Prominent Niger Delta activist and Executive Secretary of the United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy, Tony Uranta, has said President Muhammadu Buhari is listening to wrong people on issues concerning Niger Delta region.
Uranta spoke on Thursday at an Ijaw Youth Council event to mark Major Isaac Adaka Boro’s anniversary, held in Effurun, near Warri, Delta State.
He said the President has surround himself with people who have no interest of the region at heart.
He said some people around the President Buhari were toying and undermining the very critical issues of the Niger Delta, thus creating more crises in region.
Uranta said those claiming to know so much about the region were misleading Buhari and trying to return the region to the trenches because of their selfish interest.
He lamented that sycophants and political jobbers were the people Buhari is listening to to decide the fate of the deprived and marginalize people of the region.
Specifically, Uranta expressed disgust over the statement credited to the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, concerning the purported cancellation of the Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Warri South-West Council of Delta State, which he said has sent wrong signals about the Buhari administration and currently one of the vexed issues in the region.
Uranta said: “How can Amaechi make such a careless statement?
“I doubt if he actually canceled the University.
“He cannot do that.
“He has no justification whatsoever for doing that and I don’t think the institution is cancelled.
“But if it was in the public interest that he cancelled it, the way forward is for the Federal Government to come out and allay fears of the people.
“They have to reassure the people about these.
“They have to reassure the people that the Amnesty Programme is not ending as being speculated, otherwise they would end up in building an army of discontent youths who will turn against the government later because they were stopped half way in their educational programme.”
Uranta stressed that the Niger Delta struggle which was championed by the likes of Boro, had always been the struggle for self-emancipation of the Niger Delta people, adding that the issue still remains the sole reason for the re-emergence of the Niger Delta Avengers today.
He said: “Isaac Boro and Ken Saro-Wiwa died fighting for emancipation of the Niger Delta.
“Later we had Asari Dokubo and then Tompolo and others.
“But when Dokubo was taken out, his arrest led to new agitation, many more group arising and the Federal Government had to contend with them, leading to amnesty programme.
“Now Tompolo and more faces have come up.
“So the issue is not about the agitators but the fundamental problem of injustice, equity and development.
“We don’t need to go to the creeks to dialogue to stop pipeline attacks.
“All that is needed is action.
“Let all the template already laid down be visited for immediate action.”
According to Uranta, the panacea to true peace in the region is true federalism, stressing that government must restructure Nigeria to practice full federalism where justice, equity and the rule of law are sacrosanct.
He said: “We did not fight for amnesty but we have been fighting for true fiscal federalism for all regions.
“All regions must control their resources and look for ways to develop their regions themselves.
“Nigeria is what it is today because of the intervention of the military.”
Uranta however cautioned the Federal Government to stop using the military to intimidate the people of the region in the name of hunting for pipeline vandals, pointing out that at no time has the government replicated its deployment of troops to Boko Haram’s stronghold in the North.
He therefore called on the people of the Niger Delta region to change their tactical approach towards the struggle and adopt a strategic approach.
Speaking in the same vein, English-born Nigerian environmental and human rights activist, Annkio Briggs, said the agitation of the Niger Delta has been on since 1952 when a Niger Delta Development Plan was first presented to the British Government by the colonial government, but successive governments in Nigeria have always violated and raped the region with various interventionist agencies, which she noted were only set up to deceive the people and further rip off the region.
Briggs said: “The Niger Delta people have had their resources and political right taken away from them by oppressive Nigeria governments and made to beg for crumbs.
“But there comes a time in any situation when it is right to say Enough is Enough…
“This is such a time for us in the Niger Delta.
“The time to stand firm and demand for self-determination.”
Briggs said what the Niger Delta region has been agitating about over the years is self-determination as recognized by the African Charter and the United Nations.
She said self-determination, which the Niger Delta forebears have been agitating about since amalgamation, creation and independence of Nigeria is not automatic secession but for the region to exclusively exercise its rights to choose the way it is governed, to own and control its resources.
She said: “Self determination is our inalienable right to freely determine our political status, pursue our economic, social, cultural and religious development.
“We are advocating for a non-violent agitation because we know that the world today is better governed by superior knowledge, logic, propositions and intellectual capacity.”
Briggs said she cannot be forced to condemn the said militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers, that she doesn’t know anything about.
She said their agitation was along the same issues they had been canvassing for years.
She however said for the sake of peace in the region, those who claim to know the Avengers should bring them out for dialogue, adding that the region is so violated and raped that calling her people Avengers because they are agitating for their right is injustice and oppressive.
Earlier, the President of the IYC Worldwide, Comrade Udengs Eradiri, said there is no militant group called Niger Delta Avengers anywhere in the region.
Eradiri called on the Nigeria Government to settle the issue of underdevelopment in the region and militancy in the region will be a thing of the past.
Eradiri, who set the ball rolling on the theme: “The Ideals of Adaka Boro and Renewed Militancy in the Niger Delta Region: The way forward,” said the renewed attacks on oil facilities was as a result of long years of neglect of the Niger Delta region by successive governments.
Eradiri said no amount of dialogue would end the intermittent pipeline attacks and youths violence in the region if the Federal Government fails to address issues of equity and development of the region.
According to him, the new militant group that is now blowing up oil facilities were following the footsteps of their predecessors because successive governments have failed to address the core issues, noting that the fight against injustice in the Niger Delta since the time of Boro was still the same now.
The IYC leader warned President Buhari not to contemplate arresting former President Goodluck Jonathan over probe of alleged fraud in the last administration under Jonathan’s watch.
He said if the anti-corruption war must be taken serious, the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government must not limit its probe to the Jonathan administration.
He said such probes should cover the years of Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Bahamas Babangida and other former Heads of State.
He said questioning just Jonathan would be vehemently resisted.
While noting that the Niger Delta region had lost power at the national level, Eradiri said that the IYC was the only group standing to agitate about the Niger Delta underdevelopment because the issues of the region affect all the various ethnic nationalities in the region in different forms and the case of the Ijaws is more pathetic.
He warned the Federal Government to stop playing politics with the issue of the Niger Delta struggle and face the critical issues raised by the Niger Delta Avengers and other ex-agitators.
He said if the Federal Government does not address the issues on ground, more agitators like the Niger Delta Avengers will continue to spring up in the region.
The IYC President called for the immediate reestablishment of the Maritime University located at Okerenkoko by the Federal Government and announce a date for the take off of the school, adding that this would be the first step to the cessation of hostilities in the region.
He advocated for the legalization of illegal refineries, which, according to him, had created jobs for the unemployed youths in the region in the past, adding that unemployment and proliferation of arms had also contributed to the taking up of arms against the Federal Government.