Youth leaders from 19 ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta region at the weekend urged President Muhammadu Buhari to involve them in ongoing moves to dialogue with leaders of the region, saying youths were crucial to the quest to redress contentious issues concerning the region.

The youth leaders at a meeting held in Warri, Delta State, were Comrade Udengs Eradiri (IYC), Comrade Egbo (Isoko Youths Council), Comrade Mathew Dighi (Ogoni Youths Council), Comrade Edward Odum (Ikwerre Youth Council), Comrade Esimaje Awani (Itsekiri Youth Council), Comrade Imoh Stephen Okiko (Ibibio Youth Council), Comrade Mazi Okechukwu (Ohaneze Ndigbo Youth Council), Engr. Damige Pharry (Kalabari Youth Foundation) and Capt. Bassey Henshew (Efik Youth Council).

Also in attendance were Comrade Okodugha Aluyah (Edo Youth Council), Comrade Etemma Effiong (EFUT Youth President), Comrade Idemudia Daniel Nosakhare (Benin Youth Progressive Forum),Comrade Victor Uyot (Oro Ethnic Nationality), Comrade Ahanmisi Edeki (Owan Youth Council), Comrade Prince Ndiyo Ndiyo (Ukwe Ebunitu),Comrade Ebhotemen Innocent (Esan Youth Council), Comrade Ezekiel Alfred Ekpeikot (Eket Youth Council),Comrade Eric Oluwole (Yoruba Youth Council) and Comrade Terry Obieh (Urhobo Youth Council).

The youth leaders, in a communiqué at the end of the meeting, declared that though the proposed dialogue with the Niger Delta Elders is commendable, “youths are the most vulnerable stakeholder in the economic, security and political issues affecting the region. We commend the present move by Mr. President and the leaders of the Niger Delta region to dialogue, in a quest to address critical issues affecting the good people of the region.”

Their demand: “That there should be an inclusion of all the Ethnic Nationality Youth leaders in the proposed dialogue process. The Federal Government should ensure a high degree of transparency and sincerity in the process of dialogue and negotiations. And we call on the agitating groups to sheathe their swords and give peace a chance.”

The meeting, which also reviewed the proposed economic, security and political solutions to the region, called on President Buhari and the Federal Government to develop an economic engagement of the youths through existing projects, including the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in Delta and Cross Rivers states, the Maritime University in Delta State, and the Brass Fertilizer Project in Bayelsa State. 

The statement added: “There should also be the reactivation of the Calabar, Warri and Port Harcourt sea ports, the construction of the Lagos/Calabar railway, completion of the East-West road, Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene,Aba-Ikot Ekpene,Owerri-Port Harcourt, Isoko-Onitsha, Benin-Abuja and Calabar Itu expressways. That the government should adequately fund the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Presidential Amnesty Program and the Niger Delta Ministry. We believe this project will generate well over five hundred thousand jobs opportunities for youths of the region.”

On the possible political situation, the youth leaders said though the people of the region appreciate the Federal Government on the release of the Chibok girls, “we request that in the spirit of genuine reconciliation and national unity, the IPOB Leader, Nnamdi Kanu, and the Shiite Leader, El Zakzaky, should be released. The Federal Government should nominate and work with young persons from the ethnic nationalities. We call for the political inclusion of youths in governance, and we request that the Federal Character principle as stipulated by the Constitution be adhered to in all employment (programs) and appointments.

“In the face of socio-economic, financial, political and ethnoreligious crisis that continue to plague our country with disastrous impact on our nation’s economy, social lives, and which also pose grave danger to the peaceful co-existence of our region and country, this will ultimately resolve all issues plaguing the region and allow for greater participation of the people in governance.”

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