Niger Delta Should Have Special Development Status – VP Osinbajo

VP Osinbajo Visits Gbaramatu Kingdom in Niger DeltaNigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday paid a visit to the Gbaramatu Kingdom in Delta State, recommending that the region should have a special development zone status.

Osinbajo was accompanied by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu and was received in Delta State by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.

In his address of welcome, entitled: ‘We must prepare for the future’, he advocated sustainable development for the Niger Delta region.

“An Area Of Poor Infrastructure”

“The Niger Delta that we see today, including this great kingdom, is an area of poor infrastructure – few schools, few hospitals, and severe pollution.

“The Niger Delta of today, is one of daily pipeline vandalism. In 2014 alone, there were over 3,700 incidents of pipeline vandalism.

“The Niger Delta of today is one where, aside from environmental degradation, between 1998 and 2015, over 20,000 persons have died from fire incidents, arising from breach of the pipeline.

“Everywhere you go, there are signboards of proposed projects, mostly uncompleted or abandoned altogether.

“Many of the initiatives to change the story, have not been able to make the big changes required,” the Vice President stated.

Citing several examples, dating back to the 60’s, down to the present day amnesty programmes, the Professor Osinbajo said many of such programmes have not been able to meet up with their objectives.

However, he charged the people, stressing that “the future, is not a future of environmental degradation, poor infrastructure, poor roads”and the likes.

Rather, it is a future of “progress and development” but according to him, “there is no time, as the future is already here”.

He then stated that in order to ensure that the future is not worse than today, three things must happen.

Also he believes that while the government plays its own part, the people have to combine efforts with it, in order to realise the desired development.

One of such things, he stressed, was that the people “must recognise the unique environmental and terrain challenges of the Niger Delta.

“We must recognise that the Niger Delta is a special development zone for this nation.

“It means that the Federal and State governments, the National Assembly representatives, along-side the NDDC and the civil society representatives, of the Niger Delta people must sit together, develop, plan and fund an arrangement for rapid development,” he stressed.

Also, in furtherance of development in the region, Professor Osinbajo revealed that the Pan Niger Delta Forum had come up with 16 dialogue issues that would be extremely helpful in ascertaining its key development priorities.

He stated that the region must also hold some of the international oil companies, to their agreement with host communities.

“We must promote indigenous participation in oil companies,” he added.

He also hinted that in the 2017 budget, provision had been made for the commencement of the Lagos-Calabar railway. (the coastal railway).

Mr Osinbajo is expected to also visit a number of oil communities across some Niger Delta states, where he is expected to address issues affecting the region and bring an end to militant attacks on Nigeria’s oil and gas facilities.

According to a statement from the Office of the Vice President, Professor Osinbajo would also be visiting Bayelsa and Rivers States at a later date to be announced.

Spokesperson for the Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, described the move as further demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s readiness and determination to comprehensively address the Niger Delta situation.

Gbaramatu People Demand Release Of Youths From Army

GbaramatuThe people of Oporoza community, the headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South West Local Government Area, Delta State have staged a protest demanding the release of some of their youths allegedly captured by the Nigerian Army several weeks ago.

According to them, the military invaded their community under the guise that they were in search of the Niger Delta Avengers, destroying and carting away valuables as well as capturing some youths.

The protest comes a month after the alleged invasion of the Nigerian Army on Gbaramatu community.

They claimed that their captured loved ones were neither directly nor indirectly connected to the Niger Delta Avengers.

They have appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to call the military to order to release the youths.

Meanwhile, one of the officers at the Nigerian Army 3rd Battalion in Warri, Delta State, who preferred to be anonymous confirmed to Channels Television that the youths were indeed arrested but were being interrogated for various offences.

He said that there is no need for their friends and families to entertain any fears as they have not been killed as alleged but were merely going through routine investigation.

He said that they were arrested in the wake of several attacks on pipelines in the Niger Delta.

The Gbaramatu community has been in the limelight in recent times following speculations and allegations that one of its indigenes popularly known as Tompolo is connected to the Niger Delta Avengers.

FG Urged To Expand Scope Of Dialogue With Militants

Niger delta, militants, Chibudom NwucheA former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Chibudom Nwuche, has added his voice to the call for dialogue between the Federal Government and Niger Delta Militants in resolution to the Niger Delta violence.

The appeal is coming as part of numerous plea to the government to dialogue with the militants in order to stop the attacks on oil installations in Nigeria’s Southern region.

While addressing reporters in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, Mr Chibudom urged the Federal Government to expand its scope of dialogue with the militants to include political and traditional leaders from the region.

And to the militants, the former Speaker urged them to embrace the government’s dialogue option in the interest of their region.

The government had in June, agreed to a one-month ceasefire with militant groups in the Niger Delta.

The deal was reported to include the Niger Delta Avengers, a group which has claimed responsibility for a string of attacks.

However, the Niger Delta Avengers denied being part of the one-month ceasefire agreement with the Federal Government.

FG Agrees To A Ceasefire With Niger Delta Militants

Niger delta, militantsSources at the Petroleum Ministry say the federal government has agreed to a one-month ceasefire with militant groups in the Niger Delta.

The deal is reported to include the Niger Delta Avengers, a group which has claimed responsibility for a string of attacks.

The source added that it was very difficult getting the Niger Delta Avengers to the negotiating table but it was eventually done through a proxy channel and a truce was achieved.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, had led a government delegation to different camps in Bayelsa and Delta states, including visiting the temporary site of the Maritime University at Okerenkoko, Gbaramatu Kingdom, Delta State.

This was all in a bid to reach out to representatives of the militant groups to get them to stop the attacks on oil and gas facilities.

Army Denies Allegation Of Looting In Gbaramatu

soldiers and officersThe Nigerian Army has dismissed allegations of looting by Soldiers in Gbaramatu kingdom.

In a statement by a spokesman for the Nigerian Army, Colonel Sani Usman, the Army criticised the allegation, saying it is not true.

It also described the allegations as sheer blackmail by some mischief makers to tarnish the image of the Nigerian Army.

Colonel Usman stressed that Nigerian soldiers do not loot.

The statement further said that the Army felt pained that such unfounded allegation would be published.

According to the statement, the soldiers are thorough-bred professionals guided by rules of engagement and code of conduct.

The statement further added that all the items recovered on May 28 and June 1, which include weapons and dynamites, were properly documented and publicly displayed.

Court Awards Community N100 Billion After Unconstitutional Raid By JTF

A Federal High Court sitting in Asaba has declared that the bombardment of Gbaramatu Kingdom, comprising 53 communities, by the Joint Task Force JTF during the military raid of 2009 is unconstitutional.

The court consequently ordered the Federal Government to pay communities that make up the Kingdom the sum of N100 billion in damages.

Following the raid of militant camps in the Delta Creeks and the consequent bombardment of Gbaramatu Kingdom, the leaders had gone to court seeking the declaration of the raid as unconstitutional as the militant camps were not located in the communities.

They also accused the JTF of wanton destruction of properties and loot of the communities and consequently demanded N100 billion in damages.

In his judgment yesterday, Justice Ibrahim Buba held that the massive bombardment, which resulted in the demolition, destruction of houses, household furniture/wares, boats, canoes, domestic animals and displacement of members of the communities, was a clear violation of Section 217(2)(c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

In suit number FHC/ASB/CS/138.2009 between Chief Nelson Ogelegbanwei and 52 other plaintiffs versus the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and two other defendants, they contended that the action violates 217(2)(c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 Constitution.

While granting the prayers of the plaintiffs, Justice Buba averred that the 3rd defendant (JTF) acted outside the law by destroying lives and property of the 53 communities, more so his failure to appear in court to state their own side of the story was an acceptance of the claims of the plaintiffs.

The Lead Counsel, Selekeowei Larry (SAN) described the judgement as a sound judgement adding that it was a demonstration that justice can be obtained from the courts rather than through violence.

Counsel to the federal government, Igbinowahia Osagie said though they gave a good fight, the reason for the loss was the absence of the third defendant (JTF Commander) in court to state his own side of the story as to whether his actions were lawful or not.

The members of the Community were however not present in the court to celebrate their victory as they were mourning the King of Gbaramatu Kingdom who passed on a few days earlier.