N/Delta crisis: 1,462 deaths recorded in 22 months —PIND boss

The Niger Delta region has experienced no fewer than 1,462 fatalities as a result of cult and political violence in the last 22 months.

Speaking on a paper titled: Niger Delta Crisis: Ripple Effects on Global Economy, Mr Nkasi Owode of Foundation for Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta (PIND), added that in 2016 alone, over 35 attacks on oil facilities by 13 different groups had been recorded in the region.

Giving a breakdown of the deaths, Owode said between January and August in 2016 alone, 535 deaths were recorded from activities of cult groups, 136 deaths due to political killings and another 125 deaths due to kidnapping in the region.

Mr Owode, who delivered the paper on behalf of Executive Director of PIND, Mr. Sam Diagbo, in Abuja at the 2016 Africa Leadership and Security Summit organised by the Center for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), noted that government’s policy towards resolving the problem in the oil-rich region encouraged violence.

He said while Nigeria expected low oil price this year, it never envisaged that its production would drop to as low as 1.5 million barrels per day.

He pointed out that militancy was only a symptom of an endemic problem in the region and solving the militancy challenge would not end agitation in the area.

Violence in the region, he added, had its roots in cultism and politically-motivated violence, noting that the region had its roots in a structure of violence that graduates from cult-related activities into politically-motivated violence, and then militancy.

He said a holistic approach was needed to find a lasting solution to the region’s challenges, if peace and development must be attained.

Meanwhile, national coordinator of CEPEJ, Comrade Sheriff Mulade, has appealed to Nigerian security agents to sustain the relative peace in the Niger Delta region and adopt a non-violent approach.

Speaking at the Summit which attracted stakeholders, including traditional rulers, diplomats, security agencies, non-governmental organisations and government officials, the CEPEJ boss charged security agencies to support the President Muhammadu Buhari’s dialogue process aimed at finding a lasting solution to numerous problems in the region.

Mulade appealed to various militant groups in the region to give peace a chance in the interest of the people suffering from all forms of environmental and health hazards as a result of oil and gas exploration and exploitation activities.

According to him, besides the loss of revenue to the country, the crisis is being fueled by unemployment in the region as most oil companies have relocated from the area.

The environmental activist said: “I strongly believe that constructive and peaceful engagement will bring the needed peace and development to the oil rich region.”

Comrade  Mulade harped on the need for African countries to work together to solve the leadership and security challenges facing the continent.