Okoh urges Niger Delta avengers to embrace dialogue
The Primate of the Church of All Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, has condemned the continued vandalisation of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta region of the country, urging the Niger Delta Avengers to cease hostility against government and embrace dialogue in the interest of the country.
He also urged the Federal Government to seek collaboration with host communities in its efforts to secure the pipelines.
Speaking at the Third Session of the Ninth Synod of the Diocese of Abuja, Okoh noted that Nigeria was having too many battles to fight at the same time.
He urged all those involved in the vandalisation of oil pipelines to desist no matter what may have been their reason.
The Primate also called on the Federal Government to take urgent steps to address the menace of armed herdsmen who go about killing innocent citizens, destroying farmlands and raping women.
He noted that the notorious activities of the herdsmen threaten the peace and already fragile unity of the country, stressing that this could drag the nation into another civil war if not addressed.
He kicked against plans by the government to create grazing reserves for herdsmen across the country and called on the National Assembly to drop the Grazing Reserve Bill, saying it was already heating up the polity and could create more conflicts.
Okoh said: “The Synod hereby states unequivocally that the move to create grazing reserves for Fulani herdsmen around the country does not have our support.
“This is because the move treats a set of people with unwarranted special preference, making them indigenes of all regions of the country.
“More so, they are private businessmen who take away all proceeds of the business, not sharing with either their host communities or government.
“We wish to re-echo to the Federal Government, states and individuals involved, the recommendation already made earlier, that ranches should be built in their own localities for modern animal husbandry.
“In some parts of Nigeria, people are already grappling with high population growth and land does not expand in any guise. Families are fighting themselves over land, brothers are fighting brothers; now if you bring an external person to come and take a large chunk of it, then those people will perish.”
The cleric appealed to the Federal Government to come up with a policy to deliberately disarm the herdsmen, warning that there would be emergence of militia groups in all regions of the country in a bid to resist them.
He added: “What constitutional right do herdsmen have to bear arms that other Nigerians don’t have. What if these communities besieged by herdsmen go ahead to acquire arms to fight back? To avoid such situation, the Synod is calling on the Federal Government to urgently take steps to deal with this herdsmen menace.
“The President has ordered a crackdown on rampaging herdsmen. We hope that this order will be carried out to a logical conclusion.”
On the rescue of two of the missing Chibok girls, Okoh commended the efforts of security operatives, while charging them to ensure that all of them are recovered.
“Thank God, the President has promised that effort will be made to support the young woman to raise the baby. But more than that, we want all the people to be recovered, so that their parents will know that they are not dead, and those who are dead they will also know,” he said.
The cleric insisted that “as long as the Chibok girls remain missing the promise of security will remain a mockery.”
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