Youths of Nigeria’s delta region have expressed readiness to partner with the government at the national and State levels.
The youths made the assertion during a four day stakeholders’ forum held at the Tinapa Business and Leisure Resort in Calabar, the capital city of Cross River State southern Nigeria.
National President of the Niger Delta Youths Leadership and Stakeholders’ Forum, Prince Felix Ihonre stressed that the group, made up of peace ambassadors, was committed to promoting unity and love amongst the people.
Prince Ihonre pointed out that the forum made a declaration to make peace a priority in the Niger Delta region and advised those on the path of violence to desist from such activities.
According to Ihonre, “the youths are committed to peace building in the region and entire country. Though some youths lack the patience because of feeling excluded from governance, all those at the forum agree that peace was a priority in the Niger Delta for development of the country as a whole.”
“The act of vandalizing pipelines and power installations as well as oil companies’ installations will not profit this generation and generations to come due to the huge environmental damages. So, the summit agreed to unanimously work to attract investors and development by advising those engaged in violence to stop henceforth”, said Ihonre.
Other participants such as Stella Okoro representing Rivers State urged “oil companies to employ youths from host communities. The chiefs and elders of oil producing communities should also avoid greed by not taking bribes and amass the common wealth,”
The Akwa Ibom State Coordinator Niger Delta Youth leaders and Stakeholders Forum, Jonathan Udofia, described the meeting as a welcome development since most of the youths were focused on sustainable peace rather than violence.
Udofia, who condemned the spate of violent attacks on oil installations in the region, said: “It is a welcome development for youths to gather for peace rather than violence like some chose to do as a result of one grievance or the other. I am glad that there are youths, who believe in dialogue; who believe in due process and who believe in the ability of the government to address the issues of the Niger Delta.”
Also, Mr. Aniefiok Usanga called for infrastructural development and economic empowerment of Niger Delta youths.
“Niger Delta region is not a violent region. The rate of unemployment is alarming in the region. So, we need empowerment. If you give us good road, it is empowerment; if you give us education, it is empowerment, farming is empowerment,” he stated.
Another youth, Anie-okpon Ekpo hinted that one of the challenges in the region borders on lack of information about government policies and plans.
“The problem most times is that of access to our leaders and proper information on what the government is doing for the youths. They should create a platform whereby we have access to information and people in government. If there was information and access to government, most of the problems in the region would have been tackled before any violence erupted.”
The Olive Branch
However, a spokesperson for the Special Adviser to Nigeria’s Presidential Amnesty Programme, Mr. Kenneth Ehigie urged the youths to cooperate with the government to develop the region.
Ehigie reiterated that “the President has graciously offered the youths of Niger Delta an olive branch. So you should all embrace peace and cooperate with President Muhammadu Buhari because he means well for the region and the youth. He is doing a lot to empower them particularly in the agric sector through the Anchor Programme domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria.”
“The programme is meant to create employment for unemployed Nigerians including the youths. Therefore, key into the Nigerian Government incentives meant to change lives and you would be better for it. Condemn violence of any kind and just embrace peace,” he explained.
Edigie further said that the President Buhari would meeting with stakeholders on current challenges in the region and the way forward, emphasizing that “various groups are holding stakeholders meeting to ensure they discourage pipeline vandalism and to crown it all President Buhari is calling for an all inclusive stakeholders’ summit in Abuja from the 26 to 27 of this month.”
The summit featured presentation of awards to some distinguished Nigerians including Voice of Nigeria for actively supporting the peace process in the Niger Delta region.