…As Nobel Laureate, Soyinka, appeals for dialogue
26 August 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Traditional rulers and stakeholders from the Niger Delta region yesterday listed conditions they said the federal government should fulfil in order to stop further destruction of the country’s oil assets by militants and restore peace in the region.
King Jaja of Opobo, Douglas Jaja, was among prominent rulers in the region who met with the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Kachikwu, in Abuja to present their demands.
The Niger Delta Coastal States’ monarchs and stakeholders in the region called on the federal government to urgently constitute a dialogue team to negotiate on its behalf with stakeholders in the region.
In their submission presented by Chief Wellington Okirika, the Bolowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, the monarchs asked for the release of 10 school children they said were arrested by the Nigerian Army on May 28, 2016, in Oporoza and others in detention.
Other conditions, as contained in a letter by the traditional leaders obtained by our correspondent, include, “Return the Golden Sword, being the symbol of authority in the Gbaramatu traditional institution; return the three traditional council speed boats in the custody of the Nigerian Army, and cease military hostilities in the Niger Delta region.
“Equally important, the federal government should make a categorical statement about the opening of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko Delta State for academic activities in the 2016/2017 session,” they noted.
Kachikwu, in his response, said what was more important was that the ceasefire must hold.
“I was told, and I have not verified it, that in fact, on Monday, a day after the announcement, we had an attack on Nembe Creek, and we lost another 150,000 barrels and some gas from the Agip facility. So there are still some splinter elements who despite the ceasefire, continue to attack the efficacy of that ceasefire,” he said.
Kachikwu disclosed that over $40 billion had been put into the Niger Delta region but there was no infrastructure to relay such investment.
The minister lamented that the government could no longer fund the 2016 budget due to the crisis in the region which had led to a significant drop in Nigeria’s crude oil output to about 1.3million barrels per day, in addition to the falling crude oil price.
Meanwhile, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to hearken to the agitations of Niger Delta militant groups, who have had to resort to insurgency and bombing of the oil pipeline in recent months.
Soyinka, who made the call while addressing journalists at the launch of Study Abroad in Lebanon (SAIL) initiative yesterday, said he was recently contacted to play an interventionist role in the crisis rocking the oil-producing region, appealed to Buhari to show more commitment that would bring about lasting solution.
“I wish to make an appeal to the government to respond to the outrage of the militant groups. That was a request being made by some of the groups, who got me into this interventionist role in the first place.
“At the moment, they feel the government of President Buhari is not seriously responding to their outrage. And I wish to personally appeal to the government to positively respond and lets us see where it ends us,” Soyinka said.
The Nobel Laureate was, however, quick to debunk the insinuation that he was actually working with some international organizations to get the crisis resolved, insisting that so far, he has been acting in his capacity as an individual interventionist.