Youths of Ijaw extraction under the auspices of the Niger Delta Youth Leadership Forum (PANDLEAF) have demanded that the federal government establish an oil and gas colony in the region.
The demand comes at a time when the Nigerian government had proposed colonies as a solution to the crisis between herdsmen and farmers.
The Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, had on Friday revealed that the colonies would take effect this week.
However, the youths from the nine states of the Niger Delta region said if the government wants colony for cattle, the Niger Delta people would also need colony for oil and gas.
Speaking at the inauguration of the Bayelsa state chapter of PANDLEAF in Yenagoa on Saturday, Richard Akinaka, President of the forum, said if herdsmen want land, they should pay for it as it is the practised all over the world.
“As a people, we have taken that position that herdsmen are private business people. Some of us who have private businesses, take private and personal responsibility to advance our business interests,” he said.
“If herdsmen want land and spaces to do their business, they should acquire them within any of the states and do their business as it demands the way it is done elsewhere all over the world where you have people get ranches for their cattle and people go there to buy cattle for consumption purposes.
“So, that is the best thing to do. Government does not need to buy land for a private businessman and all of that. But if that is what the government wants to do, we are asking for oil and gas colony for our people too.
“We should be given extra reserve right to take full responsibility of our oil and gas industry because that is our area, that is our environment.
“We suffer environmental problems. So, if they want colony for their cattle, we want colony for our oil and gas business.”
However, Akinaka said that instead of threats, the people of the Niger Delta region should engage in intellectual struggle in advancing agitations against wrong government policies rather than resorting to old-fashioned idea of armed struggle.
He continued: ”We strongly believe that the time for armed struggle is over. Life is in phases and so should our struggles be. We must be able to advance our agitations beyond that to the high grounds of intellectual and constructive engagement.”
“We should redirect our energy to advance a common regional fronts in an intellectual manner that will cause people to respect and listen to us. But sometimes, when you see the thing government does, to the shallow-minded, the best thing to do is to go the way of the gun because there are things that are going on that are not right.”
“You see what our host communities are going through, the environmental problems, the Ogoni clean up that has been promised our people, nothing is going on. An impatient mind may say, we must resist these things, they are not right, but our advice to our people is to avert war.”
“War does not solve problem. We have passed through that stage of life, let us see how we can provide leadership and see how we can adopt internationally acceptable standards and advance the cause of our people, that is the stage we are in now.”
“Indeed, we have a cause. One of the greatest problems we have is leadership failure. Our leaders have failed us at different times and one of the reasons is lack of cohesion and unity among them. So, we need that cohesion, we need that unity and synergy to ensure that we are facing government and international oil companies with a common cause.”