A repentant Niger Delta militant leader, General Para Ekiyes, has cautioned the restive youths in the oil and gas region against taking laws into their hands by engaging in acts that will be detrimental to the wellbeing of Nigeria.
The repentant armed rebel who was speaking in a telephone chat with this reporter on latest developments in the environmentally despoiled oil region, applauded the recent seven-points demands made by governors and leaders of the area during a parley with a presidential delegation in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
According to him, ‘’only peace-building activities in the region will create an environment supportive of self-sustaining, durable peace, capable of reconciling opponents; prevent conflict from restarting and address underlying structural and societal issues.
‘’The demands of the leaders of the region in Port Harcourt are long overdue. The call for repositioning of Niger Delta Development Commission and the Presidential Amnesty Programme, with a view to enhancing community participation in their programmes is timely.’’
Continuing, Ekiyes who is a traditional Egbesu priest, argues that though the patriotic commitment to nation-building is the responsibility of all citizens, ‘’young people should always take the centre stage in sustainable peacebuilding initiatives to create a peaceful environment for socio-economic development of the region.’’
Adding, he said the call for the relocation of headquarters of all oil and gas companies operating in the Niger Delta to the region, in addition to operating transparent fiscal regime and true federalism, as well as demilitarisation of the entire Niger Delta, are genuine demands from a people whose environment has been degraded as a result of decades of oil and gas exploration and exploitation activities by international oil and gas corporations without any thing to show for, just as he threw his weight behind demand for the 13 per cent derivation to paid directly to oil and gas producing communities.
‘’If properly channelled and fully exploited, the innate potentials of the youths can be transformed as a means of developing the Niger Delta region, saying that the youths of the region remain one of the greatest assets that any nation can have.
“Not only are they legitimately regarded as the future leaders, they are potentially and actually the greatest investment for a country’s development.
“The resilient young women and men are as a vital resource whose future prospects are inextricably tied to that of the region and the country at large. The youths are the valued possession of any nation or region. Without them, there can be no future. Therefore they should be carried along and involved at the centre of any possible reconstruction and development agenda in the region”, he said.
According to him, ‘’any nation that denies its youth the necessary enabling environment to participate in nation-building process does so at its own risk This is because youth are the foundation of any society. Their energies, resourcefulness, character and orientation defines the pace of development and security of a nation.
“Through their creative talents and labour, a nation makes giant strides in economic development and socio-political attainments. In their dreams and hopes, a nation finds her motivation.’’