Tony Ita-Etim, Port Harcourt
Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, has put Ijaw leaders to task over the increasing wave of militancy and vandalisation of oil facilities in Ijawland.
Semenitari gave the task when leaders of the Ijaw National Congress, INC, paid her a courtesy visit at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, Tuesday.
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer charged the Ijaw leaders to make efforts to stem the rising tide of militancy in the Niger Delta.
According to her, “It is in our own interest. We are not talking about the benefits that accrue to us as a country but the benefits that accrue to us as people from the region. Even the Commission can only thrive if we are able to provide oil because our funding as a Commission comes from derivation. So it is only to the extent to which oil is being sold that the NDDC can continue to operate.
“It is only to the extent that Nigeria earns revenue that the budget of the NDDC will be funded, it is only to the extent that that happens, that we can develop the region and pay contractors or even take care of some of the community social responsibilities that we get involved in. And so if there is no money in the kitty, then everybody suffers but it is worse for us because if we continue to pollute our region, then we cannot even grow anything to eat.”
Semenitari charged the INC leaders to engage the youths and get them to understand that we could no longer continue on the path of violence. She said: “We will like to encourage you, as you engage our brothers and sisters to remind them that the price of peace is not something that any of us will find too costly to pay because if there is peace, then there will be investments.”
She observed that: “Businesses are disappearing from the Niger Delta in droves because nobody wants to do business in a hostile environment. It is not just that the environment is volatile, but it is also hostile. And so as leaders and opinion molders in the region, we must wake up; we must begin to talk to our children because until we do so, all of us will suffer phenomenal losses.”
Semenitari underscored the need to grow human capacity in the region to support the quest for viable alternatives to oil. She noted that the region was once an economic belt that flourished without oil. “We had rubber, we had palm. So we must begin to think of economic life without oil. We have the intellectual capacity.
“As a socio-cultural organisation, the INC must begin to bring back that candle and tell our sons and daughters that there is no life without education. It is the only way; we must restore our values. We cannot be defined by criminality and violence. That story must change”, she emphasized..
She assured that President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to ensuring peace and security in the Niger Delta region.
Semenitari noted President Buhari’s love for Ijaw people and Niger Delta in general, stating that they would continue to benefit from government like other Nigerians.
She continued that the President’s commitment to the region manifested in the recent commencement of the clean-up of the region starting with Ogoni land. According to her, “the mantra is that we clean up and we stay clean. This government does not want us to suffer the effects of pollution in our region and it is determined to compel every polluter to pay for their action.
“We have a Government that is clearly interested in the matters that affect the region. Let me also say that in terms of his commitment to NDDC, President Buhari has been very consistent and has made it clear that his mandate to us is that we must deliver development in the region, He is averse to sloppiness. He is unwilling for us to behave as if we do not understand the pains of the people of the region and so I would like to reassure you of the President’s commitment to your concerns as a socio-cultural organisation”, Semenitari maintained.
Earlier, INC President, Barrister Boma Obouforibo, disclosed that the Ijaw group was currently involved in far-reaching and ground-breaking negotiations to address the restiveness in the Niger Delta, and the destruction of oil installations that have led to a drain on the Nigerian economy.
He lamented that the various activities had placed a huge financial burden on the organisation, stalling its activities and structures. He, therefore, appealed to the NDDC for financial support to strengthen the administrative facilities of the body.
Obouforibo pledged that the INC would continue to carry out the activities that unite the ethnic nationality by organizing meetings, congresses and consultative forums, especially “in these trying and difficult times that called for engagement and the peaceful resolution of the Niger Delta crisis.”
He noted that INC is an umbrella organization of all Ijaw, represented the interest of Ijaw spread across 78 clans in six states of Nigeria; namely, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Ondo and Edo states.
The INC President recalled “we have in the past enjoyed a cordial relationship with the NDDC in terms of facilitating our numerous activities as well as supporting our structures. We had also benefited financially from other organizations in the Niger Delta region.”
“Our activities have traversed socio-cultural activities that showcase the enormous cultural diversity of the Ijaw to engaging in peace and security in the Niger Delta. In this regard, we have been at the vanguard of providing intellectual discourse on Ijaw issues and the effect of oil production in the Niger Delta.”