Asaba — Stakeholders in Delta state have identified politicians as the most powerful actors involved in conflict, violence and insecurity in the state and herdsmen with backers in the Police and Army, as key actors in law-breaking.
The finding is contained in a Report titled "Insecurity in Delta State: The Issues, Actors and Solutions" written by Prof Sam Ogege (Delta State University, Abraka) and Dr Ebimboere Seiyefa (Baze University Abuja) who were commissioned to conduct the investigation by the Niger Delta Dialogue, NDD, funded by European Union, EU.
The Report is fundamentally the views of respondents and conclusions by the researchers.
The researchers noted: "There was a general consensus that the most powerful of these actors are the political actors. This perception is as a result of their influence and control over state resources and institutions such as the security agencies and courts."
"Political actors have been complicit in instigating and sustaining insecurity, violence and conflict in Delta state. For example, respondents maintain that politicians and government officials have been known to sponsor and arm groups willing to serve as political thugs during periods of elections.
"In addition, security officials, especially the military are accused of actively violating the rights of civilians significantly in communities such as Gbaramatu.
"From these views, it is deduced that complicit politicians fuel violence- political and electoral in the state, this is done through the interpretation of violence as a continuation of politics.
"Significantly is the use of gangs and youths for these services. The outcome is an illicit industry of violent foot soldiers and a culture of impunity amongst sponsors and perpetrators," they added.
A security officer stated: "Most of the problems if you look at it from cultism and some of these community issues, the politicians are central to these activities.
"Like the area of arms proliferation and cultism, you see during campaigns, a good number of them tend to engage these boys to further their interests by creating thugs and when they achieve their political goals they abandon them.
"Nobody wants to identify with these boys, and they deny alliances with these boys."
According to the Report: "Insecurity, violence and conflict in Delta State in the last decade have resulted to the displacement of people, culture of brutishness, loss and decline in investments and development, and an emergence and sustenance of a political violent class amongst others."
"Criminal actors identified by respondents range from organized criminal groups, cultists, violent herders to petty thieves. Majority of the respondents maintained that active members of these groups include youths between the ages of 15-35 years," the investigators noted.
A former Commissioner in the state, Patrick Muoboghare, asserted: "The herdsmen are the main actors and their backers are the police and the military.
"This is because they go about armed with sophisticated weapons while the locals are told not to defend themselves but report to the police."
"This is why in spite of the killings that are carried out in Uwheru, Ossisa, Ogor, Agbarha and Ubuluku, not one person has been arrested or prosecuted that we know of.
"In the local issues of kingship tussle, the well to do in the community are the actors because they are always involved.
"They empower the youths to dethrone kings without recourse to traditional processes and the youths storm the palace to carry out such orders without understanding why they are dethroning the king," Muoboghare added.
"In the case of militancy, there are conflicting views. This is due to the Presidential Amnesty Programme that ensured the rapid decline of violent agitations by diverse militant groups in the state.
"Likewise, a large majority of respondents maintained that violent agitation by militants or freedom fighters is no longer a source of insecurity and violence in their communities," the researchers pointed out.
Spokesman of Gbaramatu kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, asserted: "Before now, militancy was prevalent in the region and Gbaramatu was not exempted.
"But I do not see that a bringing insecurity... We do not see the so-called militants as actors of violence but we see them as agitators."
According to the Report: "From empirical findings, there is no concrete evidence that corporate actors are actively involved in sponsoring and sustaining violence, conflict and insecurity.
"However, the argument that the actions or policies of these actors have contributed to or created events of insecurity, violence and conflict in the state is prevalent."
A former chairman of Isoko South local government area, Hon Prosper Irogbo, explained: "There are situations where these oil companies pitch leaders against each other.
"Once there is a crisis they can drill the oil at their advantage. For instance, in my community, we have been having a crisis in recent times and the oil companies are having a field day... "
The researchers noted: "The prevalence of insecurity, violence and conflict has impacted negatively on how socio-cultural activities are carried out in Delta state.
"The suspension of wake-keeping ceremonies during burial is one way that insecurity has affected social interactions and the practice of culture in Delta state."
A respondent, Chief Ohworeko stated: "Apart from those that are killed or maimed in this recent invasion by Fulani herdsmen, our people are displaced, our people are displaced.
"Up till this moment, some parents have not seen their children. This is because during invasion, the inhabitant in trying to escape, run to different directions.
"Thus, families are separated, husbands, wives and children do not run to the same place in the time of invasion."