- In Fresh Peace Move, Osinbajo Leads FG Team to Niger Delta
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will tomorrow begin an official visit to the Niger Delta, with Delta State as his first port of call, in an exercise that would take him to a number of communities in the oil-rich zone. A statement by the senior special assistant to the vice president on media and publicity, Mr Laolu Akande, said Osinbajo will also visit Bayelsa and Rivers states at a date to be announced. Akande said the visit was a further demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s determination to peacefully and comprehensively address the Niger Delta situation.
However, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State said at the weekend that the Buhari government was not doing enough to resolve the burning issues in the Niger Delta. Dickson accused the federal government of dilly-dallying in the on-going dialogue with stakeholders in the region. The governor, who spoke during a chat with journalists in Abuja, Friday night, lamented the treatment being meted out to the family of the immediate past president and indigene of Bayelsa State, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
Jonathan’s wife, Patience, has faced a string of corruption prosecutions in recent times, resulting in the freezing of some of her accounts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. And Jonathan, too, has been named in various corruption cases. But Dickson said the former first family deserved respect from the Buhari government.
Osinbajo’s peace mission to the Niger Delta is coming against the backdrop of renewed attacks on oil facilities in the region by aggrieved groups.
Akande said Osinbajo would lead high-level delegations of the federal government to states in the zone to try to amicably resolve the grievances.
He said during the visits, the delegations would interact with leaders and representatives of the oil-producing communities in continuation of on-going efforts by the Buhari administration to find a permanent solution to the Niger Delta crisis.
The statement from the vice president’s office added, “The Buhari presidency is fully committed to having an effective dialogue and positive engagement that will end the crisis in the oil-producing areas, and believes that these visits would further boost the confidence necessary for the attainment of peace and prosperity in the areas and the Nigerian nation in general.”
Unconfirmed reports said during the Delta State leg of his Niger Delta visit Osinbajo would meet leaders of Gbaramatu kingdom in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State, and might also meet with ex-militant leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias “Tompolo”, as part of efforts to halt bombings of oil assets in the area.
Meeting had been scheduled for last week, but it was hurriedly cancelled following threats by the Niger Delta Avengers to resume attack on the oil infrastructure. This was due to alleged federal government’s failure to engage in sincere dialogue with the zone’s leaders as represented by the Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum led by Chief Edwin Clark.
Oporoza, the headquarters of Gbaramatu kingdom and country home of Tompolo, is already being prepared for Osinbajo’s visit. The Ibe-Benemowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom and acting secretary Gbaramatu Traditional Council, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, said the visit was long overdue.
Gbenekama said, “The vice president’s visit is long overdue. Anyway, it is a good development and we thank President Muhammadu Buhari for sending the vice president here to see things for themselves. We are waiting to receive him and his team.”
An Ijaw leader and chairman of Kokodiagbene community in Gbaramatu kingdom, Comrade Sheriff Mulade, hailed the federal government’s decision to send a team led by the vice president to the kingdom. “It is a welcome development if the federal government is committed to the demands of the people. I want to believe that this is not a political visit because there is no need for fact finding again. All the facts are known to the government,” he said.
Speaking in a similar vein in Abuja on Friday, Dickson advised the federal government to pay more attention to the Niger Delta, stressing that the region is strategic to Nigeria’s existence.
He said, “If you are talking about raising billions of naira for the implementation of our national budget and the fact that the state governments’ revenue is also predicated on oil revenue, then we must be concerned about the source of that money.
“It is an issue everybody should be concerned about, and we in the Niger Delta, especially me and my colleagues, are collectively working to address the matter. As you know, Bayelsa State is the safest state in Nigeria today. And, clearly, it is the most stable state in the Niger Delta, even though historically, it is the centre of the crisis.”
Dickson said the Buhari government should reciprocate the efforts of the Niger Delta leaders to bring about permanent peace in the zone.
“But unfortunately, as Pa Clark said, not much is happening from the federal government’s side,” he said, adding, “All we ask is for the federal government agencies to be more sensitive and show more commitment and be more proactive.”
On the alleged persecution of Jonathan and his family, Dickson said, “Talking generally now, not just about Jonathan and his family, I feel that the perception that some of the policies of the current federal government are selective or targeted at some persons and some sections is huge. And it is inimical to the success of the reform that the federal government is trying to execute, and that should be addressed.
“Jonathan should be treated with respect. Let us see how things play out; there should be less sensationalism; let us see facts—if there are issues.
“Another thing I will like to say is that this country and the people will soon come to appreciate the kind of sacrifices and services that Jonathan’s presidency and Jonathan as a person rendered to this country…
“His contribution to democratic process was uncommon. You can see what is happening in Gambia now. Gambia is in crisis.”