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Despite the Federal Government’s decision to de-escalate (reduce) military operations in the Niger Delta communities, military personnel will still remain on the region’s waterways.This was one of the decisions reached at a meeting Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo had with the nation’s service chiefs and governors of oil-producing states on Tuesday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The meeting was called to discuss the renewed attacks and destruction of oil facilities by militants in the Niger Delta, which had crippled crude oil production and power supply.
Governors, who attended the meeting, are Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta); Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom); Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia); Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa); Adams Oshiomhole (Edo); and Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo).
Cross River State was represented by the deputy governor while the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu; the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usoro Uguru; and the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, also attended.
At the end of the meeting, Okowa addressed State House correspondents.
The governor said while the military would reduce its presence in communities, the waterways would be properly manned.
He said the process of consultation with the people of the area would start immediately.
“We have also agreed that there is a need to distil military operations directly in communities, but the military needs to actually remain on our waterways to ensure that we adequately man the waterways itself, while we engage the communities and that engagement process is starting any moment from now,” he said.
Describing the meeting as a fruitful one, Okowa said the forum identified synergy between the Federal Government and the state governments as very important.
He stated that while the meeting raised a lot of issues, it was resolved that the collaboration would help to tackle the issues in the Niger Delta.
The governor added that having been briefed by the service chiefs as well as contributions of the governors and Kachikwu, decisions that would mitigate the situation in the areas, particularly Bayelsa and Delta states, were taken.
Okowa, who believed that a lasting solution would be found, said the Presidential Amnesty Programme had not been stopped.
“I think the process is still ongoing, we have a Special Adviser in charge of Amnesty and he is doing very well.
“I am aware that he did come to talk with some of the communities and along with the advocacy team that was set up in Delta State. He did brief us today and I believe it is going to be maintained,” he said.
Oshiomhole later told reporters that despite the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers, Nigeria was not at war.
“Nigeria is not at war and we cannot be at war with ourselves. If we have conflicts, we will talk through those conflicts. There are laws that have to be enforced.
“I think that in all of these, the whole idea is to find peace that is functional, that creates environment for very decent Nigerians to live their lives,” he said.
The governor said all of them at the meeting agreed that they should work together to refocus on development, economic, military and community issues.
He also said the amnesty programme was still ongoing.
He said, “I believe the government recognises that the amnesty programme has to be sustained but also we can improve on it because we have trained people.
“People have been sent for training and they have come back and they should be able to apply those skills.”
Meanwhile, the United States Government has expressed worries over the resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta.
The US, however, expressed support for President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in resolving the crisis in the region.
“The United States Mission to Nigeria is monitoring reports of attacks and other incidents in the Niger Delta. We share the concerns of all Nigerians about these attacks.
“Furthermore, the United States remains supportive of efforts, including the promotion of dialogue, to address grievances in the Niger Delta,” it said in a statement on Tuesday by its embassy in Nigeria.
It urged the Federal Government and Niger Delta militants to resolve their disputes through peaceful means, adding that human rights of all Nigerians must be protected.”
Also, a former Director at the Defence Headquarters, Brig.-Gen. Ayodele Ojo (retd.), has called on the Federal Government to consider the underlying factors responsible for the resurgence of violence in the Niger Delta.
“For an appropriate response by the Federal Government to the activities of the Joint Niger Delta Force and the Niger Delta Avengers and any other militant groups that might come up, since there seems to be no end to the formation of militant groups in Niger Delta, there is a need for the government to look deeper for the real reason behind this current agitations,” the former DHQ director said.
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He told one of our correspondents that Buhari should look in the direction of the country’s major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, for a solution to the crisis.
Ojo added, “It seems to me that as part of the PDP strategy to frustrate the All Progressives Congress government after losing at the centre was to ensure that none of the oil-producing states is won by the APC. It was therefore not a coincidence that PDP won all the oil-producing states governorship elections except Edo State.
“Following from this analysis, my suggestion to the Federal Government is to hold the state governors in that region responsible for militant activities in their domains. There is no way a state governor, who is the chief security officer of his state, will claim not to know those behind the formation of these militant groups when they are not ghosts.”