say represent us with violence?
All those names we call people who do violence is the life we are giving them to exist. Whether they are the avengers or whatsoever name they are called, they are common criminals, except the Nigerian state wants to call a dog a bad name so that it can kill it. This criminality can be stopped without negotiating with anybody. Anybody or group of persons who do these things cannot say that they represent the Niger Delta or Nigerian people. We are not violent people by nature. Unfortunately, our leaders believe in violence, which is not taking them anywhere.

Why not ask how much (force) violence was applied to get the peace we call Amnesty? Must we kill more people because we want to stop what we are creating?
The greatest evils are not those who try to get reason to do criminality, but those who call criminality what it is not, just to kill and destroy innocent lives. This is what Nigeria does every day- call its own people names- and kill them. We pretend to look for solutions outside us when we have the solution within us. We look for relevance and money when people are dying; we don’t fear God.

As long as Nigeria continues to negotiate peace with the faces that are pulling her down, when it can stop those faces from existing, it will continue to give relevance to criminality. Any man who lives and cannot tell the truth, because he wants to save his/her life, is not living, but dead, and does not know it.

How can government ensure enabling and secured environment for oil companies to continue operate?
The issue is that the governments are benefiting from the crisis, because of what they gain as security vote. That is why I think they do not want this thing to come to an end. We ended this crisis in the Niger Delta and I have been writing to the governments, but no reply to that effect. I believe that if the government will listen to us, the only problem it will get will be lack of space for investors. But I am not sure our leaders understand what they will benefit from investors, compared to that of security vote. I think it is time we tell them the truth.

As things are, can the military option help?
The military option is the worst thing that is happening to us as a country. If they don’t benefit from it, these things will stop. That is why they will never and has never appreciated the nonviolence approach. Until we look beyond the military option, we will only count our losses, because they will not report the losses. Both the military and the innocent civilians die every day because of the military option.

Like the Boko Haram issue, see how many have died and how many communities have been destroyed because the government is not listening?
When will the military leave those communities in the North for our brothers and sisters to return to their villages without the fear of another attack because of the military option?
What we are seeing in Nigeria is kobo wise, naira foolish.

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