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FG-Ijaw Talks Spark Ethnic Tension In Niger Delta

Jun 19, 2016

*Urhobo, Isoko leaders accuse FG of succumbing to
Ijaw blackmail
*I wish government good luck—Kokori
•Negotiation is encouraging criminality in Niger Delta Idiovwa
•Delta govt calls emergency security meeting over
fresh threats
A large number of Niger Delta stakeholders are not impressed by federal government’s ongoing negotiation with Ijaw militants from which other ethnic groups in the geo-political zone are excluded.

The talks are aimed at ending the continuous destruction
of oil/gas installations by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA)
which has brought oil production to about 1.2million barrels per day with severe consequences for the economy.

Notable Urhobo and Isoko leaders in Delta State, say the one-sided negotiation will only create more problems than
it is seeking to solve.

They are of the view that government should treat the Avengers and others damaging the economy as criminals and not negotiate with them.

The negotiation, it is feared, largely fueled the recent emergence of a militant group in Delta -Utorogu Liberation
Movement – which threatened to blow up the strategic Utorogu Gas Plant and other assets under Oil Mining

Lease, OML 34 in the state.

Frontline activist and one-time Secretary-General of the
Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers
(NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori, said he expected those
involved in the destruction of the nation’s assets to be
treated as criminals.

The Urhobo and Isoko, speaking through the chairman of
OML 30 Community Development Board (CBD), Morris
Idiovwa, warned the federal government against dialoguing with those destroying oil and gas assets in the name of the Niger Delta as doing so could only degenerate into a fresh round of ethnic wars in the region.

Some ex-militants, under the third phase of the federal government amnesty programme, who are of Urhobo stock threatened to also destroy critical oil and gas assets in their area if that is what would get them federal government’s attention as the Ijaw groups have done.

The Delta State government, reacting to the threat to blow
up the Utorogu Gas Plant, convened an emergency security
meeting in Jeremi, the headquarters of Ughelli South
council area of the state on Thursday.

Asked to comment on the reported negotiation between the federal government and some Ijaw militants, Chief Kokori, who is also a leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Delta State said: “Have they started negotiating with them? I wish them well if they have identified the right people, but to me I regard people who damage federal infrastructure as criminals.

“I don’t know who they are discussing with and I don’t know the type of negotiation they are holding, but I wish them good luck.”

For his part, Idiovwa, said the Urhobo who are the largest
ethnic group, and the Isoko have more critical facilities in
their localities than the Ijaw, who he said seemed to have
blackmailed the federal government to talk to them by destroying the few assets in their own part of the state.
He said:”What we have been seeing in Delta State is terrifying; especially in the way a single ethnic nationality is
taking over the identity of the entire Niger Delta. What is
happening is outright criminality and we, as the largest
ethnic group in Delta state, are not in support of this.

“We have never been criminals and we don’t want to be criminals. We believe the best way to approach issues is dialogue. But with what we are seeing now, the intelligence
we are gathering and what is in the media, a set of people decided to take up arms and disrupt the existing peace in the Niger Delta region because of their selfish interest.

“The federal government has already started inciting an ethnic crisis in Delta state because as we speak now, we have been receiving series of mails, SMS and calls from different regions and groups in Urhobo and Isoko.

“My office is responsible for ensuring safety of life and property here and if the people are aware that the same advantage they have, in terms of assets and production, is what some people in another part are using to get the federal government to come to negotiate with them, because those people have taken to arms struggle and are destroying the assets in their areas, what would you expect from those who have been law abiding, calm and watched over the facilities in their domain?
“So you want to disregard them because they have not taken up arms. This is one move we will resist.

“Government should tread carefully. We are not in support
of any criminality by any set of people. We have not mandated Egbesu to negotiate for us, we have not mandated the Avengers, MEND, JNDLF or IYC to negotiate for us. We have not mandated any group to negotiate for the Urhobo or Isoko.
“We are standing on our own and we are telling the federal
government that whatever is done for any group should be
replicated across the entire Niger Delta states or host communities that are producing, otherwise the outcome
will be disastrous.”
Also speaking in Ughelli for members of the third phase of
the Amnesty Programme in Urhobo, ‘General’ Gabriel Ogbuge said: “We have been shortchanged and sidelined.
What the federal government is doing is very bad. We have
all those facilities here, but government has never thought
of coming here to hear from us.
“We have been peaceful only because of the efforts of
some of our leaders. If not we know what we need to do to
get their attention; we have the capacity to inflict the kind
of damage the Avengers are inflicting, and remember that
more facilities are here.”We see dialogue as a better option and that’s why we have been listening to our leaders. If the federal government wants peace they should do the right thing, and not force us to do what the Avengers are now doing.”
To forestall the festering security crisis in Delta State, the
state government convened a security council meeting on
Thursday to discuss the new threats surfacing in the Urhobo areas of the state.
Chairman, Ughelli South Council, Paul Etaga, presided at
the meeting.
In attendance were oil host community heads and security
Reviewing the meeting, Etaga said: “From preliminary
intelligence report, the group raising the threat are external forces working with some internal collaborators.
They gave OML 34 stakeholders, especially community people 14 days to leave the operating environment so that
when they come for the attack they won’t be hurt; that they
want to come and destroy the gas plant. With that
information, the governor immediately directed that I should call an emergency security meeting. The governor is aware and they are putting up measures in place for protection of life and property.”

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