The Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva, on Saturday said his administration knew the hostage takers in the Niger Delta and had been talking with them.
He also said Bayelsa had only militants, who had a cause they were pursuing as a result of the cumulative neglect of the oil rich region.
The governor, who was represented by his deputy, Mr. Peremobowei Ebebi, in his keynote address, said the state was more peaceful than most states in the country.
Sylva said this while declaring open the National Executive Council meeting of the Nigeria Union of Journalists at the NUJ Press Centre, Yenagoa, the state capital.
The event, which was chaired by the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, represented by Chief Thompson Okorotie, had the Bayelsa Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Ebiowei Sokare and the President of the NUJ, Mr. Ndagene Akwu, in attendance.
He said, ”Let me use this opportunity to correct the reports associating Bayelsa State with hostage taking. Strictly speaking, it is not peculiar to Bayelsa State alone, it happens all over the country.
“Some of you are from states where the incidence of armed robbery is high. (He mentioned Lagos State).
”In Bayelsa State, as far as armed robbery is concerned, we have almost zero situation and even more peaceful than most states in Nigeria, but some reporters have presented it as a very unsafe state. This is most unfair.
“In some states, you cannot even carry a brief case in a broad day. In Bayelsa, you can move around at anytime, even in the night.
“At least, we know the hostage takers and we talk to them, unlike the armed robbers that you don‘t even know, which is even a bigger risk than the hostage-taking situation.”
Sylva said shortly after he assumed office in May 29, that his administration came up with a principle of the “Triple E” approach. This includes engaging the militants in dialogue and re-orienting them; empowering the people, educating and employing the youths, as well as enforcing the law where necessary.
The governor disclosed that he had personally traversed the creeks, talking to the militants, stressing that the situation had ”actually abated.”
He said the problem could not be solved suddenly. It required time, sense of commitment and sincerity.