A former President of the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) Worldwide, Engr. Udengs Eradiri, has appealed to the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, to tread with caution in his ongoing war against illegal refineries and bunkering.
Eradiri, a two-time Commissioner in Bayelsa State, said adopting brute force to stop illegal refineries, blamed for the soot in Rivers, could only worsen the situation instead of addressing the problem.
While commending Wike for his bold steps, Eradiri urged him to adopt a strategic broader stakeholders engagement in dealing with the menace to avoid creating another cycle of arm struggle in the region.
He insisted that if the situation were not effectively and cautiously managed, myriads of youths, who were already engaged in the illegal business activities for survival, would be forced to acquire arms and fight back.
Eradiri, who spoke in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Tuesday, recalled that the banditry in Zamfara State started when authorities adopted a wrong approach to dislodge hungry youths from gold mining sites.
He said the problem later came under control when reasons prevailed and authorities decided to set up a committee to harmonise gold mining licenses for the locals.
He insisted that the same approach adopted by the Federal Government in Zamfara to give the locals an opportunity to benefit from their natural resources should be extended to the people of the region.
Eradiri said economic exclusion, hunger, unemployment, high cost of petroleum products, the supply-demand gap of products caused by dysfunctional government-owned refineries and hopelessness were factors fueling establishment of illegal refineries.
He urged Wike to work with the Federal Government to tackle the problem, adding that the government had already set up a committee headed by Senator Eta Enang to harmonise the issues in the region.
He said: “The Governor of Rivers State has demonstrated courage in declaring this war against illegal bunkering and crude cooking of crude oil to protect the people he had sworn to govern.
“I, however, appeal to him to exercise caution because the problem has grown beyond imagination following the myriads of youths involved in it. It has now become a cartel and it requires strategic engagement to dismantle it without creating another cycle of violence in the region.
“I appeal to the governor to work with the Federal Government because the government had already set up a committee headed by Senator Eta Enang to harmonise the issues in the region”.