Stakeholders from Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State have reached a truce over the crisis rocking the council area after a peace parley with Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan in which they reiterated their resolve to end the crisis. The stakeholders drawn from the warring Ijaw and Itsekiri communities in Warri North Council Area, said that the crisis which claimed well over 12 lives was not ethnic related but sheer criminality by some miscreants.
Speaking in turns, the leaders affirmed that some suspected miscreants who were into illegal oil bunkering activities in the area were the ones formenting trouble in the area to pave way for their continuous criminal activities unhindered and not a political struggle as erroneously being insinuated by some groups. They also reiterated their desire to boost cooperation between both ethnic nationalities and to help the State government overcome the challenges posed by the miscreants who usually forment trouble in the area.
Governor Uduaghan said that the peace parlay was part of President Goodluck Jonathan’s interventions to end the growing crisis. ”I want to assure you that Mr President is aware of what is going on and he has directed the security agents to be on top of the situation. If the federal and state government state is not doing anything, I bet you that the area would still be on fire by now, the governor said. He said: This is not the first time we are having ethnic crisis but this one is very unfortunate. This one has nothing to do with ethnic issues, it is sheer criminality”.
Uduaghan who piloted the meeting asked the stakeholders to bear their mind on the efforts exerted to forestall the violence and the various assistance rendered by the army and other security agents to nip the crisis in the bud. He recalled how Ijaw Egbema people met with him some time ago about the suppose issues of marginalization in respect to political and elective offices and how he told them that he has no control over elective and political offices in the State adding that he told them he was limited to only appointive positions.
“When we held meeting earlier with Egbema people, the issues raised were issues of political appointment and elective offices and I told them as a governor I have no control over elective offices and I suggested that a meeting should be called between the three Warri councils. And I told them that discussion wouldn’t be initiated by me (governor) because I was not a governor for Ijaw or Itsekiri alone”. ”But for appointment, I have just suggested an Ijaw man into a federal position from Warri North. I have no control over elective positions but for appointment within the State I can appoint anybody and we have so many positions line up including boards that are pending”.
Consequently, Uduaghan vowed that nobody can force him under gunpoint to do things arbitrarily in the State. ”Nobody can put a gun on my head to negotiate under duress. Nobody has two head, all of us has one but how we use the head matters and what has happened is that some people have decided to use their head negatively”. The governor also proscribed the Egbema Radical Group, a group which have been championing agitation over marginalization and “political imbalance” in Warri North Council.
The governor voiced appreciation for the efforts exerted by security agents, who were allegedly being blame for not responding on time to quell the crisis, saying logistic can never be enough when there are so many issues at hand to handle in the State. He also thanked leaders of Itsekiri communities who tried to curtail the youths not to retaliate the offensive as well as security agents for enhancing security and stability in the troubled council. Uduaghan who assured that the State government was on top of the situation said; “Now that the waterways is passable we would do a thorough assessment of things and the state government as well as DESOPADEC would assist the people affected. What we have achieved is that we have agreed that the crisis was an aftermath of criminality”.
Earlier, Warri North LGA Transition Committee Chairman, Evang David Edun narrated how the crisis started saying that about 15 persons were killed by the youths who also looted the communities.
An Ijaw leader, Chief Emmanuel Ebimami who spoke in turn condemned vehemently the actions of the Ijaw youths saying it is unacceptable to use the barrel of guns to agitate for council chairmanship position. ”No reasonable Ijaw man will say what has happened is good. So I stand firm to say that we condemned it. We are making sure that this problem doesn’t escalate further, he added.
Addressing the meeting, an Itsekiri youth leader, Chief Ayeri Emami asserted the security lapses by the army during the crisis saying if the army had heed to intelligence report avail to them, the perpetrator would have been nipped before the crisis.
“We have to differential criminal activities from political struggle. That’s how we were able to resolve the seven years Warri crisis. We identified the problem during Warri crisis and we used the security agents to deal with it. We told security agents before today of the intelligent report but the army didn’t act on time. So they lapses came from the army and our people”. Also speaking, another Itsekiri leader, Chief Michael Diden opined that the problem in Warri North is a very critical one and if it is not tackled holistically, the crisis will reoccur. He reiterated that the Warri North crisis was not as result of political issues in the area but issues relating to oil theft and hooliganism. ”It is not a political struggle but ploy to continue their criminality- that’s oil bunkering. It is about criminal tendency to steal oil”.
An Ijaw youth leader, Ezekiel Akpasebowei, who was a militant leader in Egbema Warri North before the amnesty days, ruled out the political agitation by the Egbema people as cause of the crisis saying the group of ‘boys’ who perpetrated the crime act in the Council area have been terrorising the area before now and they have since been reported to law enforcement agencies. He therefore disassociated the Egbema people of Warri North Council area from the killings and burning down of houses in the Itshekiri communities saying that the perpetrators of the crisis have been a threat to the area even before the last week fracas. ”This ‘boys’ have being a threat to us. These are the ‘boys’ involved in oil bunkering, sea piracy and all sort of criminalities in the waterways. They have ones called to threat me that I should run for my life that I betrayed them. They seized some of my oil surveillance workers, detained them for three days”. ”They are out to make the council ungovernable. The Egbema people don’t support any of them. They are criminals. They (security agents) should fish them out if not our lives are in danger. They have been threatening us and our families, Akpasebowei said.
Responding, the Commissioner of Police, Ikechukwu Aduba said that the security agents were committed to ensuring security of lives and properties in the State saying that though logistic is a problem conforming the policing of the State. He, consequently, suggested for the establishment of navy base in the waterways in Warri North as well as strengthening of the police, army, air force and navy in the State with functional working apparatus. ”We cannot allow criminality to thrive. We know the creek is a difficult terrain and we know it. We want boats that are functional. We need to establish a navy based around that area. Some of the navy gunboats are not functional and all these retard security”, he added.
On his part, the Commanding Officer, 4th Brigade, Benin, Brig-Gen Patrick Ake, exerted the efforts of the Commanding Officer of 19 Brigade of Sector 1 of the JTF situated in Koko, Lit-Col Frank Etim in nipping the crisis, first with the capturing of a militant camp some few months ago in the area and series of arrest made saying the violence would have be more dangerous if the militant camp was not earlier destroyed. He said therefore that it was not true that soldiers didn’t respond on time to the crisis saying “soldiers make a lot of sacrifices. So I want to disabuse our mind about the allegation, he said