Nigerian President, Mohammadu Buhari, has been advised to tread with caution on Niger Delta issues. He has been called upon to immediately withdraw troops deployed to some communities in the area in order not to cause unnecessary tension in the region.
This plea was made by Ann-kio Briggs, a human rights activist and the spokesperson of the Ijaw Republican Assembly (IRA), while speaking with newsmen in Port Harcourt, on Thursday.
Briggs further warned that the presence of soldiers in these communities, particularly Gbaramatu, Delta State was capable of causing tension in the area as well as sending a wrong signal to investors.
She said in seeking the arrest of former militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo (Tompolo), the Government should go through due process which according to her, deployment of troops to the communities is not part of.
“Tompolo has been doing legitimate business with government over the years. I don’t know which law stipulates how to do business or otherwise.
“If the Federal Government has any issue with Tompolo, they should go through the due process of properly investigating him.
“You can’t send soldiers to destroy a community, arrest young men and rape women in the name of searching for Tompolo.
“If they claim that everybody in the Ijaw land is a criminal, does it also mean that everybody in the North is a member of Boko Haram?
“You cannot hold the traditional rulers responsible for Tompolo’s action or inaction. The attitude of the soldiers in the Ijaw communities is oppressive. The moment soldiers are restricted to a particular ethnic group in the country, it becomes very worrisome”, she said.
Briggs also said it was abuse f human rights for soldiers to “invade any community in search of their target, noting that such action was “not the way to address the issue of decades-long neglect of the Niger Delta region by a successive government.”
She insisted that Tompolo, if indicted for any wrong doing, should be properly investigated.
“But there are officials in this government who have been indicted of embezzlement of public funds, yet they are walking about as freemen,” she added.
She pointed out that the search for the arrest of Tompolo should not be enough reason for the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, to cancel the Maritime University set up by the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan in Delta State.
She said that moving the university out of the Niger Delta was anti-Nigeria and was capable of generating “bad blood between the North and the people of the region.
“Tompolo’s issue is not enough reason for anybody to cancel the maritime university. This is a shame. We in Ijaw land deserve equal share of every good thing in this country.
“If an aviation university is to be built in the north, why can’t somebody leave the maritime university in Delta!
“Jonathan (former President Goodluck) built about 12 new universities during his tenure and five of these universities where in the North.
“Why should anybody contemplate of denying Ijaw people the right of hosting a university on their land!” she said.