ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, YENAGOA
The Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, has urged the pan-Ijaw organisations, Ijaw National Congress (INC) and its youth wing, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), to play a critical role in the fight against environmental terrorism and drug abuse in Ijawland.
The Deputy Governor spoke during a courtesy call on him by the Executive Committee of the Central Zone of INC led by its Chairman, Dr Doodei Week, in Government House, Yenagoa.
A statement on Friday by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mr Doubara Atasi, Ewhrudjakpo as expressing worry at the rate youths of the state were going into drugs and destroying their future.
He said there had been a sharp rise in drug consumption in Bayelsa in recent years, stressing that available statistics indicated an upward swing of about five per cent in 2018 to the current 15 per cent.
He said the turn of events had earned the state the unenviable position of being the third highest drug abuse rating in the country.
Describing the rate of substance abuse and other related crimes as alarming, the Deputy Governor implored the two Ijaw organisations to collaborate with the state Committee on Drug Abuse to sensitize the youths on the dangers posed by the menace.
Ewhrudjakpo also charged them not to be swayed by primordial sentiments being espoused by operators of artisanal oil refineries, whose activities he noted, were doing greater damage to the Niger Delta environment than that of the international oil companies (IOCs).
Ewhrudjakpo said: “Our environment has been shattered, terrorized and almost completely destroyed. Our youths are into transactions that are doing greater damage to our environment than what the IOCs are doing.
“The INC and IYC cannot afford to stand aloof or allow themselves to be compromised over the crumbs from oil bunkering and illegal crude refining merchants.
“If you go to some of our communities where these activities are taking place, you will pity them and the people living there. Some of the diseases our people are suffering from today are caused by these criminal environmental abuse activities.
“The people who do this are showing wealth or waving affluence at us. But the truth is that we are all dying by instalments. If we don’t stand up and fight against this because of whatever primordial consideration, we will not be able to leave behind any environment for our children to enjoy.
“Drug abuse is another issue I will like you people to join the government to tackle in our various communities. Our zone (state) has become Number three in the country in terms of drug consumption. The rate at which our youths are going into drugs is quite alarming.”
Speaking earlier, the Central Zone Chairman of the INC, Dr Doodei Week, assured the government that the organisation was ready to partner it in ensuring peace, unity and stability in Bayelsa and Ijawland in general.
Week, who commended Governor Douye Diri-led administration over its peace-building efforts and laudable projects across the state in the face of dwindling resources, encouraged the present administration to remain steadfast in pushing through its development agenda.
While soliciting support, the Central Zone Chairman declared that, rather than antagonize the government, the pan-Ijaw body would continue to support every performing administration in Bayelsa because of the strategic role the state plays in the activities of INC.