EDWIN Clark, an elder statesman and a former federal Information minister, has queried the cost of deployment of military personnel including its hardware to the Niger Delta region.
Clark who spoke against the back drop of military activities in the Niger Delta region, however warned “government officials and security forces to desist from overzealous acts that could create unnecessary anxiety and tension in the region.
According to him, the relative peace and security in the region was for the intervention of well-meaning elders, including efforts of members of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, and not necessarily the deployment of troops.
Clark said the crisis in the Niger Delta is about cry for the development of the area, adding: “Therefore, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to use the military force to cow the people to submission.
“The wise thing for the Federal Government to do will be to sit down and dialogue with the people.
“What the Federal Government is doing right now is misapplication of resources.
“Can the Federal Government sit down and calculate how much it has cost it to deploy military to the Niger Delta area from 2002 to date? Can the Federal Government tell Nigerians what these figures are? And has military action brought peace?
“But for the intervention of well-meaning elders, let the Federal Government tell the Nigerian public what meaningful progress its actions have brought outside pain and humiliation.”
He called on the federal government to learn from history, warning that no amount of military aggression would intimidate members of the PANDEF.
The Ijaw leader also believes that members of the Niger Delta Avengers are not necessarily afraid of the presence of soldiers in the region.
The statement read in part: “when the Niger Delta Avengers gave its notice of withdrawing its ceasefire and resuming hostilities for obvious reasons, the leadership of PANDEF quickly intervened, appealing to them to maintain the status quo and went further to send emissaries of youths and former militants to the creeks to deliberate with the NDA.
“We are quite hopeful that the ceasefire will not be broken. Therefore, the actions by the military at the Benneth Island in Warri, Delta State, as reported in a newspaper last Thursday, that ‘there was confusion yesterday at Benneth Island, Ogbe-Ijoh, Warri South West Local Government Area, Delta State, as residents scampered into surrounding forests at the sight of Fighter Jet and Gunboat…’ is uncalled for.”
According to him, “it is the ordinary people, including women and children, that are the victims of this show of power by the military.
“For instance, the school children will be too scared to go to school. The fishermen and the petty traders will either hide in their rooms or run away from their homes for safety.
“One would have expected the Federal Government and the military to know that the NDA have never shown any sign of retreat or fear when between February 2016 and August 2016, the area was over-militarised by the Operation Crocodile Smile.
“These are people who are ready to sacrifice their lives for what they believe in, which is remediation of the neglect of the region.
“I, therefore, say with emphasis and without being immodest, that it is the intervention of PANDEF that resulted in the ceasefire which we are all enjoying since August last year, and the visit of the Vice President, His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinanjo, SAN, in his capacity as Acting President of the country, to the Niger Delta, where the Federal Government showed to the people that it was sincere and honest, and that it was ready to develop the area.”
Clark recalled that in the last meeting held with the Vice President on August 3, 2017, during the Inter-Ministerial Committee meeting, issues contained in PANDEF 16-Point Agenda were raised, including the Ogoni Clean-up, the opening of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko and the establishment of modular refineries to replace the illegal refineries being operated by the people of the Niger Delta.
“We also advocated or demanded that the youths of the Niger Delta area should be fully involved in the operation of the modular refineries when set up. The engagement of the youths in pipeline surveillance will engage them in fruitful occupation whereby no one will receive any money without working.”
– Nov 13, 2017 @ 11:15 GMT |