Illegal Weapons From International Dealers Our Concern - Obasanjo
31 Aug 2006
Author: Idris Ahmed & Joe Oroye
Supply of illegal weapons from international arms dealers continues to be of great concern in controlling conflicts in the gulf of Guinea, President Obasanjo has said.
President Obasanjo made this disclosure yesterday in Abuja while addressing the Gulf of Guinea Energy Security Strategy Group in Abuja. He said: "Although we disarmed about 3, 000 militants in Niger Delta in late 2004, it is regrettable that some have fallen back to their old habits, I am aware that significant progress has been made in addressing some of the challenges, nevertheless, supply of illegal weapons from international arms dealers continues to be of great concern."
While Nigeria can make sustained and significant efforts to address domestic issues of corruption, oil theft and illegal weapons, we can do only little about the international financial institutions that are used to launder money stolen from Nigeria, or the illicit or under-ground market where oil stolen is sold. It is in these areas, a mong others, that we need and value the willingness and support of our international partners".
Obasanjo observed that challenges in the Niger Delta are many and multi-faceted. He enjoined local communities, state governments and oil comp-anies to work together to reduce conflict in the region to the barest minimum. He said: "We are committed to bringing peace, growth and holistic development to the Niger Delta in the context of sustainable development programmes that fully engage the local populace in the creation of healthy and economically vibrant community. It is part of our sub-regional policy and programme of the Gulf of Guinea Commission."
While describing oil workers' kidnappers as "terrorists", he advised people to resist the temptation of paying ransom. He said: "Anybody who pays ransom or acts as intermediary for payment of ransom is an accomplice and will be treated as such. I wish to take this opportunity to assure our international partners of our unyielding det ermination to protect the lives and property of not only the expatriate community in our midst but also of those Nigerians that live and work in the sub-region".
He commended the United States of America and The United Kingdom for partnering with Nigeria in ensuring that the objectives of the Gulf of Guinea Energy Security Strategy are realized. He also solicited for the partnership of Canada, Switzerland, Norway and Netherlands to assist in realizing the same objectives. He called on all states in the Niger Delta to pull resources together and develop a sustainable development planning programme to develop the area.
In his address, the Presidential Envoy, Gulf of Guinea En-ergy Security Strategy, Engineer Funsho Kupolukun said they have made significant progress in terms of devising and implementing strategies in the key areas of "oil theft, maritime security and small arms control, money laundering, sustainable community development and membership expansion since 2005". The Gulf of Guinea Security Strategy (GGESS), was formed in 2005 to provide collaborative efforts with stakeholders to map out modalities for energy security and orderly development of the Niger Delta.