Ijaw youths Thursday trooped out to protest ongoing fresh investigations into alleged fraud in the Oil Production Licence (OPL) 245, an oil block belonging to Dan Etete, popularly known as Malabu oil deal.
The youths, who took over the Ijaw House along Sani Abacha Expressway in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, said “the continuous harassment of Etete by the Federal Government” was an affront to the Ijaw people.
The youths who were led by the Central Zone Chairman of the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), Mr. Tare Pori, displayed placards with inscriptions such as, “Stop oppressing Ijaw son”, “Leave Dan Etete alone”, “Ijaws will not bow to intimidation”, “we feed Nigeria”, “oil blocks belong to Ijaw people”, “we own the oil wells”, among others.
Pori, who was visibly angry, said it was unfair for the Federal Government to continue “persecuting Etete”, the only big Ijaw player in the oil and gas industry.
He wondered why OPL 245 was singled out for a prolonged probe among other licenses awarded the same time to people of other ethnic groups.
He said the government by its action was sending a wrong message that it was averse to the participation of the Ijaw and the Niger Delta region in bidding and owning oil blocks domiciled in their territories.
Pori, whose speech was interrupted by solidarity chants, asked the government to discontinue the probe if it valued the existing peace in the Niger Delta region.
He said the youths would no longer remain calm amidst the force of oppression and perceived injustices done to their kinsmen in the oil and gas industry.
Pori maintained that if the government insisted on continuing with the probe, it should also in the spirits of fairness open investigations into deals involving other oil licenses awarded alongside Malabu.
The IYC boss noted that the passed administration looked into the alleged fraud in the award of the license and found no merit in it adding that the current Attorney-General of the Federation gave the process a clean bill of health.
He said it was unfortunate that the government was still investing its energy in the matter adding that the action of the government was targeted at tarnishing the image of an Ijaw man.
According to him if the government failed to stop the probe, Ijaw youths would use the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of their hero, late Major Isaac Adaka Boro, on May 16th to make a statement.
Porri said: “For the first time in 1998, the late Sani Abacha came up with the process of awarding oil licenses in this country and for the first time in the history of this country, an Ijaw man from Odi where the late Isaac Boro actually came from got the OPL 245. This is the popularly talked about the Malabu oil deal.
“We are not happy that this only Ijaw man, Dan Etete, has been facing persecution since then. But we have resolved that moving forward if the Nigerian state thinks that Ijaw people are not good enough to own oil blocks, no human being in this world from any other parts of the country will be good enough to own oil blocks.
“We demand the immediate stoppage of this persecution. Any further attempt to persecute the only Ijaw man in oil and gas business in Nigeria, Dan Etete, the country should be ready not to take oil from our environment.
“The country should look elsewhere for resources to fund her budgets. We will not allow this to happen again. We only lost an election in 2015. We didn’t commit a crime. This persecution of Ijaw people must stop.
“They have done the worst they want to do to us by blackmailing Ijaw people to believing that we are not good enough to occupy the Presidential office; if the country is saying that we are not also good to own our own properties, nobody is fit to own oil blocks.
“They are doing all these because we are aware that the next few months they would commence the process of revoking oil licenses in the country. By 2019 they will commence the process of issuing out new licenses in the country. They are bent in ensuring that no Ijaw man gets the license”.
Pori added: “If they decide to play politics with our modest demands, they know what we are capable of doing. Where are they expecting funds from to fund the 2018 budget and the election year budget? It is from the Niger Delta.
“If they don’t allow Etete to continue to do business in the oil and gas industry, Ijaw people will have no choice than to tell the country that the oil and gas belong to us. They should stop the investigations of the Malabu oil deal. OPL 245 belongs to an Ijaw man”.