AC Calls For Restraint In Niger Delta Military Offensive
The Action Congress (AC) has called for restraint from both the military and the militants who have faced off in the Niger Delta, saying all measures must be taken to protect innocent civilians caught in the cross fire.
In a statement issued in Lagos on Monday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said relief agencies, including the Nigerian Red Cross and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), must be allowed immediate access to the region to tend to those who are either injured or displaced.
It expressed concern at the deterioration of the situation in the region, blaming it on the activities of criminal elements who have infiltrated the ranks of those who are engaged in a legitimate fight for a better deal from the oil being exploited in their area.
``We in the AC have always expressed support for those who are calling for the development of the Niger Delta, provision of jobs opportunities for its youths and the amelioration of the environmental damage done to the area from years of oil exploration.
``But we make bold to say that kidnapping of children and women, robbery of banks and attacks on bullion vans as well as hijacking of ships, just to name a few, are not and should not be part of the campaign to end the years of neglect and impoverishment of the Niger Delta.
``No government will sit by and allow any of its territories to become a den of criminals or for its soldiers to be slaughtered by criminals with impunity. But in taking on the criminals, the government must ensure that the innocent civilians, who have equally suffered from the activities of the militants, do not suffer a double tragedy,'' the party said.
AC recalled its warning in the past, that the actions of some selfish political leaders who armed youths in the region to rig elections for them will eventually precipitate a full blown crisis there.
``The real cause of the proliferation of criminal elements in the Niger Delta is the arming of youths by some unscrupulous politicians to rig elections for them. When the economy was buoyant, some state governments even paid huge monthly allowances to these youths, in addition to giving them leeway to bunker oil, just to silence them.
``But with the economic meltdown, these paymasters have not been able to keep up with such indulgences, triggering a resort to crime by the well-armed youths. Unfortunately, they have now weakened the hitherto massive support for those who are engaged in a legitimate fight for a better Niger Delta,'' the party said.
AC restated its earlier assertion that only a political solution, rather than a military one, can bring lasting peace to the Niger Delta, and called on all stakeholders to come together to fashion a blueprint for peace in the region.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed
National Publicity Secretary