A nongovernmental organization, the Academic Associates Peace Works (AAPW), has appealed to the people of Niger Delta region to shun violence and continue to explore dialogue as the most dependable social instrument to redress challenges of underdevelopment in the region.
Executive Director of AAPW, Dr. Judith Asuni, made the appeal in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State, while speaking at a session of Niger Delta Dialogue with the theme; “Two years on: Reflections on the past and planning for the future on the Niger Delta Dialogue.”
Asuni stated that the region should not stop talking, stressing that stakeholders should continue to dialogue until the myriad of underdevelopment in the area were redressed by the government. She recalled that the Niger Delta Dialogue, which started in 2016 with attendees from the circle of ex militants, traditional rulers, religious leaders and other sectors in the region gave rise to PANDEF, adding that it also made Professor Yemi Osibanjo who was acting President to visit the region to interact with the people on the way forward.
While urging youths to shun any temptation to go the path of violence, the AAPW Executive Director said the region should continue to present it demands on the table. Asuni said, “The Niger Delta Dialogue started in June 2016, then government was not talking on matters of the region and we asked why the government was not talking. We got government leaders and stakeholders to talk. There were 50 stakeholders. We concentrated on the militant groups, traditional rulers, King Alfred Diete Spiff was Chairman of the group.
“Some issues discussed at our meetings include Petroleum Industry Bill, funding of the interventionist agencies, infrastructural development of the Niger Delta region, headquarters of oil companies, IDP crisis in Bakasi. They issues that affect the whole Niger Delta. We came up with suggestions and communiques at the dialogues. “We also looked at issues requiring immediate attention like the Maritime University, invasion of Gbaramatu, body language of the federal government, surveillance contracts, outstanding debts on surveillance contracts, ceasefire, amnesty program, engaging governors of Niger Delta, managing the key players in the conflicts.”
In her speech, former Nigeria’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo, called on various ethnic groups in the region to as a matter of right demand to see the budgetary provisions for their areas, noting that this way development could start coming to the region. Toyo stated that the Niger Delta dialogue, had made appreciable impact in the last two years, adding that the region should begin to press for new model of development
She said the Amnesty programme had failed to meet its expectations in the region so there was need to redefine the model of development, stressing that this would be possible when stakeholders continue to dialogue. Toyo said, “The existing model of development has not worked, the amnesty has not worked. When they started it, more militants starting springing up.
“By the time ethnic groups start asking questions on budgetary provisions for their areas things will start getting better. As a follow up to our meetings the Vice President started visiting the region. It is your responsibility in the region to ask questions on development of Niger Delta. We have to replace the current development model with a more effective one. “We have made a lot of progress. We will continue to talk. No option to talking, it reduces antagonism. We have to engage the process. By the time ethnic groups start asking questions on budgetary provisions for their areas things will start moving.”
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