• President committed to peace in Niger Delta, NDDC boss tells Ijaw leaders
From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa and Tony John, Port Harcourt
Former commander of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Chief Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo, has expressed his desire to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on the Niger Delta crisis.
Tompolo, in an open letter to the president, declared himself Chief Priest of Egbesu shrine, which is the traditional worship centre of the Gbaramatu people and said the military was yet to return his symbol of authority allegedly removed from the traditional temple about a month ago.
The former militant leader urged the president to dialogue with militants and added that the 2009 invasion of Gbaramatu kingdom and the resultant offer of amnesty by the late president Umaru Yar’Adua when military option failed should be the president’s guide.
Tompolo’s open letter reads in part: “Mr. President sir, “Traditional worship centres were desecrated, property were looted and above all, the multi-billion naira ultra-modern magnificent palace of the Pere of Gbaramatu kingdom was burned down, and his golden crown was stolen by the military.”
He, however, appealed to the president to direct the army to return items, including a golden sword that is the symbol of authority of the Gbaramatu kingdom and other artifacts allegedly looted from shrines in Oporoza.
Meanwhile, Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, has reassured that President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to ensuring peace and security in the Niger Delta region.
Semenitari stated this yesterday when leaders of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) paid her a courtesy visit at the commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
She reaffirmed President Buhari’s love for Ijaw people and the Niger Delta in general, stating that they would continue to benefit from government like other Nigerians.
The NDDC boss said the president’s commitment to the region manifested in a recent commencement of the clean-up of the region starting with Ogoniland.
“The mantra is that, ‘we clean-up and we stay clean.’ This government does not want us to suffer the effects of pollution in our region and it is determined to compel every polluter to pay for their action.
“We have a government that is clearly interested in the matters that affect the region. Let me also say that in terms of his commitment to NDDC, President Buhari has been very consistent and has made it clear that his mandate to us is that we must deliver development in the region.
“He is averse to sloppiness. He is unwilling for us to behave as if we do not understand the pains of the people of the region and, so, I would like to reassure you of the president’s commitment to your concerns as a socio-cultural organisation.”
The NDDC chief executive officer urged the Ijaw leaders to make efforts to stem the rising tide of militancy in the Niger Delta, declaring, “It is in our own interest. We are not talking about the benefits that accrue to us as a country, but the benefits that accrue to us as people from the region.”
Mrs. Semenitari urged the INC leaders to engage the youths and get them to understand that the region could no longer continue on the path
INC President, Boma Obouforibo, said the Ijaw group was currently involved in far-reaching and groundbreaking negotiations to address the restiveness in the Niger Delta, and the destruction of oil installations that hadve led to a drain on the country’s economy.