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‘Govt must identify genuine leaders in Niger Delta and work with them’


Comrade Paul Bebenimibo

Comrade Paul Bebenimibo

Comrade Paul Bebenimibo is a Media Consultant and Human Rights Activist. He serves as Chief Press Secretary to CGovernment Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo. In this exclusive interview with OBIRE ONAKEMU, he spoke on the return of militants in the Niger Delta region.

What are the implications of the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta region?
It is not a good thing for our country now as far as the numerous economic and security challenges are concerned, especially from the North Eastern part of the country. It will certainly impact negatively on the dwindling economy.

What do you make of President Buhari’s crackdown order on the Niger-Delta Avengers?
As the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is expected of the President to declare war on the Niger Delta Avengers, but there is need for him to take along some stakeholders from the region to investigate the reason for the renewed hostilities.

What similarities and differences do you make of the Niger-Delta Avengers (NDA) and the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND)?
The activities of the Niger Delta Avengers are still hazy, therefore it is difficult for one to point out the similarities and differences of the group and the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). However, the players in MEND were well-known persons with clear motive of struggling for a better living for the people.

In what ways can maximum peace be entrenched in the Niger-Delta?
The APC-led administration must identify genuine leaders of the Niger Delta region and work with such people irrespective of party affiliation. There are so many pretenders and self-centred persons parading themselves as leaders. Such ones do not have anything to offer, except to work for their pockets. The Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko should be made to commence academic activities as such action will guaranty peace because many people are looking towards the commencement of activities at the University. There will certainly be employment and business opportunities if the school starts now.

In what appears to be a well-coordinated renewed attack on the oil facilities in the Niger Delta by the so-called Niger Delta Avengers, what do you think is really the motive behind their action?
As I pointed out earlier on, the motive of the NDA is still hazy, and so it is difficult to make comments on their motive.
Why the attacks on oil installations within Tompolo’s enclave in Gbaramatu Kingdom?
It is very unfortunate. The group do not realise that the oil facilities do not belong to Tompolo. I wonder why the group directed their anger at Tompolo when he is not the owner of the oil facilities. It is more or less a misplaced anger. They need to have a rethink over their actions.

The NDA has stressed its determination to deal a deadly blow on oil and gas production in Nigeria. How do you see this threat?
It is worrisome as their actions are putting more pressure on the depreciating economy and security situation in the country.

The group has warned Niger Delta politicians, traditional rulers, community leaders, and the likes of Tompolo to mind their business and leave the liberation of the Niger Delta people to the Avengers. How do you react to this?
One thing the group should realise is that only one person or group cannot solve the problems in the Niger Delta region. The group needs other stakeholders in the region to articulate the position of the region at any time.

The federal government has just disclosed that it had commenced the process of setting up a trust fund for the Niger Delta, and expressed a resolve to leave no stone unturned in ensuring a structured and sustained development of the region. How do you see to this?
The truth of the matter is that the people of the region are tired of promises. They see most of such promises as mere rhetoric. There is urgent need to do something in the region to bring development and peace.

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