The umbrella body of Ijaw youths, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, has accused President Muhammadu Buhari of focusing his anti-corruption war on Ijaws from the Niger Delta part of Nigeria.
The council also justified the activities of oil bunkers and operators of illegal refineries in the Niger Delta region, charging the federal government not to stop their activities unless it has alternatives for them.
The IYC President, Comrade Udengs Eradiri, who stated this in a chat with journalists in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital on Sunday, claimed that engaging in the illegal activities was a means of livelihood for those involved.
He said if the operators are stopped from the illegal activities, it could give rise to another form of militancy in the region, which at its peak prior to 2009 reduced Nigeria’s crude oil production by about 50 per cent.
“Much as we support the war against oil theft, it must come with an economic plan as an alternative so that as you are going in to stop them from their way of life, provide an alternative,” he said.
“Engage, employ the youths who engage in illegal refining of crude in the creeks.
“But when you do otherwise, there will be effects.
“That’s why you are seeing the increase in crime rate, robbery is going up, kidnapping is on the increase, they are kidnapping even ice fish sellers now.
“It is because when you destroy their means of livelihood and you don’t create any alternative, it is a deliberate ploy to destabilize the Niger Delta so that businesses would not come here”.
Mr. Eradiri also likened illegal crude refining to the illegal mining of solid minerals in some states in Northern Nigeria.
“They say oil theft is economic sabotage, what of the illegal mining that are going on in the north?” he asked. “Is that not worst economic sabotage?”
“At a point there was lead poisoning as a result of illegal mining.
“The monies that they realize from illegal mining is huge. Why do we not have the JTF policing illegal miners, knowing full well that the money realised from gold illegally mined, is far much more than money realized from stolen oil?”
He alleged that “retired generals have mines of their own in the north, the statistics are there”.
“Why are we not talking about those minerals in the north that are illegally mined to the pockets of individuals? Why is it that only Niger Delta oil that is in the pages of newspapers”, he asked.
The IYC leader also questioned the allocation of crude oil blocs by previous governments, alleging it was against the interest of Ijaws.
“We must also investigate how those oil blocks were shared; did it follow due process?”
On the travails of the ex-Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who was recently arrested by British authorities for money laundering, Eradiri said it was a ploy against the Ijaws.
“The UK government should stay away from Diezani”, he said. “This was how they muscled up and now (Diepreiye) Alamieyeseigha is dead”.
“Now they have started with Diezani. They should leave Ijaw People alone. Are there no other governors that have stolen?
“Go to UK, almost all the streets are owned by northerners who stole Nigeria money. So why are they just on Goodluck Jonathan’s men, just to demonise Goodluck?”
The Ijaw leader alleged that the anti-corruption efforts of President Buhari was targeted at associates of his predecessor especially Ijaws.
“As far as we are concerned, the anti-corruption fight is a fight against the Ijaw people”, he said.
“Goodluck should have won Nobel Prize for peace. Goodluck deserves a Nobel peace prize, Goodluck deserves respect from Nigerians”, he said in reference to Mr. Jonathan’s decision to peacefully hand over power to Mr. Buhari after the former lost the March 28, 2015 presidential election.
The IYC President also lamented that the Treasury Single Account is already having a negative toll on the Nigerian economy, adding that projects by the Amnesty Office and the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, are being stifled by the policy.
He said the Amnesty Programme is in jeopardy because the TSA system is making it difficult for relevant institutions to carry out their constitutional and statutory functions.
“We call on the President to exempt the NDDC from the Single Treasury Account”, he said.
“My own understanding is that institutions that are revenue generating organizations, like NNPC, NIMASA, NPA should generate the monies and inject them to a common purse.
“Not institutions that are set up particularly for special purposes, like the development of the Niger Delta”.
Mr. Eradiri also condemned the reported cancellation of the Maritime University in Delta State by the present administration.
“Today even the institution that was set, such a special institution to build capacity of Nigerians, not only Ijaw people, just as they have police academy in the north, a special institute was set in the south, this vindictive administration have come and cancelled that university.
“Nigerians should calculate how much we have spent in capital flight sending our people abroad for special courses in the maritime sector.
“A university and programme were set up by Patrick Akpobolokemi (ex-NIMASA boss who is being investigated for graft).
“Kingsley (Kuku, ex-presidential aide on Amnesty who is being investigated for corruption) brought peace to Niger Delta, stabilized this region, but today what are they paying him with?
“These individuals (Messrs Kuku and Akpobolokemi) should be people that would have been rewarded by Nigerians for their service to Nigeria”, Mr. Eradiri said.
The Ijaw youths also called for the unconditional release of the Radio Biafra broadcaster, Nnamdi Kanu, saying Mr. Kanu and his team were raising fundamental issues similar to the one being raised by the IYC.