Yenagoa - The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) on Sunday urged the Federal Government go after the sponsors of oil theft in the Niger Delta region if it was committed to ending it.
The council gave the advice in a statement signed by its spokesman, Eric Omare and released in Yenagoa, Bayelsa.
According to the statement, oil theft in the Niger Delta region has persisted because the sponsors of the activity have continued to fund it.
In a statement signed by the spokesman of the council, Eric Omare and released in Yenagoa, Bayelsa, the council urged the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh to go after the sponsors if the government was committed to ending oil theft.
Omare said that his advice was in response to the warning the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh gave to deal ruthlessly with perpetrators of criminal activities in the region when he spoke at the inauguration of the Joint Task Force (JTF) permanent office complex in Yenagoa.
He said though the majority of the people in the region were law-abiding, they remained the greater victims of oil theft "because oil theft has polluted the environment".
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"It is an open secret that those involved in oil theft in the Niger Delta are well-placed persons in the society, including top ranking serving and retired military officers.
"Some persons in the Niger Delta are only used as artisans and errand boys. The IYC has said this several times and wonders why the innocent people of the Niger Delta should be the scapegoats for the sins of highly placed and powerful people in Nigeria.
"It is obvious that the poor villages cannot be the owners of an oil ship containing 15,000 tons of oil recently impounded by the JTF," Omare said in the statement.
The statement added that there was no connection between Niger Delta amnesty programme for ex-militants and the ongoing criminal activities in the region.
He said that the natives of the area were only clamouring for better living conditions from the oil and gas resources found in the region.
"The IYC does not support or encourage criminal activities such as kidnapping and sea piracy under any guise as these activities are not part of our struggle.
"However, these criminal activities in the Niger Delta region cannot be used as a justification to blackmail the entire people of the Niger Delta region," he said.