Mr Femi Adesina, Special Adviser on Media & Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari was on Friday (August. 26, 2016), at Channels Television to further inform the public about issues as they affect the country. It was during Mr.Gimba Umar’s State of the Nation program.
Q: Has the government been able to secure a window to negotiate with the Niger Delta militants?
A: Negotiation had always been a viable option towards ending this unrest in the Niger Delta and it is a good thing that the Avengers are finally amenable to dialogue and discussion. Before they agreed, discussion had been on with some other groups, now that they are ready to talk, it can only hasten proceedings.
Q: Have you been able to identify who the real Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) leaders are?
A: You just put your finger on the problem with the groups in the Niger Delta. Between the time the insurgency started again in April, May and now, the Office of the National Security Adviser has met and spoken with more than 30 different groups and when ONSA meets with these groups, each one will claim to be the original, while the others are fake, and on and on . At the end of the day, you don’t know who to talk with and that has been a major hindrance to the dialogue.
Q: What this mean is that the crisis may linger than expected since you are not able to identify who the original NDA is?
A: What the government has done is to also engage with the leadership of the region: royal fathers, chiefs, men and women of reputation and integrity. The intention is, perhaps these people can talk to these groups if they know them and convince them to come together as one body, so that dialogue can be properly structured. If you talk with one group and think that you have reached a conclusion, and then another group comes and says, well you did not speak to us, and continues the vandalisation of installations, then you have not achieved anything.
Q: A very sad situation indeed.Let’s talk about the scope of likely negotiations if you get to the point,where you are able to identify who the real NDA attackers are. Now that the NDA is ready to negotiate and dialogue,do you think the scope will include the initial reasons they picked up arms, which is resource control to be specific?
A: Well, don’t forget that resource control was subject of litigation years back under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, and there was a pronouncement that subsists. It is a legal pronouncement , therefore, if the highest court in the land has ruled, what again are they asking for? It is a region that wanted deriviation which used to be 2% and now is 13%. And when they say they are Avengers, avenging for what and who? I tell you, it is a complex situation,. You don’t fully understand it, and I doubt if the people in it themselves truly understand it. I think it is tendency towards criminality, but what they forget is that it is our country. The way you make your bed is how you lie on it. Satistics have shown that there is a shortfall of N250 billion revenue in July, 2016 alone It is everybody that will bear the brunt, even the state where the pipelines are being vandalized, and it will get to a point that salaries may not be paid again in such states.
Q: Is there more than meets the eye, now that Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka and other eminent Nigerians tasked Mr President to be more proactive in his intervention to douse the tension in the Niger Delta region?
A: Well, I will say Prof Soyinka and all the other voices are voices of reason, credibility, integrity and people to respect. And of course, when you have a situation like this in any country, dialogue should always be the first option. And with President Muhammadu Buhari, dialogue remains the first option.But then, how fast or slow that dialogue is would depend on who you are dialoguing with. How do you dialogue with shadowy groups that you don’t know and how do you dialogue with variegated groups, that when you finish with one, another one says, No, you have dialogued with fake people, we are the authentic people. So, it is a complex situation but government has chosen dialogue as the first option. There are other options, but those will be last options.
Q; One major issue again that has always come up is that of neglect of that region and that they are no longer able to farm or fish due to pollution by oil companies and recent pipelines bombing by the Avengers.How is the government going to tackle this problem and what is the way forward ?
A: Don’t forget that there was an information recently that in the last six years, about N700 billion was pumped into that region, with very little to show for it.
Q; How would you rate the Buhari administration up to this time?
A: I am not the best person to answer that question, being a member of the government but since you have asked me, my answer is that yes, the Buhari administration has come at a very difficult time, but despite the difficulties of the times, it is doing its level best to grapple with the situation, get an handle on it, and begin to make progress. I tell you that this is an administration that will do well for this country. I have no doubt about it.