How peace can be achieved in Niger Delta - Mulade
Comrade Sheriff Mulade is the National Convener/Chief Executive Officer of Center for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ. The Gbaramatu Warri South West Local Government Area Delta State born human rights activist and environmentalist spoke to Ambrose Imobhio on the raging disquiet in the oil-rich Niger Delta. He said for peace to reign permanently in the Niger Delta, oil companies should relocate their headquarters to the region and also advised Niger Delta governors to use the resources of the people well instead of blaming the federal government solely for the underdevelopment in the region. Excerpts:
Recently, there was upsurge of violent attacks on oil installations across the Niger Delta with the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, being at the forefront. What is your take on this development?
It is not a Niger Delta Avengers issue but a Niger Delta issue. What are the demands, grievances of those persons? I do not subscribe to violence in any way. I am very happy with what I read in the papers that the Niger Delta Avengers are willing to embrace dialogue! That is very cheering news and I appeal to them to please retain it, in the interest of peace and happiness in the entire Niger Delta Region which all of us are happy to be part and parcel of.
I have always maintained that peaceful resolution of crises remains the best alternative and that is why CEPEJ is committed to peace, joy and happiness for all in the entire environment. But it is very important for the authorities concerned to sit down properly and look into the grievances of these persons.
Niger Delta as a region produces the wealth of the nation, there is deprivation, destruction of ecosystem, environmental pollution by oil companies’ exploration, the communities have been ravaged and unemployment and other vices are there. I will advise the authority concerned to sit down and look into the problems confronting the Niger Delta region.
When you say environmental degradation, destruction of ecosystem, what exactly do you mean?
I can tell you that fishing, which is the main means of survival of the coastal communities, is no longer there because the oil companies’ exploration usually cause water pollution which have destroyed aquatic life and also destroy farmlands of residents in coastal areas and the people are made to go through serious poverty and hunger.
Nothing is being done by these companies to carry out proper Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA, and proffer solutions to the problems by way of cleanup of affected areas.
How will you describe the relationship between the oil companies and host communities in the Niger Delta region and what is the way out?
The relationship is very poor, they should strengthen their community relations department and maintain robust friendship with host communities by trying their best to attract development to the communities.
For example, they are so many jobless youths, poor infrastructure and healthcare, the oil companies should work closely with government to provide these facilities to the people.
In fact, all companies operating in the Niger Delta should relocate their headquarters to the Niger Delta. They should jettison the idea of being attacked if their headquarters are cited in Niger Delta.
If they show this sense of belonging to the Niger Delta people, the youths will protect those installations as if is theirs because the friendship is already established.
I want to appeal to the Federal Government to enhance a robust dialogue with the Niger Delta Avengers, peace is very essential in the region, while I appeal to the avengers to sheathe their swords and embrace peace.
Delta just celebrated 25 years, what do you make of it?
We are happy we have a state we call our own, apart from that nothing. Governor Okowa should sit up with his fellow Niger Delta governors and use the resources meant for the region for development.
We have resources to develop the region, instead of heaping underdevelopment of the region on the federal government alone. If these resources are used well it will help to stem agitation and militancy in the region where all Niger Deltans will be happy that they are enjoying the resources meant for their survival which will also help to attract more investors to the region and open up employment opportunities.
I hope if this is done, all these problems here and there will be tackled to the barest minimum.