The Pan-Niger Delta Youth Leadership Forum (PANDLEAF), a youth group, has asked the Federal Government to create oil and gas colony in the region. The group made its position known at a press conference addressed, on Saturday, by its National President, Mr. Richard Akinaka, in Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State.
According to Mr. Akinaka, the group's demand is based on the decision of the Federal Government to create cattle colonies for Fulani herdsmen. While condemning the spate of killings by the herdsmen in various parts of the country, the PANDLEAF President stated that it is wrong of the Federal Government to consider establishing colonies for herdsmen, adding that it is the sole responsibility of herdsmen, who are in private business, to advance their business interests.
"As a people, we have taken that position that herdsmen are private business people. Some of us who have private businesses take private and personal responsibility to advance our business interests.
"If herdsmen want land and spaces to do their business, they should acquire them within any of the states and do their business. That is the way it is done all over the world where you have people get ranches for their cattle and people go there to buy cattle for consumption purposes," he said.
He maintained the government does not need to buy land for private businessmen, but stated that if the government decides to do so, it must give the Niger Delta an oil and gas colony.
"We should be given extra reserve right to take full responsibility of our oil and gas industry because that is our area; that is our environment. We suffer environmental problems. So, if they want colony for their cattle, we want colony for our oil and gas business," Mr. Akinaka.
He urged members of the militant Niger Delta Avengers to adopt intellectual struggle in agitation for a better Niger Delta instead of an armed campaign.
"We strongly believe that the time for armed struggle is over. Life is in phases and so should our struggles be. We must be able to advance our agitations beyond that to the high grounds of intellectual and constructive engagement.
"In the alternative, we advocate a collective engagement of all stakeholders at a round-table, to forge common positions and fronts for further engagements with the Federal Government," advised the PANDLEAF President.
He called on Niger Delta youths to unite and forge a common front, marked by intellectualism, to make people listen to the region.
"You see what our host communities are going through, the environmental problems, the Ogoni clean up that has been promised our people, nothing is going on. An impatient mind may say, we must resist these things, they are not right, but our advice to our people is to avert war.
"War does not solve problem. We have passed through that stage of life, let us see how we can provide leadership and see how we can adopt internationally acceptable standards and advance the cause of our people, that is the stage we are in now," he counseled.
Mr. Akinaka said the grievances of the region are genuine, but added that the struggle to have the grievances addressed has been undermined by leadership failure. Leaders of the region, he explained, have consistently exhibited lack of unity. He urged all Niger Deltans to be united in the confrontation with the Federal Government and international oil companies.
He advised the youths to fully participate in the political process and avoid following political leaders blindly. Mr. Akinaka also urged Niger Delta politicians to unite, saying one of the reasons that cost former President Goodluck Jonathan re-election was that he could not point to what he did for the Niger Delta.
"PANDLEAF calls on all young people in the Niger Delta to participate fully in the political process and not follow political leaders blindly, owing to sheer ethnic chauvinistic sentiments or primordial and vassal political affiliations while advocating for sincerity and commitment on the part of the Federal Government.
"One of the greatest things we were able to do to campaign against former President Goodluck Jonathan was to say that six years of Jonathan, we could not point out what he was able to give to us.
"Jonathan himself acknowledged that that he could not do anything for our people and said that if he came back for second term, he would do something," said Mr. Akinaka.