A meeting between the Federal Government and stakeholders was held at the Delta State Government House, Asaba, on Wednesday night, it was learnt yesterday.If the truce holds, International Oil Companies (IOCs) and local operators will have the chance to repair their facilities destroyed by the rampaging Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).
Minister of Petroleum Resources (State) Dr Ibe Kachikwu, who led the Federal Government’s delegation and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa met with representatives of Chief Government Ekpemupolo (Tompolo), Chief Ayiri Emami and other stakeholders.
It could not be ascertained if representatives of the NDA whose activities have badly affected Nigeria’s oil output, attended the meeting.
Tompolo has been fingered by various sources as the founder of the group, an allegation that he has vehemently denied.
The ongoing deliberation is being held amidst objections from former militant leaders and the Pa JOS Ayomike-led Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, who believe that the move will encourage further destruction of oil facilities in the name of agitation.
Tompolo’s Media Consultant, Comrade Paul Bebenimibo, told our reporter that his boss was represented by Chief Dan Ekpebide. A prominent member of the Traditional Council, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, represented the kingdom.
Ekpebide confirmed the report, but did not give any details. He said he was on a flight when our reporter called him.
Chief Godspower Gbenekama, who represented Gbaramatu Traditional Council, said their participation was no confirmation that the militants were from the kingdom.
He said: “We held a meeting with the minister and the governor as representatives of Gbaramatu Traditional Councol and we assured the minister of our resolve to work with the Federal Government for peace.
“It is a continuation of the meetings that the minister has held in Akwa Ibom and other parts. It does not mean that those attacking oil installations are from Gbaramatu. We are people from the riverside areas where these attacks occur that is why we were invited.”
Gbenekama urged President Muhammadu Buhari to show sincerity in handling Niger Delta issues.
“We are ready to work with government to ensure peace in the area and we appeal to those who are aggrieved to sheathe their swords and work for peace in the interest of the region and the country at large,” Gbenekama added.
The Ijaw leader refused to divulge further details, insisting that “it was a private meeting”.
A source privy to the meeting said: “What I know is that the minister and the governor met separately with the various interest groups, including representatives of Tompolo, Chief Ayiri Emami and other Itsekiri leaders in the area.
“It is difficult to ascertain the kernel of the discussion because Governor Okowa and the minister met separately with the various groups and their discussions were in secret, without third parties.
“What I heard was that the minister and the governor impressed on the protagonists that there is need to sheathe their swords and allow the government time to fashion out a way to address the issues affecting the region,” the source, who asked not to be named, said.
Although it was gathered that Tompolo’s representatives insisted that he was not part of the NDA, some of the issues raised by the group were discussed with Gbaramatu leaders.
One of the key demands of the Gbaramatu people is the take-off of the NIMASA University. There are indications that the Federal Government will grant the request.