Abuja—Chief Edwin Clark, convener of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), has faulted the comparison of bandits with Niger Delta youths, TheCable reports.
Ahmed Yerima, a former governor of Zamfara state, had asked President Bola Tinubu to grant amnesty to bandits causing mayhem in north-west and north-central.
But Taoreed Lagbaja, chief of defence staff, said the amnesty programme has failed in Zamfara and other states.
While reacting to the claim in a statement on Wednesday, Clark said he disagreed with Lagbaja’s remark and how bandits’ activities are being compared with the agitations of Niger Delta youths.
He said contrary to what Lagbaja said, the amnesty programme has succeeded in bringing peace to the Niger Delta region “particularly, stopping the vandalisation of oil pipelines and platforms”.
“The case of the Niger Delta agitators is quite different from the case of these murderous, blood-thirsty villains, who have taken up arms against the state, using different names, whether as Boko Haram, bandits, killer herdsmen, kidnappers, etc.,” Clark said.
He said the grouse of the Niger Delta youths arose as a result of “the dehumanisation, environmental pollution, destruction of natural source of income generation”.
He alleged that the oil-producing areas in Nigeria are being oppressed and dehumanised
“Our living condition in the region has worsened. The Presidential amnesty programme should be allowed to continue for some more time,” Clark added.
“Once again, I wish to advise the federal government to tread cautiously, except they have prepared another operation crocodile smile’. Wake not a sleeping lion. This is not a threat; it is a clarion call for peace.
“Therefore, the grievances of these Niger Delta youths were and still are, against the government, and as against the exploiting international oil companies which have remained adamant by refusing to develop their areas of operation, but have continued to fly their people from Lagos to perform their job at the rigs in the creek, and flown back to Lagos at the end of each working day.”
He also accused the companies of refusing to develop the areas and employ people from the oil-producing communities.
“The villages and communities are left in abject poverty and neglect. The people of the host communities do not even take part in the execution of contracts in these oil companies,” he said.
“The whole mangrove forest is damaged; people can no longer fish which of course is the peoples’ main source of protein.
“The dangerous emission from gas flaring is a serious health hazard to the people of the Niger Delta.
“These and more, are the injustices, dehumanisation, neglect, and marginalisation of our people.
“The attempt to equate the Niger Delta amnesty with the northern bandits is not only criminal but obnoxious and unconscionable.
“I strongly, therefore, appeal to Mr President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, not to be carried away by various statements by some uninformed Nigerians that the amnesty programme in Niger Delta has not contributed to the peace in the Niger Delta, it has contrary to their misgivings.”
He also advised Tinubu to pay “special attention” to the survival of the amnesty programme in the region.
He also appealed to the youths of the region to “remain patient and not to do anything to affect the smooth operation of the oil companies while we continue to fight for our rights legitimately”.