Port Harcourt — An Ijaw leader, Udengs Eradiri, says the same approach adopted by the Federal Government in Zamfara State to give the locals an opportunity to benefit from their gold resources should be extended to the people of the Niger Delta region.
To this end, the former President of the Ijaw Youths Council, has tasked Governor Nyesom Wike to apply caution in his fight against artisanal oil refining activities in Rivers State, warning that adopting force to stop illegal refining may lead to another cycle of armed struggle in the region.
Eradiri, who called for the use of ‘carrot and stick’ approach in addressing the issue, urged Governor Wike to work with the Federal Government to extend the Zamfara approach to the region, as youths engaged in the illegal refining activities for survival, might take up arms and fight back.
The former IYC leader recalled that banditry in Zamfara State started when the government adopted a wrong approach to dislodge hungry youths from gold mining sites.
Eradiri said the problem later came under control when reasons prevailed and the government decided to set up a committee to harmonise gold mining licenses for Zamfara locals, under the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Initiative, PAGMI.
He said economic exclusion, hunger, unemployment, high cost of petroleum products, the supply-demand gap of products, caused by dysfunctional government-owned refineries, were responsible for the establishment of illegal oil refineries.
“The Governor of Rivers State has demonstrated courage in declaring this war against illegal bunkering and crude cooking of crude oil to protect the people he had sworn to govern.
“I, however, appeal to him to exercise caution because the problem has grown beyond imagination following the myriads of youths involved in it.
“It has now become a cartel and it requires strategic engagement to dismantle it without creating another cycle of violence in the region.
“I appeal to the governor to work with the Federal Government because the government has already set up a committee to harmonise the issues in the region.”
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