Former Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Dr. Christopher Ekpenyong, yesterday said personal interest, rather than regional interest, was responsible for the prolonged crisis in the Niger Delta region.
Ekpenyong, who spoke in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, while reacting to the Federal Government's amnesty granted Niger Delta militants, expressed doubts over sincerity of those who arrogate to themselves the authority to speak and negotiate return of peace to the region.
He said some of the people involved in the negotiation deal do not have the grip of the true position, and called on government to identify those who are real stakeholders and willing to set aside their personal bias to speak for the entire region.
He insisted that many of the groups do not have an idea of issues that gave rise to militancy in the region, adding that for the government initiative to succeed, there must be an assemblage of certain categories of people, including the civil society, market women, youths and elders.
“A certain section of Nigerians revolted against the action of the ruling class towards them and now the government is granting them amnesty for peace to reign.
By granting them amnesty, it means government has recognised that there was unfairness in the body polity.“Government further admitted that there were some denial in the past and that certain people had been committing crime against the people and their God-given resources. After amnesty, a meeting of the real stakeholders should be convened, not just people who are looking for money or those who are making noise, but those who have the confidence of the people," he said.According to him, the real leaders of the Niger Delta should be invited to discuss the way forward to sustain the issue of amnesty, to ensure that the people are discouraged from taking arms against the state. That way forward would define our vision and focus, and advised the Federal Government to pay greater attention to the issue of post amnesty plan for militants in the region, if there was sincerity to resolve the crisis.Ekpenyong said unless the core issues that compelled aggrieved youths to take up arms against the Nigeria State were discussed at a round table of the real stakeholders, the granting of amnesty would be seen as one of the failed projects in the region.“Amnesty is a welcome issue, but after that what next? Everything is all about how far the Federal Government is prepared to go in addressing the issues. There should be sincerity on the part of government. Societal norms must be defined. The rights of the people must be protected," he said.http://www.thisdayonline.com/nview.php?id=151923