Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Government Orders Scaling Down of Military Presence in Niger Delta
By Mohammed Abubakar, Abuja
Nigerian Guardian
07 June 2016  4:32 pm

Against the backdrop of the threats by the joint Niger Delta Liberation Force, (NDLF) to attack Presidential Villa, strategic place, military installations in the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) and other parts of the country such as Abuja, Kaduna, Lagos, an emergency security council meeting was convened on Tuesday with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo presiding.

The meeting ended with a directive that the heavy military presence in the Niger Delta communities is scaled down considerably, but stressed that the presence of the military in the waterways be sustained in order to ensure adequate security along the waters, while discussions with the leaders of the communities continue.

The Chief of Defence Staff, (CDS) Gen. Gabriel Olonishakin: Chief of Army Staff, (CAS) , Lt. Gen, Tukur Yusuf Buratai and his Naval counterpart, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ekwe Ibas and some governors of the Niger Delta region were at the meeting.

Prominent among the governors in attendance are Nyesom Wike of Rivers, Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa: Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo: Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole of Edo State and Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom.

The Ministers of Defence, Brig-Gen. Mansur Mohammed Dan-Ali, (rtd): Niger Delta Usani Usani Uguru and Petroleum of State counterpart, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu were also in attendance.

Delta and Edo State governors, who briefed State House correspondents later, said the meeting was part of the synergy between the federal and state governments, describing the meeting as very fruitful as it afforded them the opportunity of finding a lasting solution to the festering crisis in the Niger Delta region.

According to Okowa, who briefed first, “We governors of the oil producing states, security chiefs and ministers who are concerned met with the Vice President and I believe we had a very fruitful meeting.

“One thing we identified which is the synergy between the Federal Government and the States which is very important and this meeting has raised a lot of issues and we believe that the collaboration will help us to tackle the issues in the Niger Delta.

“Of course, we were briefed by the service chiefs and the governors also have their own perspectives along with the minister of state petroleum. We have taken a lot of decisions which will help us mitigate what is going on currently in the states particularly Bayelsa and Delta.”

He said the meeting agreed on the need for both the federal and state governments to share intelligence which is very important and for there to be a proactive decision, working together with the various stakeholders in the states to achieve a better result going forward.

“We have also agreed that there is a need to distill military operations directly in communities, but the military need to actually remain on our waterways to ensure that we adequately man the waterways itself while we engage the communities and that engagement process is starting any moment from now.”

Explaining the lull in the activities of the Amnesty Programme, Oshiomhole, attributed it to the transition, occasioned by a change in leadership of the organisation. He, however, warned that no matter the skills acquired, it could not be put into any judicious use where there was no peace.

His words, “The amnesty programme is on but you know there was a little transition because there is a new leadership and there is always a time lag. In principle, the programme is on. There are stories about nonpayment and those problems are being addressed, funds are being provided .

“I believe the government recognises that the amnesty programme has to be sustained but also we can improve on it because we have trained people. People have been sent for training and they have come back and they should be able to apply those skills. If they don’t apply the skills they become skilled but then unemployed, then the problem persists.

“We need multiple tools to deal with the issues. Fortunately for the people to be able to apply the skills that they acquired in the course of the amnesty training, they need an environment that is investment friendly because unless for example if you have skills in underwater welding, you need the oil companies to be doing business to recruit people like that to carry out those kinds of special skill.

“If you have skill in all sorts of things without economic activity, you cannot deploy your skills. One thing leads to the other. In the first instance, the man has no skill, the first challenge is to give him the skill.

“That is being done and when he has finished and acquired that skill the final challenge is to get him a place to work to earn money and to develop a lifestyle that is sustainable to add and contribute to the development of his community and the rest of our people they need to see the quality of life improving.”

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