Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, has decried the recent threats by a new militant group called 'The New Delta Avengers', saying although his government believes in freedom of expression of diverse opinions in the true spirit of democracy, the government would not be intimidated or held to ransom by any group based on blatant lies and unfounded claims.
Okowa stressed that all the grounds or claims on which the new militant group was issuing threats of bloodshed in the state were fallacious and not supported by empirical evidence in terms of inclusiveness of the administration as well as equitable distribution of projects across the three senatorial zones of the state.
Specifically, the governor, who spoke to journalists at the Government House in Asaba yesterday through his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Mr. Charles Aniagwu, debunked allegations of neglect of oil bearing communities and crippling of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) by his government.
He said it was neither true that his administration has not been funding the projects in different parts of the state equitably nor was there any truth in the claim that DESOPADEC was deliberately being under-funded to undermine development of oil producing communities.
Okowa however appealed to anybody in the state that might be harbouring grievances against his administration to adopt the option of dialogue and peaceful resolution of perceived differences or grievances in the interest of peace and development.
The governor, who stated that the spread of political appointment into his government does not support the claim of nepotism leveled by the new militant group, noted that the reforms were carried out in the structure of DESPODEC by his administration, which modeled it after the NDDC model, in order to position the commission to serve the people of oil communities better through execution of projects that directly impact on their lives.
On claims that oil producing Ijaw, Itsekiri, Ndokwa and Urhobo communities have been neglected in the distribution of infrastructural projects, he said the people of these areas would disagree with the militants' claims as there were unprecedented ongoing in oil producing communities
The governor further noted that the Delta State Capital Territory was a legislative creation of the state House of Assembly meant to make Asaba a befitting capital territory of an oil producing state, noting that the 13 percent oil derivation fund was to the credit of the state as a federating unit of Nigeria rather than for individual oil-bearing communities.
Okowa said: "If indeed this new group is desirous of having government develop the creeks; is desirous of having us live in peace; is desirous of having us protect the wellbeing of our brothers and sisters who live in these oil bearing communities, they cannot be talking about bloodbath because, bloodbath will affect most likely those who live in that environment much more than any other person else and so, you cannot begin to raise arms against those that you claim to protect.
"If indeed their desire is for the development of the creeks, we cannot take actions capable of further polluting the creeks; if indeed their actions is to bring prosperity to the people of the oil bearing communities, you cannot go and destroy the infrastructure that will bring dividends of democracy to our brothers and sisters who live in these areas, but most importantly, this government is already constructing roads in Okerenkoko, today you will see that work is ongoing in Ogulagha (Warri South-West) where internal roads are being tarred, if you go to a larger part of Burutu, you would never even know that we could get a road that will be up to 18 kilometres within the creeks constructed by Okowa's administration.
"All these are being done to make life much more meaningful for our people in the creeks, and with the empowerment programmes initiated by this administration, you will discover that our people in the creeks are not left out, so, it is a holistic approach that the government has adopted with a view to ensuring that everybody is brought on board.
"I am addressing specifically, the publication credited to a group that calls itself The New Delta Avengers because, we must set the record straight; it is not true for anybody to accuse the government of neglecting the oil bearing communities; it is also wrong for anyone to accuse the government of not properly funding DESOPADEC, and I do not want to address our mind to the group's motto which says, 'Bloodbath to The Traitor or anyone who opposes or seen as a traitor'; this administration has special respect for the ethnic diversity of the state and indeed respect for the three senatorial districts, respect to the 10 federal constituencies and respect to the 25 local government areas that make up the state; everybody is being carried along because we believe that together, we will be stronger as a state."