‘We should embrace dialogue, not blowing up oil installations’
Chief Ayirimi Emami, an Itsekiri chief in Warri and businessman, in this interview with OBIRE ONAKEMU, spoke on the resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta, where the Niger Delta Avengers are blowing up oil installations, expressed support for federal government’s bid to rid the region of criminal elements, who he urged to embrace dialogue and consultation. He bemoaned that six years of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s Presidency did not address the issues affecting the Niger Delta and there is the need to give President Muhammadu Buhari some time to address issues of environmental degradation and underdevelopment in the area, among others.
How do you see to the ongoing disturbances in Niger Delta, where a group, Niger Delta Avengers, is blowing up oil installations?
I am not a militant, but a businessman, who genuinely agitate for the all-round development of the Niger Delta.I must emphatically state that the underdevelopment of the Niger Delta affects all the tribes and it is most unfortunate that this kind of sabotage is happening at this time when our nation is facing economic recession, caused by over- dependence on crude oil over the years and the price of crude at the international market has dropped drastically.
It is imperative to note that there is no difference among Ijaw, Itsekiri, Ilaje, Urhobo, Ikwere and other tribes in the Niger Delta, as we all eat the same food, suffer the same neglect and have similar socio-cultural life.
The truth is that we can’t live in the Niger Delta alone; we must live with visitors, investors and other people.Some of us do business with the oil and gas companies and if the criminal actions of a few people force the oil companies out of the region, it will affect all of us.
That is why I am in support of the federal government’s bid to rid the area of criminal elements. We should embrace dialogue and consultation, instead of blowing up oil and gas installations/facilities.
Could military option help in restoring sanity in the Niger Delta and how do you see the military siege to Gbaramatu?
As far as I am concerned, there is no way you can take out the military in the restoration of sanity in the Niger Delta.
The military is not 100 per cent option, but those involved in criminality should be made to face the law. The six years that we were in government, we did not address the issues affecting the Niger Delta.
We need to give President Muhammadu Buhari some time to address issues of environmental degradation and underdevelopment in the Niger Delta. The military should go after those behind the bombing of crude oil and gas pipelines, whether they are in Gbaramatu or nearby communities and not lay siege on the entire Gbaramatu.
They should up their intelligence, because I believe they know those responsible for the sabotage.Any community that allows such criminality should take responsibility. The communities should be vigilant, because the bombings affect them. The benefit of vandalism is for one family and it is selfish, not for the entire community.
Do you believe that military operation in the area can stop pipeline vandalism?
Not in totality, but engagement of genuine people on ground in the communities is vital, especially those who are willing to support the policies of the federal government targeted at visible development of Niger Delta and its people.
Are you in support of a sovereign state of Niger Delta?
I don’t understand what they mean by sovereign State of Niger Delta. We did not agitate for such when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was President and I wonder why such call now.
Is the Niger Delta marginalised?
I don’t know what you mean by marginalisation, because we lack basic infrastructures, like potable water, internal roads, health centres, access bridges and communication facilities.
For six years, our people occupied and headed the Presidency, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and even the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, but there is very little to show, in terms of the impact of these agencies.
The federal government needs to talk to genuine Niger Delta leaders who have the interest of the region at heart and not an individual or individuals that use violence for personal gains.
How can government foster sustainable peace and socio-economic development in the Niger Delta?
Through constant dialogue and consultation among the various ethnic nationalities that make up the region on one part, and the ethnic nationalities with government on the other part.
Do you believe allegations that anti-Niger Delta policies by the federal government, like unfair or indiscriminate allocation or oil blocs, is fuelling militancy in the region?
I do not concur; we had the opportunity to give ourselves oil blocs for six years, but we didn’t. For me, the cry of alleged indiscriminate allocation or sharing of oil blocs now is medicine after death.
What do you make of the advocacy committee headed by Deputy Governor Kingsley Otuaro, set-up by the Delta State government regarding the bombing of oil-pipelines? Do you think they would go far?
Sincerely, I cannot differentiate the so-called Niger Delta Avengers from the Delta State Government Advocacy Committee headed by Otuaro, because Otuaro knows those responsible for the bombing of crude and gas pipelines.
What advice do you have for Niger Delta people?
I want to advise every Niger Deltan not to go into arms struggle in agitation for the region. We should shun violent approach and embrace dialogue/consultation.
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