Nigeria’s quest to quickly dialogue with the militant group blowing up pipelines and disrupting the flow of oil and crippling the economy has met a downturn as a government delegation led by the minister for Youths and Sports, Solomon Dalung fell to swindlers who claimed to be members of the dreaded Niger Delta Avengers.
The minister paid a two-hour trip to Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State where he held an interactive session with con men thinking they were the real Niger Delta Avengers
While speaking to a select number of journalists on his trip to the creeks, the minister spoke about how he was taken on a tour of the oil rich area and shown the pitiable plight of the creek dwellers.whom he said looked like they have been abandoned by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
In his own words:
“On reaching the community after the two-hour journey on the high sea, I met with the members of the communities who told me that their dream was to be included in the Nigerian project, that the education facilities and other basic social amenities are almost non-existent in the communities. They also raised concern of incessant attacks by the Nigerian military.”
Some may wonder why the minister of youths and sports would undertake such a sensitive trip instead of the Minister of Interior or the Minister defence. but Dalung had this explanation to give. “As a youth minister, I know that the Avengers are mostly youths who have potentials to be great citizens of this country.”
The youth Minister said that he met with the communities and their gate keepers who then ‘escorted’ him to meet the Niger Delta Avengers. He said they gave him a hand-written letter specifying their demands, which he admitted he was yet to present to the President. Minister Dalung said he opened the letter. According to Dalung, the Avengers raised three important issues to him;
The issues include:
- The Niger-Delta Maritime University,
- Pipeline community policing which they said the government had denied them and
- The inability of the government to continue with the amnesty programme established by former President Umaru Musa Yarádua Yar’Adua.
Minister Dalung agreed that previous governments had indeed neglect the Niger-Delta region while its oil sustained Nigeria’s economy. “After going round some of the communities, I noticed that government projects were almost non-existent. I saw a secondary school signboard somewhere but the school is yet to be developed, the community has a clinic but still at the foundation level and a borehole that is not functional,”He said.
However, Minister Dalung has come under fire following the reports that he was entertained by fraudsters parading themselves as community leaders and the leadership of the Niger Delta Avengers.
In their swift response, the media arm of the Avengers through its spokesperson, Brig Gen Mudoch Agbinibo, denied ever meeting with Minster Dalung. He said the minister had fallen prey to fraudulent elements posing as Niger Delta Avengers.
He said: “The Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung narrated how he met with some self-claimed Niger Delta Avengers in Oporoza, Gbaramatu Kingdom. We are here to let the public know that Niger Delta fraudsters have defrauded the Minister.”
“Niger Delta Avengers cannot stoop so low to send representatives to meet with a common Minister of Youth that does not know his work. Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung has been defrauded and played by Niger Delta fraudsters.
“He did not have any meeting with us (Niger Delta Avengers). Let us make this clear; any meeting with Niger Delta Avengers that the International communities are not part to witness, we, (Niger Delta Avengers) will not be part of any such dialogue,”
Also, the Spokesperson of Gbaramatu Communities Chairmen Forum, Mr. Johnbull Demebi, released a statement denying ever meeting with the minister.
“It is pertinent to state that to the best of our knowledge, we, the leadership of the community did not receive the Hon. Minister of Youth and Sports, or any other government official in Oporoza town last week.”
“The last government visitor to Oporoza community was the Acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris.” He equally advised government officials “to be careful and mindful of persons they associate with, particularly with the intention of visiting our communities, as some persons are out to make money from top government functionaries and bring the name of the community to disrepute.” While adding that Mr. Dalung was deceived by “mischievous persons and perhaps must have been swindled,” suggesting that intending visitors to the community “should make proper arrangement with the leadership of such communities to avoid any mishap in the course of such journey.”