Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari issued a stern warning to vandals blowing up oil and gas installations, saying the fate of the Boko Haram insurgents in the hands of the armed forces would be their lot. Read here if you missed.
However, concerned leaders of Bayelsa State have warned against such inflammatory statements, saying they could start another crisis in the region.
According to The Guardian, one of the founding fathers of the state, Thomson Okorotie, urged Buhari to tread softly, stressing that it was wrong to compare oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the region to the war currently going on in the Northeast.
According to him, though there was nothing bad in fighting criminality in the region, he cautioned Buhari to go after perpetrators of crime, instead of making sweeping statements capable of sending the wrong signals.
“I do not condole criminality, because what we have should be reserved and not destroyed. But we have to identify the real people behind the oil theft and not allow the innocent persons to suffer in the process of trying to fish out the perpetrators,” he said.
Okorotie reiterated that “Boko Haram has a mission that we do not understand; they are just destroying lives and properties and abducting people for no cause. So there is no need to start another war in the Niger Delta, I think we should simply go for the perpetrators.” According to him, the intensity of both crimes are not the same, though when pipelines are vandalized it affects oil production, but the degree of that statement is “harsh”.
One of the ex-militant leaders, Ebi John, also reacted to the President’s warning saying though the President was free to deal with oil vandals, he should not use dealing with oil vandals to kill innocent people doing their legitimate businesses.
He pledged the ex-militants readiness to assist the president in the fight against oil theft and other oil related crimes in the region.
Ebihowever, urged the president to ensure that the anomalies in the amnesty program are corrected.
The spokesman for the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Eric Omare had this to say: “Niger Delta people are not vandals, as vandalism of pipelines happen all over the country, however, I know that had them in mind when he made that statement.”
The Ijaw leader declared that it fears that President Buhari has an agenda to carry out massive attack on the Niger Delta region, warning that IYC had alerted the world before now.
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