I appeal to Niger Delta Avengers to sustain peace — His Royal Majesty Charles Ayemi-Botu
• Wants Govt To Be More Realistic In Its Approach To Peace Negotiation
On Saturday, January 20, 2018, the quiet Okpokunou town in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State played host to a large crowd made up of first-class traditional rulers and top government functionaries across the country. The ancient town is the ancestral home of His Royal Majesty Charles Ayemi-Botu, who turned 70 on that day and marked 24 years on the throne of Seimbiri Kingdom.
The town and all adjoining villages were agog, as dignitaries arrived at the venue of the event in a large number, especially traditional rulers drawn mainly from Delta, Bayelsa and River States.
The carnival-like three-day event, which climaxed on Saturday, brought out the best in the drummers and dancers from Seimbiri Kingdom, who welcomed dignitaries with enchanting music and captivating dance steps. It was, indeed, the rich Ijaw musical tradition and culture on display. The sonorous renditions won hearts and gladdened the souls of the visitors and residents who graced the occasion.
A day before the event, President Muhammadu Buhari in a congratulatory message entitled “President Buhari Felicitates With King Charles Ayemi-Botu” and signed by Chief Femi Adesina, Senior Special Adviser, Media, had praised HRH Charles Ayemi-Botu for his courage, diligence and care for his domain and humanity, which earned him the appellation of ‘Lion of the Niger.’
The president saluted the king for his visionary, reconciliatory and selfless leadership styles of always looking at the big picture of national unity and encouraging all his subjects to uphold and project patriotism in all their endeavours.
“As His Majesty turns a septuagenarian, President Buhari believes the wealth of wisdom and experience he has acquired, working as the former National Chairman of Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria (TROMPCON) and serving as the National Leader of Pan Niger Delta People’s Congress, would be most useful in fostering peace and stability in the region, and the development of the nation,” the statement said.
Immediately after the event, Palace Watch had the following interview with the king:
Sir, how do you feel today?
I feel very, very elated with Mr. President for the personal congratulatory message he sent to me. However, I must give God the glory, honour and perpetual adoration; for if not for the Lord, I would not have been given this type of recognition by a sitting president.
This is an attestation to the fact that my efforts, when I had to crisscross the Niger Delta creeks, trying my very best to broker peace in the region, interfacing with almost all the crude oil-bearing communities alongside all multi-national oil companies, when the youths of this region decided to go up in arms against the government is at least recognised by the government. I did all that at my personal risk, as I had no security whatsoever, just to ensure that the required peaceful atmosphere existed for crude oil activities to go on in the Niger Delta region.
I must, therefore, thank President Muhammadu Buhari, Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa alongside others for this honour and recognition.
“I am also seizing this opportunity to appeal to the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) to sustain the existing peace, so as not to bring our sons and daughters to death and not to further pollute the region. Whatever the grievances they might be having, they need to give room for matters to be resolved amicably. If pipelines are destroyed, no matter how genuine the grievances might be, the adverse effect of pollution will be here for us to deal with. Unfortunate deaths caused by cancer and water-borne diseases, which are on the rise in this part of the county, are as a result of actions like this which must not be allowed to continue, if not for any other reasons but for our people’s safety.
The Niger Delta region and its people have already suffered enough. And we should not do anything to add to the suffering. The exploration of crude oil has brought about lots of suffering. You need to visit these areas when it rains. You will be shocked at the colour of water that will be coming out of the ground. The dust our people inhale daily from flared gas has resulted in all manner of sickness and deaths, and nobody is doing anything about all these problems. So, we cannot and should not allow the situation to be aggravated.
In view of the above situation, I would appeal to the Nigerian government to immediately go into dialogue with these boys. Although we have been dialoguing, nothing serious seems to have come out of these meetings. It is sad that after meeting and dialoguing with us, the Federal Government goes to sleep once the oil starts flowing again. This approach to peace is never good enough. I am, therefore, appealing to both sides, especially the Nigerian government to note that 2018 is not 2017 or 2016. What is required now for the boys to be calm is prompt and immediate action on the Federal Government’s part.
The Nigerian government should be more realistic in its approach to the peace negotiation. On October 10 and 17 last year, I was with the Presidency, and had the opportunity of presenting a blueprint on what to do in the Niger Delta region. During that meeting, I made it very clear what they need to do to fast-track development in this region. Although some bookings were made, I could not meet with the president and I was never sent for thereafter.
In my proposal, I made it clear that the president should either convene or convoke an economic summit in the Niger Delta region, which will comprise federal and state governments, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Ministry of Niger Delta, the Ministry of Environment, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) alongside all major oil companies operating in the region and Nigeria, as well as local operators in the oil sectors.
Presently, there are some multi-national companies that are prepared to help harness into proper use the gas we are flaring day and night in this part. All this will be done once proper structures are put in place by government and all the stakeholders in the region. These multi-national companies are willing and ready to do what they have to do to harness the abundant gas in the Niger Delta to provide uninterrupted power supply in this part, as well as bring about massive employment of our youths and economic turnaround in the region, once they have the Federal Government’s consent and readiness to partner them.
Also, these companies are ready to use highly sophisticated electronic devices to monitor all crude oil pipelines in the region. This will of course make it very difficult for people to continue to steal crude oil, as they are doing now. It is no secret that the security personnel deployed to monitor these pipelines are doing sharp business with crude oil thieves and in the process, making lots of money that should have gone into Federal Government’s coffers. Once these arrangements commence, we will be able to set up what will be known as the Niger Delta Costal Guard (NDCG) similar to what we have in the U.S.
This body will recruit men and women from this region, who will help police the coastal areas of the Niger Delta belt for effective economic results. The responsibility of this new body, among other things, will be to ensure that pipeline vandalisation; illegal bunkering and crude oil theft are effectively monitored and stopped forthwith. When this is done, the issue of militants through which billions of naira are presently being siphoned from the Federal Government’s purse will be tackled once and for all, as most of them will be absorbed into this new system.
Also, the chairman of the occasion, Bishop Hyacinth Egbebo, said: “It is about time the Nigerian government stopped paying lip service to the numerous problems on ground in the Niger Delta region. If the Federal Government could approve one billion U.S. dollars to tackle the problems in the North East, what stopped them from doing the same for Niger Delta? There is no gainsaying that almost all the infrastructures in this region are in bad shape and in deficit. The underdevelopment in the region is disheartening.”