Richard Akinaka, a youth activist in the Niger Delta region, claims that some “mischievous militants” in the oil-rich region are planning to scuttle the peace plan between militants in the region and the MUhammadu Buhari-led government.
Akinaka, who spoke in an interview on Tuesday, March 21, 2016, did not name the groups involved in the “sinister plot” but advised the federal government not to succumb to blackmail by the militant groups “trying to get attention by derailing the peace recorded in the region.”
Akinaka urged the government to build on the successes of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo’s recent peace-building visit to the Niger Delta during his days as Acting President. He said that the existing peace achieved through consultations proves that dialogue was more effective in achieving peace.
The activist, who presented the position of Rivers State youths during Osinbajo’s visit to the state, described the peace tour as a significant step towards the peaceful resolution of the contentious issues in the region.
His words: “The visit must be holistic enough to address the fundamental developmental challenges of the region and not be geared towards satisfying the yearnings of a few individuals in the region.
“It is therefore evident that consensus building consultation and dialogue prevailed over force deployed in the first instance without desired results, the dialogue option has returned peace to the once troubled region.
“He has visited, spoken and issues raised. If the promises made are not addressed, another set of people will take up arms hoping that government will come and talk to them.
“The visit must not be about satisfying the yearnings of few individuals. The visit must be holistic enough to address the fundamental issues of the region.
“If that is done, someone will not wake up tomorrow to burst pipelines as an option to hold government to ransom. It must address the core issues of the region.”
Akinaka also noted that the visit of the Acting president is good and symbolic and should be a sign post to peace in the region.
“But times have come where we should go beyond meetings and discussion.
“Government must also set its priorities right and do the right thing to ensure that peace prevails, equity prevails and ensure that the region that lays the golden egg and sustain this nation is given the priorities it deserves.
“Then I tell there will be peace,” he said.
Akinaka also dismissed the claims by some politicians that the issue of pipeline vandalism is as a result of Niger Delta agitations.
“I can say, as my personal opinion, that what is going on in Niger Delta right now with the bursting of pipelines should not be linked with the region’s agitation because it is not.
“The collective will of the people is not to go on and blow up pipeline for any reason.
“The agitation of the people is based on the issues of under development that has been there over the years. There is evident lack of development and unfair treatment to the people.
“What is going on recently in the name of pipelines vandalism for me clearly is not regional agitation agenda but a blackmail tool to arm twist government for personal reasons,” he said.
Akinaka lauded the Federal Government for its recent directive to multinational oil companies to relocate their operational headquarters to the Niger Delta. He described the decision as a welcome development, noting that the ripple effect on the economy is huge and will enhance the level of development and create jobs.
“This will bring the contractors, service providers closer and adding values to the people. It will reduce pipelines sabotage because youths will be gainful employed.
“Operation of the multinational Oil Companies is about stakeholder driven, and if anyone knows he is a stakeholder of a company, he will not have time to burst or blow up pipelines.
“It is very disrespectful that you are taking my oil here but your operational headquarters is in Lagos,” Akinaka said.
He also commended Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, minister of state for petroleum resources, for providing a platform to drive the peace process.
He equally applauded the newly unveiled 20-point agenda to formalise illegal refinery operators in the region and transform them into owners of modular refineries.
Legalising local refineries, according to Akinaka, is of huge benefits as it will boost the economy by making products available to the region since the country’s refineries cannot meet the demand for refined petroleum products.
“Ninety per cent of the AGO and Kerosene around are being produced by the youths of the Niger delta via the so called illegal refineries.
“Government should set the right standards through the enabling laws and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to ensure compliance,” he said.
This article originally appeared on News Express.