By Abayomi Adeshida
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
ABUJA—THE Federal Government has named Defence Minister, Lt. Gen Theophilus Danjuma as Chairman of a presidential committee to find a lasting solution to the lingering communal crises in Warri, Delta State. This followed a meeting between the President and leaders of the Urhobo, Itsekiri and Ijaw at the State House , Abuja with a view to ensuring hitchfree elections starting from Saturday. The Owa monarch, Obi Efezomoh II was also named as Deputy Chairman of the Committee, while the Urhobo, Itsekiri and Ijaw would have three representatives each.
President Olusegun Obasanjo directed the committee to commence work immediately and make recommendations to government on ways to restore peace and normalcy to the crisis-torn area. Obasanjo also directed the committee to make recommendations to government on the resolution of the long-standing issues, which have repeatedly caused violent communal clashes in the area. Addressing representatives of the communities earlier at the meeting, President Obasanjo noted that a political solution should have to be found to the crisis. He said: “I believe from all you have said today that we can find a solution, but it will require an element of give and take; it will also require statesmanship, courage and patriotism,” he said.
Obasanjo charged the representatives of the three communities, led by Chief E.K. Clark, Chief Mathew Origbo and Chief G. E. Mabiaku, respectively, to call the militant youths in the area to order while the presidential committee is allowed to work out a peaceful resolution of the problems in the area. Present at yesterday’s meeting were the Defence Minister, Gen Theophilus Danjuma, Minister of State for Defence , (Army), Mallam Lawal Batagarawa. Others include the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ibrahim Ogohi, Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Alexander Ogomudia, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Samuel Afolayan; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Jonah Wuyep and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun.
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Dr. Abel Guobadia and top officials of the commission from Delta State also attended the meeting, which dealt extensively on ways of achieving hitch-free polls in the area. Although members of the delegation kept mute when approached for comments by anxious State House correspondents, two of the groups’ leaders said the meeting was “peaceful and successful.”
National Secretary of the Urhobo Progressive Union, Chief O. Ofotokun, after persistent pressure for comments by State House reporters, said: “the meeting went very well,” promising that “there will be peace in the area.” Similarly, one of the leaders of the Itsekiris, Chief Rita Lori Ogbebor, told newsmen that the meeting was all about finding peace in the area, adding with a tone of optimism “there will be peace in our land. All we want is peace and we shall find peace,” she said, advising journalists to wait and see if elections would hold or not in the area come April 7, 2003