A militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers of Imo State origin, on Wednesday stormed the Government House, Owerri, in trucks where they surrendered their arms and ammunition including AK47 rifles to the state Governor, Rochas Okorocha.
The ex-militants, who arrived the seat of power around 12pm in white T-shirts with the inscription, “Disarmament of Agitators, Powered by the Niger Delta Youths Volunteer Peace Advocacy”, chanted Niger Delta songs. They also castigated oil companies operating in their communities for their insensitivity to the plight of their people.
In the presence of security agencies comprising the police, the Army, the Department of State Services and the Civil Defence Corps, the Deputy Chief of Staff to Okorocha and the Chairman, Disarmament Committee, Mr. Kingsley Uju, said that the occasion was in response to the mandate given to the committee by the governor to find a lasting solution to youth restiveness in the oil-bearing Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta local government areas of the state.
Uju, an indigene of the Ohaji Egbema Council Area, however, regretted that since 1953 when the oil giants commenced operations in the communities, they had failed to address the yearnings and aspirations of the indigenes, hence the frequent outburst of youth restiveness in the areas .
He also regretted the people’s predicament which arose from their wanton neglect by the oil companies that had often led to violent confrontations. He commended the youths for finally embracing peace by laying down their arms, as directed by the governor.
The aggrieved youths, who later spoke through their respective leaders, accused the multi-national corporations of criminally precipitating confusion among their people. They said there was neither pipeline surveillance nor a Niger Delta Development Commission’s presence in their areas, unlike what happened in the neighbouring Rivers and Delta states.
They further pledged that a oilfield had come to prevail in the troubled oil communities but pleaded with the state and the Federal Government to prevail on the oil companies to urgently address their grievances. They also implored the Imo State government to release their members still languishing in detention.
On his part, Okorocha commended the youths for their “rare display of patriotism”, after he received the surrendered arms and ammunition. He assured them that security agencies would no longer invade their areas.
He also said that their demands, grievances and agitations would be articulated and forwarded to the appropriate quarters for prompt attention.