National President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Pereotubo Rowland Oweilaemi, Esq., in this interview by EBENEZER ADUROKIYA interrogated some pressing national issues and particularly a comment credited to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr Mohammed Adamu, who equated the amnesty granted militants in the Niger Delta to the ongoing negotiations with killer bandits in Zamfara and Katsina states. Excerpts:
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Mohammed Adamu, recently at a security meeting in Abuja, compared the negotiations the Federal Government had with Niger Delta militants during the time of late President Umaru Yar ‘Adua to the one ongoing with killer-bandits in parts of North West. Do you think there was any reason for this comparison between militants and bandits?
The IGP is only trying to be economical with the truth. Niger Delta agitation is different from the agitations in the Northern part of the country. Militants in our region only fought for economic-cum-political rights, against underdevelopment and criminal marginalisation in the midst of abundance. We provide the wealth that is feeding the nation but we are not benefiting from it.
The world knows that our people have genuine case to revolt against the government. It is reasonable and justifiable to negotiate with such a person. The people had clear objectives. Even when those objectives are yet to be implemented, the mere fact that the Federal Government has appealed to them to lay down their sword, they surrendered their arms to the government.
There is no single correlation between the security situations in the North and that of the Niger Delta. None of the bandits terrorising the North West or the supremacist Fulani herdsmen has given any justifiable reason why they are killing innocent Nigerians with impunity. The IGP is only making mockery of our collective emancipation struggle by comparing world-acclaimed terrorists to the Niger Delta agitators, who were fighting for a justifiable cause.
In the case of the Niger Delta, negotiation was the best method if the government wanted to achieve peace and it has gotten the desired peace the moment the dialogue option was employed.
To resolve the Niger Delta crisis, it is a matter of give and take. You know what the people want. Grant them their demands and let peace reign. We are not rebels whether you accept this fact or not. Our people are freedom fighters who were only fighting to liberate the region from political-cum-economic colony of the Nigerian government and the multinational oil companies. Why should such a people be compared with the activities of bandits or terrorists who have no clear objectives in waging a genocidal jihad against law-abiding Nigerians?
What’s your take on the claim by the IGP that the crime rate in the country had dropped “drastically” in the third quarter of the year, when compared with the second quarter?
I don’t know the statistic the IGP used to measure crime rates in the country. As far as Nigerians are concerned, the crime rate in the country is on a steady increase. As we speak now, federal highways such as Warri to Port Harcourt in the East West Road, Benin to Lagos, Kaduna to Abuja, Benin to Abuja, etc are death traps to road users. Commuters are being robbed of their belongings at gun point while others are kidnapped on a daily basis.
Up till now train is still the preferable and secured means of transportation by commuters along Kaduna-Abuja expressway because of the danger of kidnappers. The entire country is under siege by these men of the underworld. There is little effort the security agencies are committing to stem the tide. Nigeria is largely ravaged by insecurity. The IGP may talk of his record which is not truth-based, but I am speaking from the reality.
What do you make of the negotiations with bandits terrorising communities, by the Katsina and Zamfara state governments vis a vis the hounding of members of the Shi’ite Movement and #RevolutionNow?
Ordinarily, I would not have subscribed to the idea of negotiating with criminals, but security of a thing has a multidimensional approach. There is what we call carrot and stick approach. I think that is what the government is employing. There is nothing wrong with it if it will achieve peace.
In doing that, the government needs to be circumspect in order not to take wrong steps. We heard this government also negotiated with some Boko Haram members for the release of the kidnapped Chibok girls. The government struck a deal to release Boko Haram members in detention in exchange for the kidnapped girls. Unfortunately, most of those prisoners, after being released as part of the government’s bargain, later joined their colleagues again to wage was against Nigerians. The government should look at their intentions and the reason they’re terrorising the country. Of course, through dialogue, we can also achieve peace. That to me, is not cowardice. The governors of the various states in the North affected by bandits’ activities can negotiate with the boys. After all, southern states also employed that method to dialogue with cult boys, especially in Rivers State.
On the issue of Shi’ites, inasmuch as I condemn their violent protests, the government shares the bigger part of the blame. Buhari and his advisors are inviting anarchy to the land. I am afraid, the government is breeding another Boko Haram sect. The recent proscription of the group as a terrorist organisation will not still solve the problem. That decision may rather aggravate the issue.
The hounding of #RevolutionNow protesters to me is wrong. I have said it before. Nigeria is practising constitutional democracy and as such our constitution permits the right to peaceful assembly. If people call for revolution under these circumstances, to me, it is only telling the government to take drastic steps to address the lingering problems. Revolution, in this concept, means the government should not be seen cynical in addressing the problems of insecurity in the land, the dwindling economy as well as the growing hardship, which has reduced Nigeria to the world’s headquarter of poverty.
Mr. Omoyele Sowore and his group only called the government to action. Honestly, Buhari is being lukewarm to the myriad of problems ravaging the country under his watch. If some group of persons protest in order to draw his attention to the cries of Nigerians how does that one means a revolution to topple the government? The group only exercised their civil rights permitted by our constitution to draw government’s attention. Thank God, the court has ordered for his release. President Buhari should obey the court order and release Sowore immediately. He should rather channel his energy to address the problems confronting the country. Nigeria is bleeding and it needs serious clinical attention.
We read that the bandits during the negotiations made open confessions of the killings they carried out and submitted their arms to the governors as a mark of repentance. It was also reported that they, in turn, demanded the release of their colleagues by security agencies in exchange for captives in their custody and walk home free. What does this portend for the future of the country?
I have said this before. Some Boko Haram detainees released by the government in exchange for the kidnapped Chibok girls later went back to the trenches. If there is genuine commitment on both sides then I support the governors’ move.
There have been permutations suggesting that the core North is unwilling to relinquish power come 2023 at the expense of the South East that has been so relegated in the political equation of the country. What’s your take on this?
That will be political suicide. We know that the core North is seriously contemplating on retaining power come 2023. The reality is that they may achieve their objective because of the flawed political structures in the country. However, their ambitions will further divide the country along ethnic/religious lines. If we all value the unity of this country, I don’t think it’s proper to sideline and segregate some parts of the country in the affairs of governance. I am not a prophet, but I must say that this continued political apathy against the South East will definitely, one day, dismember this country. We are moving to the country’s wit end.
Why do Ijaw youths want the current head of the Federal Government’s Amnesty Programme removed and replaced?
I leave this question to those who have issues with the man. Charles Dokubo is a public office holder. People are free to allege anything against him as far as they have genuine case. The amnesty boss should not be afraid of critics if he has no skeleton in his cupboard. In my position as the IYC President, I cannot stop anybody from criticising public office holders just as I will not also advise anybody to fraudulently and mischievously carry out smear campaign against public office holders. Criticisms should be constructive and issue-based. I will rather say those alleging official corruption against Dokubo should channel their allegations to the appropriate quarters and prove same. Most of the allegations we read online, to me, are mere media trials originated from court of public opinion.
With the exception of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, other Niger Delta governors hurriedly met in Abuja early this month to kick against the list of nominations for the NDDC board. Amid criticisms dogging the list, what’s IYC’s take on the yet-to-be-inaugurated board?
The issue of the NDDC appointment is a matter of law. The Act that established the commission has the final say. If anybody feels the right steps were not taken in appointing the new board, he should take the necessary steps to right the wrong. This also applies to the governors. If the composition of the new board did not comply with the enabling Act, there is nothing wrong if the governors resist it.
It’s believed that many Ijaw youths are still neck-deep in crude oil theft, especially operation of illegal refineries. Given its attendant futuristic effects on the environment, what’s IYC doing to discourage this act seen as ongoing journey to self-destruct?
IYC under my reign has carried out awareness campaign to stop crude oil theft in the country and illegal bunkering. We will continue to do that. However, what could have stopped the menace immediately has been abandoned by the government. Local participation in oil production through the modular refineries would have unarguably stopped the menace. The Federal Government has abandoned the modular refinery issue.
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