13 May 2013, Yenagoa – Youths in the Niger Delta under the auspices of the Ijaw People Development Initiative, IPDI, have called on the Federal Government to accept the call by oil bunkerers and illegal refinery operators in the region for amnesty.
This is the outcome of a meeting at the weekend in Yenagoa, where they claimed that illegal refinery operators were not oil thieves as claimed but businessmen providing employment for youths in the region.
The meeting, which was convened by Comrade Ozobo Austin, National President of the Ijaw People Development Initiative, IPDI, also urged the release of over 257 people arrested by the Joint Task Force and other security agencies for operating illegal refineries.
According to a release from the meeeting, the arrests would not end the operation of the over one million locally-operated refineries in the region but promote unemployment, violence and sea piracy.
“The Federal Government should seize this opportunity to end the oil theft and pipeline vandalism with the approval of the Amnesty request and the payment of empowerment and employment stipends to the operators and hundreds of youths involved in the alleged illicit trade.
“The decision, if accepted by the Federal Government should also involve the release of hundreds of members arrested by the Joint Task Force in the six states of the South South,” the release said.
It added: “We want to also frown at the military option against the operators instead the government should encourage the operators for generating employment for the common Nigerians which the country can not offer employment.”
According to the Niger Delta youths, the ‘local’ refinery operators were better off being granted amnesty than the Boko Haram Islamic sect.
In his opinion, Comrade Ozobo said: “There is the need for legal backing for the local refinery operators in the country.
“What we want the federal government to do is to critically examine such refineries with a view to making use of them to meet the country need of refined petroleum products.
“This meeting became imperative due to the looming dangers on the continued military attacks on the self employed persons and the reverse effects of the the precarious impeding hunger among the operators whose-livelihood is being destroyed.”