Deputy Governor of Delta State, Deacon Kingsley Burutu Otuaro rose up in defence of oil communities in Delta State rather than sideline their leaders in proposed dialogue with the Federal Government over demands including Marginal Oil Fields.
Chairman of Bomadi Political Renaissance, BPR, Mr. Bibobra Custom, in a statement said the “sideline” position expressed by one Comrade Austin Ozobo, President of Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative (IPDI) was “hasty, uninformed and mischievous”.
Custom said “it was wrong for Ozobo or anybody to have misunderstood the “what is happening in Delta State” meeting between governments, Federal (Vice President Yemi Osibanjo and Timipre Sylva) and Delta State (represented by Otuaro), to mean that oil bearing stakeholders/leaders had been or would be sidelined in the dialogue table to which Otuaro reportedly before and immediately after said they would be invited”.
Custom said “IPDI’s Ozobo was a poor student of history in this matter by failing to be guided by fact that Osibanjo in 2017 first met oil communities/areas before meeting with leaders of Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum, PANDEF, that was in place before his visits”, adding: “There was nothing in the media space or anywhere, from start of protests to Otuaro’s return from meeting Osibanjo, suggesting that Otuaro wished to displace or replace the oil communities and their leaders in the envisaged dialogue”.
According to Custom, “If Ozobo had followed developments, he would have known that the Delta State government via Otuaro merely took responsible action towards the security and welfare of people of Delta State. The issues began with protests from his own Ijaw of Gbaramatu Kingdom and Itsekiri and up till Otuaro’s invitation by Vice President, the protests and issues/Marginal Fields requests were from Delta State even though they bear semblance with the wider Niger Delta issues earlier canvassed”.
“In the wake of the Ijaw/Itsekiri threats to shutdown oil operations, leading to more ethnic groups joining the protests/threats, Otuaro displayed foresight in earlier appealing to Ijaw/Itsekiri oil communities to consider win-win option of dialogue which he later extended to the other protesting ethnic groups still within Delta State. The media reports are there. The dialogue option averted possible military collision with the oil communities that would have hurt the state/national economy, caused destruction of communities and several deaths of defenceless citizens and huge humanitarian crises amongst others, as happened before in Otuaro’s native Gbaramatu Kingdom”, Custom said.
Custom was further incensed with Ozobo who reportedly said “any government representative cannot truly speak for the people of the Niger Delta because they are part of the multiple problems in the Niger Delta”.
“The impression created by IPDI’s Ozobo that veterans in the Ijaw/Niger Delta struggle, like Kingsley Burutu Otuaro, cannot truly speak or advance the interests of the people when in Government is an insult to likes of Nelson Mandela, Governor Douye Diri, Chief Edwin Clark and other leaders, as it means that all of these and others who promoted the people’s interests could never advance same when in government. Indeed, Ozobo, a failed aspirant to the Delta State House of Assembly, even shot himself in the foot by his reckless statement. Is Ozobo, who claims to be a rights activist, saying it is not possible for him to speak for and advance the people’s interests when elected?”, Custom asked.
“It should be noted that long before the creation of PANDEF in October 7, 2016, Otuaro as Deputy Governor and Chair of Delta State Advocacy Committee Against Vandalism of Oil and Gas Facilities, toured the state’s creeks in several Ijaw kingdoms and Itsekiri land in May 2016 to talk to oil communities to guard oil facilities which militants had bombarded–reducing the oil economy of the nation to recession”.
“We task the Okowa/Otuaro-led Delta State government to continue to support the growth of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, sustain its ongoing roads/bridge infrastructure drive in Warri South-West, Warri North, Burutu, Bomadi and other LGAs and indeed continue liaising with the FG to ensure completion of the Escravos Power project as template for lighting up Niger Delta communities, and not allow any person throw spanner in the works”, Custom pleaded.
Appealing to Otuaro to continue being Niger Delta Peace Ambassador, the BPR tasked Ozobo “to reach out and accord respect to those in the struggle before him so as to remain focused”.