Udengs Eradiri, President, Ijaw Youths Council, in this interview with NWADIKE UGOCHUKWU, says he wants recognized international organizations to commence clean up exercise in Ogoni land.
DO you agree with the personalities in Rivers State who say that Ijaw people should not be involved in the cleanup of Ogoni waterways?
This is an opportunity for us to find out the personalities who are saying that Ijaws will not be part of the federal government clean up exercise in Ogoni land. We suspect somebody like Celestine Okubari to be among such people. Celestine is a senior comrade in the Niger Delta but sometimes I doubt his consistency. Celestine is playing to divide and rule tactics. Celestine said Ogoni land is not extended to other parts of the Niger Delta.
Our position is that reputable organizations should commence clean up in Ogoni land. We are aware the people are in Abuja lobbing government to give them the clean up contract. Their companies will tell you to bring names; we will share money. That is not the cleanup we are talking about. How the cleanup should be, our position is clear. We cannot clean Ogoni land without the other parts of Niger Delta communities.
The cleanup exercise should be holistic and the federal government must engage a reputable organization known for cleanup. I am not telling you that the community is collecting money from the people to give their companies recommendations on Ogoni cleanup. When you raise the issue, somebody begins to say, IYC is an institution.
We have decided not to join issues with individuals. Find out the history of the Niger Delta. IYC was behind Saro Wiwa and Oronto Doglas, who was Saro Wiwa’s foot soldier. You mentioned Ogoni activists that were there; everyday, we are defending him. Somebody like Celestine decided to use their words to say that only the Ogoni land that the government should commence the cleanup exercise. They have brought N41 billion, it means that there will be no economic activity for the youths of this region. The amnesty program got N25 billion; if they did not pay that money to the people of the Niger Delta, crime rate would be increased, the east-west road got N59 billion.
Are you impressed by the federal government’s plans for the Niger Delta and what the governors are doing to create employment for youths?
We cannot use stick and carrot approach to solve Niger Delta problems. What is the government’s plan? Look the budget, railway budget from Lagos to Calabar was removed in the first budget passed by the national Assembly and sent to President Muhammadu Buhari for signature. Rail line will create jobs for the people. People were arguing whether the rail project will be in the budget or not. The government is not serious over the engagement of Niger Delta people. The crisis in the region will continuously go on until governments do their responsibilities. Government must support what we are doing for the development of the region.
The Minister of Environment recently visited Ogoni on the commencement of the cleanup of Ogoni land, what is your take?
The woman came to Ogoni to look at how to tackle the environmental challenges in the areas. The woman has integrity. In the past government, it was the same. Buhari came into and said that we must be together, and that woman is making progress because things are beginning to happen. I have confidence in the woman; she will do better than others.
Since you became President of Ijaw Youth Council, what have been your achievements?
I am not government, I don’t create jobs. I will liaise with existing institution that will create job opportunities to engage our people. Outside that, we have set up a library with I CT; we have embarked on information centre to train young people. So, when you come to our secretariat, you will get where you will read, because knowledge is key to education. I was the Secretary General of the amnesty program. Today, the education capacities of the young people have moved to the level of 35 per cent, that is where we are today. The second phase is how do we harness the capacity we have to create employment for the youths. That is where government must be serious. You have a government that will not create enabling environment; so, whatever you are doing will be futility. I am going to see the minister of environment on how to organise miners into cooperative society. We have illegal bunkers; pollution is in the north east, polluting the environment. That is one economic crisis. We have written to them to discuss how we will tackle the pollution in the Niger Delta, government must tackle pollution in our region.
We condemn what happened at Nembe. Our communities are turning into something else.
If communities say, we don’t have camp to keep kidnappers. They will ignore the traditional ruler of such communities. A traditional ruler can be sanctioned because he will not keep kidnappers in your environment. that way, the community structure can be built.
I am not happy in what happened in Nembe road, you should not allow criminals to be in your communities. All of us know these boys, they have wives and children. I have warned people to stop paying ransom to kidnappers. Somebody in my house was kidnapped three weeks ago, when I called, they told me that the person cannot make call. They came to my house, I gave them drink; I cannot punish them. Governments must do their duties in their agreement with the people.