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Ijaw youths demand probe of ‘unfair’ oil blocks allocation




• Celebrate Isaac Boro Day
• Govt to negotiate with avengers

Except the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government probes alleged unfair allocation of oil blocks in the country, there would be more hostilities in the Niger Delta region, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) has warned.

Meanwhile, in a bid to end the recent upsurge in pipeline vandalism in the oil rich Niger Delta, the Federal Government has expressed interest in negotiating with the Avengers insurgency group.

President of the Ijaw youths worldwide, Udengs Eradiri, gave the caution when he spoke with newsmen at the headquarters of the IYC in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital as part of activities to mark this year’s Isaac Boro Day.

Also, as part of activities to honour the late hero of the Ijaw nation, many shops and other commercial outlets in Yenagoa, the State capital were shut yesterday following a directive by the IYC that shop owners should not open for business as a mark of honour for Boro.

IYC”s warning came a few days after the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) gave a two-week ultimatum to oil blocks owners to evacuate their workers from the oil wells or get blown up.

Eradiri blamed President Buhari for much of the “indiscriminate sharing of oil blocks” as they were allegedly carried out during his tenure as Petroleum Minister and Head of State. He accused the President of denying Niger Deltans ownership of oil blocks at the time, while allegedly allocating the same to his kinsmen and their cronies.

“One of the most salient issues that if not addressed will lead to more crisis is the issue of the oil blocks.

“President Buhari is a one time Petroleum Minister and Head of State in this country. Let us go and do an assessment of that time. The time when criminally they shared our oil blocs was under his watch either as Petroleum Minister or as Head of State. It is in one of those times.
“Oil blocks were shared to one group. Look at it, either the person (owner of oil bloc) was a former military president or relative of the military president or an in-law to a military president,” Eradiri said.

The Ijaw Youth leader insisted that the allocation of the oil blocks did not follow due process outlined by the government and called for a total review of the oil blocks to redress the injustice the manipulated process brought against oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta.

“That is one of the biggest issues that are not addressed, there will be more Niger Delta avengers, you will see groups and groups that will spring up until the issue is addressed,” he warned.

Speaking on Isaac Boro, Eradiri described Boro as “an intellectual and fearless comrade” who stood up for the Niger Delta despite the oppressive tendencies of the government at the time.

The IYC president noted that the issues of underdevelopment of the region for which Boro took up arms against the Federal Government “were still hunting us till today”.

Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu who disclosed Federal Government’s plan to negotiate with the avengers yesterday while responding to questions from members of the House of Representatives, said the option was a more viable means than applying force on the militant group and their likes in the Niger Delta region.

The minister, who was grilled for about three hours by the lawmakers on the floor of the House, disclosed that the country was losing about 800,000 barrels of crude oil daily due to the activities of the vandals, adding that the government was keen on restoring the 2.2 million barrels per day production as soon as possible.

He also expressed the determination by government to fully implement the amnesty programme, re-engage the aggrieved militants to police oil pipelines as well as offer long lasting palliatives as means of tackling the devastating effects of pipelines vandalism plaquing the upstream sector of the petroleum industry.

Kachikwu said: “It comes to mind again whether holistically we have dealt with the problems of the Niger Delta. There is always a seeming attraction to utilise force to solve this problems. But experience has thought us that that it never really works. So we are going to ensure that the security agencies do the best they can to police a lot better and get enough equipment, and we are working with them in that area.

“But more importantly, we are going to go into more robust engagement to find out what has broken in the contract engagement that used to exist between the Niger Delta and the Nigeria population and why suddenly such sabotage is taking the order of the day. Those engagements are going on very quietly now and very soon we will begin to find some solutions. We also need to find out about the amnesty programme and find out to what extent we have kept faith with it especially as it relates to those communities. Whatever the reasons are, engagement is keen, negotiation is keen, policing is keen and throwing economic palliative to those sectors is also keen.”

On the need to privatise the nation’s refineries, he hinted that government would be left with no option to take the measure after fixing the refineries in accordance with the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Kachikwu, who doubles as the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) stated that such decision would rest squarely on the shoulders of the Federal Executive Council to take in due course.

Also yesterday, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Brigadier-General Paul Boroh, admonished youths in the region to embrace government’s clean-up exercise in Ogoni land and the job opportunities it offers rather than resort to violence and vandalism.

Boroh said, in a speech to mark the Adaka Boro Day, that it was better for the youths to cooperate with government and the various programmes it is implementing through various agencies, stressing that the Niger Delta did not need avengers.

The amnesty boss reasoned that with the low oil price and the discovery of petroleum in other parts of the country, less attention might be paid to the Niger Delta in the face of vandalism. He enjoined the youths to emulate Adaka Boro whom he said died fighting for a united Nigeria.

May 16th is the day of celebration of the late Niger Delta leader, Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro, the legend of the Niger Delta struggle.

“He was unique; when it was time for agitation, he agitated, when it was the season for protests, he led it, and when he thought the times called for armed struggle, he established the Ijaw Volunteer Force to prosecute it. However when it was time to lay down his arms, he did, was tried and got amnesty.

“For him, the amnesty was a bond to maintain peace, and he never again picked up the gun to fight his country. When he did pick up the gun, it was at the prompting of the Federal Government which was fighting a war to keep Nigeria united. He fought as a Major in the Army, and when death came, it met him at his duty post defending his country,” Gen. Boroh said.

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