The Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta, PIND Foundation, on Friday September 20, 2019, organized a sensitization meeting for the Ijaw and Itsekiri ethnic groupings in Koko, Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State.
The meeting was aimed at proposing a permanent solution for a peaceful coexistence between the two communities.
PIND is a Nigerian non-profit organization established to promote equitable economic development and peace through partnerships in the Niger Delta.
The NGO in fulfillment of its objectives in promoting peace brought together leaders of the two ethnic groupings under the Warri Multi Stakeholders Platform, MSP, to sue for a Peaceful coexistence for the purpose of attracting sustainable development to Delta State.
In 2017, PIND Foundation started the Warri Multi Stakeholder Platform and its basic objective was to promote peaceful co-existence between both ethnic groups.
During the forum PIND, the Itsekiri and Ijaw leaders all sat to have a round table discussion on how best unity can be achieved.
Chief Lawal Africas, the network coordinator in Partner for Peace in the Niger Delta, who spoke to newsmen during the forum, said that the struggle for resources such as rents, royalties, political influence have been a major driver of conflict in the State.
This he observed had affected peaceful relations in the past between both ethnic groupings. He said the area occupied by both ethnic groupings were contiguous to each other, as a result, it was inevitable given the competing drivers for violence to erupt between them.
Going down memory lane, he noted that the initial outbreak of violence between the two ethnic nationalities can be traced to 1997 when the Warri South West Local Government Area was created.
He revealed that the Local Government Headquarters was initially located in Ogbe-Ijaw but was relocated to Ogidiben and Itsekiri.
This he said sparked off riots and violence between both ethnic groupings in what became known as the Warri Crisis. Since that time he stated, tension and violence had always broken out between both groups even at the time of elections.
He said that a lot of integration had occurred between both ethnic groupings in recent times but it was not also uncommon to see major leaders from both groups stoking ethnic sentiments in a bid to gain upper hand in terms of dividends from both government and companies.
Chief Africas further affirmed that the meeting was all about peaceful coexistence between both groups at the grassroots.
According to him, “The idea is to bring in stakeholders from the Itseriki and Ijaw ethnic nationalities; bringing them all in peaceful co- existence project.
“We have started this project for a while now and we felt there is need to go into communities. So we started holding town hall meetings.
“This is the first of the town hall meetings and we have about over 100 persons from different communities between the Ijaw and Itsekiri people and it’s being nice.
“The idea is just to give them a message that there is need for them to see themselves as one, to see themselves as brothers, to see themselves as one person that God has actually brought together. We are scaling up and we will be doing more of this.”
The Co-chairman of the Warri Multi Stakeholder Platform (MSP) from the Ijaw axis, Amb. Meshack Ubabiri, who spoke to GbaramatuVoice about the reason for the town hall meeting, said, “We felt there is need for the Ijaws and Itsekiris to live together peacefully and PIND as a parent body of Warri MSP, they deem it fit to see that there is peace.
“So they came up with this idea to constituting Warri MSP and membership was drawn from three local government areas of Warri South, Warri South West and Warri North. Its aim objective is for peaceful coexistence between the Ijaws and Itsekiris in this area.”
Also speaking from the Itsekiri axis, the Co-chairman of the Warri Multi Stakeholder Platform (MSP), Chief Mike Odeli while speaking on the importance of the Warri MSP, said, “The MSP approach is to ensure there is lasting solution to peace in Warri axis and of cause Delta state.
“The town hall meeting was slated to make sure that members of Warri South, Warri South West and Warri North would come together, more importantly from the grassroots, the communities, to make sure that they are being educated on how to achieve peace.”
The first Vice National Council of Women Society, Warri North Chapter, Miss Ede Thelma, while giving a feedback, said, “During the speech, I understand that the major problem we are having is not from the Itsekiris or Ijaws but from the multinational companies. And because we don’t have that patience to listen to ourselves, we fall victim of the problem. So my advice is we should be patient and hear from ourselves, understand each other, so we can have peace.”
The forum was well attended by government representatives, security agencies, traditional representatives, women groups, youth representatives, Ijaw and Itsekiri participants among that included Hon. Marshall Ekpe, Chairman House committee of information/Orientation Warri North Legleslative Arm, representative of the Egbema Royal Palace, Hon. Spencer Okpoye, SSA to the Governor of Delta State on Political matters and a host of notable personalities.