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Niger Delta youths, under the aegis of Anioma Youths Forum Worldwide, has said there may be fresh agitation in the Niger Delta over the recent signing of the Petroleum Industry Bill into law, describing it as an aberration to the oil rich region.
This is as the Defence Headquarters said the military was ready to forestall the breakdown of law and order in the region.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Monday, signed the PIB into law after over 20 turbulent years,.
But the National President of the forum, Nnamdi Ofonye, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH, said the negligence of the Federal Government might lead to a new agitation.
He said, “We will collectively take a stand in our meeting this Sunday (today). Inasmuch as the eventual signing of the bill into law is one that all of Niger Delta has been craving, unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be what we expected.
“The three per cent is still a far cry from what we thought, and this goes to show that our representatives do not take our plight to heart because if the bill that was just signed was presented for the general well-being of the people, it wouldn’t have generated controversy.
“If the generality of the Niger Delta is against the bill, I see no reason why our lawmakers did not stop it at the National Assembly. This is what we always got because when we ask for the constituency briefing, they don’t see it as anything but a waste of time.
“We have cried to them about what we want but most of them went to support the bill against the wishes of the people. They have failed us.
“The Niger Delta will renew its agitation. In fact, there have been some threats in some quarters. But we, the youth of the Niger Delta, are networking and speaking among ourselves to know what next to do.
“I do not want to pre-empt any group now, but currently, we are all planning to meet to review the so-called law. So far so good, the law has not gone down well with the youth of the Niger Delta. We will make our position known soon.”
However, the Director of Defence Information, Major General Benjamin Sawyerr, in an interview with one of our correspondents, advised anyone aggrieved with the law to seek means other than violence to seek redress.
Asked if the military had plans to checkmate the treats issued by the repentant militants, he said, “The military is ready at all times to address the issue of security concerns. We have all it takes to ensure that the peace and stability enjoyed in the Niger Delta remains and keep everyone secured.
“I believe they will resolve whatever their grievances are and it won’t degenerate into any crisis. However, we are always prepared to ensure there is peace in every nook and cranny of the country.”
However, two senior military officers from the South-South, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, appealed to the militants to embrace peace.
They said they would not speak on record because the activities of the military in the region had already been centralised and that only the DHQ was allowed to make official comments on such issues.
They nevertheless warned that the military would not allow anyone to interrupt the peace being enjoyed by the people of the region over the signing of the PIB into law by the President.
One of them said, “Look, we are in a democratic setting. The President did not manufacture the bill. The bill, before it was presented for signing, was debated at the National Assembly. Representatives of all the states and communities in the country, South-South inclusive, took part in the debate. The majority of them agreed on the provisions in it before it was presented to the President for signing.
“If the people are not happy, they should rather talk to their people to prepare another bill for the amendment of the one signed. But if they say no and want to resort to self-help, we will not open our eyes and allow anyone to take the country back to the time when there was anarchy. The military is equipped enough to handle such a situation.”
The officer appealed to traditional rulers and opinion leaders in the zone to call their subjects to toe the path of peace.
Also, another senior officer, who equally spoke on condition of secrecy, said the military was always on the alert, warning that “anyone who wants to disrupt the peace and economic interest of the nation would not be spared.”
“While we are not preparing for any war with our brothers and sisters, we also need to say the military or even the police would not be watching while some people would unleash terror on their communities and innocent Nigerians,” he said.