Community leaders in Nigeria’s restive oil-rich Niger Delta
have unanimously rejected a government-proposed summit aimed at resolving the
military crisis in the region. The leaders claimed they have lost confidence in
the government’s lack of political will to resolve the problems in the region.
But President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua has reportedly said the rejection of the
summit would significantly undermine the implementation of government’s
policies. He said the summit must hold in the interest of peace and security
and for the development of the oil-producing region, promising that it would
not turn out to be yet another "pointless and diversionary jamboree as
Lidum Mitte is the President of the Movement for the Survival
of Ogoni People. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the leaders rejected the
government’s proposed summit on the grounds that previous summits had been
reduced to mere “talk shops” with no solutions to the problems in the area.
view from the leaders that met with the federal government was that we did not
require a summit in order to get some action done in the Niger Delta. People
believe that what was lacking was the political will and not lack of some
summit and that there has been several instances whereby people have met,
produced papers and nothing has happened. So, they do not trust government
again about talks and for one year nothing has happened, and they believe that
a government that has a four-year term, one year has been wasted for so-called
consultations that have not been effective. So, they felt that this was another
delay as another tactic not to do anything,” Mitte noted.
He said leaders in the
restive Niger Delta are skeptical of any summit that promises to resolve the
problems in the area.
“I don’t know exactly what
they (government) want to achieve if the important stakeholders say we do not
need a summit. I agree that there is a need for some process to be embarked
upon, but not in the idea in which it is being packaged for now,” he said.
Mitte said the government
should swallow its pride and consult with stakeholders in the area to come out
with alternatives to resolving the problems in the area.
“You can ask all the ethnic
groups to their own vision of what they want done in the immediate, short,
medium and long term. And then there should be some conversation about how we
collate what is common and what the government wants to do. And from that point
something needs to start on the ground so that people see that something is
happening. But if you want a show thing like what we’ve gone through like a
summit and if the government insists on that and the people say that they do
not want it then of course you know it would be doomed for failure right from
inception,” Mitte pointed out.
He said there is skepticism
among people in the Niger Delta region about reported government policies to
develop the area.
“If there has been a policy
then there is just no need to have any summit. But if the whole idea is to know
exactly how the people feel then the people have already expressed their
feelings through the meetings. So, I should think that government should be
humble enough. If you embark on something, which you find out that it is not
consistent with the yearnings of the people to back down. But I do not think it
is important in today’s world that government should say having said it we must
carry it on whatever the opposition we have even from very critical
stakeholders,” he said.
Mitte described as
unfortunate how previous governments and oil companies have gone about
addressing the problems in the region.
“We think that instead of
what the oil companies and governments do most of the time to appease the most
violent segments of the society that that is counter productive. We believe
that we have to separate genuine community agitations from criminality and
respond to them as such. I believe that there is no way you are going to solve
this problem without making the people have benefits or get some take into the
resources of their land. And those are the sorts of things that I expect to
come out of any resolution of the conflict,” Mitte noted.