Elders, Police, SSS on rescue mission in Imo
By FEMI ADEOTI
Wednesday April 11 , 2012
• Bishop Udo Azogu reading the opening address. From left, Chief Samuel Ezediaro and Maj-Gen Adamu Dyeri (retd).
Experts in conflict resolution from the Niger Delta states under the aegis of Oil Mineral Producing Areas Landlords’ Association of Nigeria (OMPALAN) held a workshop on peace development recently at Oguta, Imo State, to drum up support for the rule of law. The peace workshop tagged “Alternative Conflict Resolution” with theme “The Dividends of Constructive Dialogue” concluded weeks of intense effort by OMPALAN to persuade the youths and elders of oil producing communities in the state to express their grievances through constitutional means.
There were tensions in the oil producing communities in the aftermath of amendment of the Imo State Oil Producing Development Commission (ISOPADEC) Law which entitles indigenes of non-oil producing communities to occupy top management positions of the commission such as chairman managing director and director of youth.
The communities are peeved over the cold reception of their protest letter by Governor Rochas Okorocha. They were calling for the scrapping of the amended ISOPADEC Law and maintaning the status quo. The amendment of the ISOPADEC law was said to have been hurriedly made and passed in the night amidst massive protests by oil producing communities in the state. The move was perceived by host communities as unmerited punishment meted against them in the unending war of attrition between the governor and leaders of the main opposition party, the PDP in the two major oil producing of Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta councils.
The drama started with the arrest and detention of restive youths who were intercepted within the Oguta oil field by men of 34, Artillery Brigade, Obinze. To contain the situation state of OMPALAN led by Bishop Udo Azogu mobilised a combined team of police officers and experts in conflict resolution to traverse the two LGAs drumming support for the rule of law.
OMPALAN National Leader and chairman, Imo State Caucus, Bishop Udo Azogu, told his audience to shun violence and recourse to the rule of law in venting their grievances no matter the provocation. He said lawlessness will only help to compound the problem rather than solving it. He reminded them that security operatives cannot fold their hands while constitutional order is threatened.
He told the participants to be united and present a common front to push their demands within the ambit of the law. In an interview with Daily Sun, he warned that the recklessness of some oil producing state governors who shortchange host communities in the administration of palliative programmes will be challenged in the appropriate law courts:
“Some of these governors have proved that they are incapable to run mitigation schemes which are essentially targeted at host communities. The magnitude of destruction of agricultural lands and creeks in host communities by inordinate oil exploration and exploitation activities by competing multi-national interests has reached a breaking point. Politicians are exploiting the minority status of host communities to wreck havoc on these vulnerable communities while the Federal Government turns a blind eye. We hear of how politicians cart away billions of Naira from our land and turn a blind eye to our plight.
“In Imo State government retains 60% of the total monthly derivation fund from the federation account exclusively for its use while 40% is set aside for the running of the ISOPADEC. There is not much on the ground in oil producing communities to justify the 40% derivation fund running into millions of Naira that accrue to it.
Azogu regretted the conspicuous absence of the Imo State Government in the peace workshop and called on the Federal Government to stop the payment of oil derivation fund to oil producing states until an acceptable format of redistribution of the derivation fund to the constituent units is worked out: “The fund is only used to service governors and their cronies most of who do not come from oil producing communities.”
He also called for the scrapping of local government councils if the Federal Government cannot grant them financial autonomy to enable them deliver the goods. Azogu warned that with the nation inching in to 2015, politicians have stepped up clandestine activities in order to overheat the system and have their way:
It is most unfortunate that the Nigerian government has over the years repeatedly failed to act proactively in matters that are potentially explosive such as the ongoing agitation in oil producing communities of Imo State. Some of these governors wilfully execute programmes that provoke crisis in the hope that security forces will quell any upheaval and this is the bane of insecurity in the Niger Delta region.
“This is why I am calling for the stripping of the immunity powers given to governors to make them answerable to overt breaches of the law or vindictive actions likely to cause a breach of the law such as the recent amendment of the ISOPADEC law.”
The guest speaker was Chief Samuel Oduh Ezediaro, while other speakers were Maj-Gen. Adamu Dyeri (OMPALAN National Coordinator, Peace and Security), Prof (Mrs.) Dolly Ighoroje, Coordinator, Education Infrastructure, Prof. R. C. Bob-Duru, Coordinator, Project and Rev Osaretin Enofe, Head, Administration. All the speakers harped on the imperatives of the rule of law in resolving issues.
Also at the workshop were the DPO, Oguta, who represented the state Commissioner of Police, and the SSS boss, Oguta LGA who stood for the Director, SSS.