By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South and Egufe Yafugborhi
*Why we rejected Niger-Delta summit —Clark, others
*S/South leaders to U.S.: Tell Buhari we want dialogue
THE rejection of Federal Government’s two–day Niger Delta Summit, initially planned to hold tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday, by the Pan–Niger Delta Coastal States Consultative Forum, led by former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, may have forced government to postpone the talks, Friday night.
Secretary of the Planning Committee of the Summit, Mr. Donald Wokoma, in a statement announcing the postponement, gave no reason for the action, but sources said government got intelligence that the summit could be massively boycotted by the mainstream Niger–Delta leaders and ex-agitators.
Amid the confusion dogging the summit, Minister of Transport, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, was said to have invited some persons to a separate conference on the initiative for peace and governance in Niger Delta, yesterday, but some of those spoken to by Sunday Vanguard said they would not attend.
Meanwhile, the reason for the South-South leaders’ rejection of the summit came to light, yesterday, when they told a delegation of the United States (US) government that visited the oil-rich region that they would rather prefer that the Buhari government enters into a dialogue with them.
The militant group’s spokesperson claimed the Bonny 48-inch crude oil export line in Rivers State was blown up, saying it was a signal to President Muhammadu Buhari over his administration’s ambiguous attitude to the proposed Niger-Delta dialogue and negotiation with stakeholders.
Before government postponed the summit last Friday night, information was alleged to have leaked that Clark; a former Senate Chief Whip, Senator Roland Owie; Ledum Mitee; a former Minister of Police Affairs, Alaowei Brodrick Bozimo; Air Commodore Idongisit Nkanga (rtd.); Chief Isaac Jemide; Dr Monday Okonny; Chief Timi Alaibe and Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw, would not be part of the summit.
Indeed, the leaders, including a former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Idada Ikpomwen (retd.); Col Paul Ogbebor(retd.); Chief Francis Doukpola; Prof. Lucky Akaruese; Mr. O’MacEmakpore; High Chief Johnson Opone; Prof. G. G. Darah, Hon; Chief T. K. O. Okorotie; Dr. Efiong Edunam; P. Z. Aginighan and Prince Maikpobi Okareme, had prepared a position paper.
Other leaders against the summit were Chief Douglas Naingba, Chief Simeon Efenudu, Dr. Emmanuel Akpanobong, Mrs. Marie Ebikake, Mr. Tony Uranta, Nella Ewa, SAN and Chief Ogar.
The Niger Delta leaders said in the position paper: “We reaffirm our collective resolve to only engage the Federal Government through a credible dialogue process with accredited representatives of the Niger Delta region to proffer long lasting solutions to the protracted Niger Delta insurgency and not a summit of this type.
“They said the summit is organized to down play the factor of serious dialogue between the critical stakeholders, who have the mandate and authority to negotiate with the Federal Government.
“That due to the cessation of hostilities on our national assets by the armed agitators of the Niger Delta, oil production has increased to 1.7mbpd and if the peace process is further deepened, with proper negotiation, the possibility of reaching national oil production targets, is very realistic.
“Therefore, this should serve as an impetus to commence the negotiation process, rather than engaging in frivolities and trivialities. We are of the opinion that the Federal Government should not unnecessarily take steps that could lead to a relapse to insurgency by its inaction.
“The same Federal Government that feigns ignorance of whom to interface with is seen actively orchestrating false flag operations and sponsoring diverse bodies with the intent of dividing the region’s already unified fronts and justifying a continuation of the balkanisation of the region to facilitate uncontrolled access to its resources.”
The leaders stated that any leader of the Niger Delta invited to the said summit was free to exercise his democratic right to association. “However, such attendees do not represent the Pan-Niger Delta States Stakeholders’ Forum and are not authorizsed or mandated to speak or represent same”, they said.
The Niger Delta leaders went on: “The Niger Delta calls on the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, the United States President Barrack Obama, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and all African countries, to get Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to see himself as President of all Nigeria, to give peace a sincere chance in order to expedite the escape of all Nigerians from the obvious economic hardship that has befallen Nigeria since the resurgence of armed agitations within the Niger Delta.”
“We also appeal to all the armed agitators to continue with the cessation of hostilities and to remain calm and peaceful, even in the face of obvious provocation.
“The attention of the leadership of the Pan-Niger Delta Coastal States Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum has been drawn to the circulation of invitation letters to some Niger Delta indigenes to a Niger Delta stakeholders’ summit slated for the 26th– 27th September, 2016, at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja.”
“Whilst we do not begrudge the right of any authority or persons to convene any talk shop, we feel concerned that serious issue of the Niger Delta should not be trivialised into some academic exercise. We also hold the view that the holding of such summit at this time is clearly contrary to the expectations of all right-thinking persons worldwide.
Cessation of hostilities
“The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Federal Government, for over six weeks, since cessation of hostilities as a result of the intervention by the traditional rulers, elders and leaders of the Niger Delta, have not deemed it fit to respond to the demands of the peoples of the Niger Delta for a credible and proper dialogue process.
“We note with happiness that the region has been relatively quiet and stable following the cease fire brokered by the leaders of the region with the expectation that the Federal Government will urgently interface and commence negotiation with accredited representatives of the Niger Delta region. “Rather than doing the needful, the region has, however, been over militarised which has resulted in claims of rapes, brutalisation, incidental deaths and undue harassments suffered by our innocent sons and daughters during this period of the ceasefire. However, a significant achievement of the ceasefire is the increase in the quantum of oil production of 1.7 mbpd, according to the Hon. Minister of States, Petroleum, and Dr. IbeKachikwu.
“We wish to state that almost a month has elapsed since militant groups in the region agreed to a 60-day cessation of hostilities without the Federal Government constituting a negotiation team.
“Any reasonable person looking at the title and composition of attendees, officials, subjects and speeches at this so-called summit, will discern that it is possible to replace the term Niger Delta with any other area of the country and it will not look odd.
‘Summit speakers are govt officials’
“There is no Niger-Deltan of any level of representation there. Worse still, the speakers at the summit are mainly government officials, who should at best of times be listening to the people, instead of talking down on the people. In such a gathering, there are definitely no spaces for any meaningful discussions.
“The point to note is that the Niger Delta crisis predates the present administration. In all the previous administrations, we never engaged in futile and cosmetic academic exercise as this Summit, to proffer solutions to the Niger Delta agitations. It would be recalled that in 2008, a conference of this nature was proposed and which was to be chaired by Prof Ibrahim Gambari of the United Nations..
“Leaders and stakeholders of the region rejected the conference due to the fact that there had been series of Reports of such Conferences, Summits and Technical Committees on the Niger Delta not implemented by the Federal Government. This was what led to the setting up of a 45-man Technical Committee, under the chairmanship of Barrister Ledum Mitee to collate and align all the various Reports on the Niger Delta. But after the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, that exercise never saw the light of day”.
“We wish to state in unambiguous terms that the issues confronting the Niger Delta do not require an academic exercise of this nature, masquerading as a Summit to proffer solutions to the Niger Delta issues. Rather, a credible dialogue process between the Federal Government, the oil companies and the accredited and authorized representatives of the region.”
Speaking to Sunday Vanguard on phone on the meeting convened by the Minister of Transport, Clark said last night: “Hon. Amaechi sent an invitation to me to attend the meeting at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja on Saturday (yesterday), but I want to say that it is an insult for Amaechi to invite me to such a meeting.
The Amaechi meeting
“Amaechi is one of the problems of the Niger Delta. He sees himself as next to the President, why is he calling a meeting now, he knows our position as leaders, and he has not shown any concern to the plight of the people since. Where was he when the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu and others went around trying to solve the problem?
“Is he the Minister of Niger Delta? On what platform is he calling his fathers to a meeting? In fact, no reasonable Niger Deltan will attend such a meeting called by Amaechi.
“The youths have ceased fire and waiting for us to discuss on their behalf. Is it now that he will call for dialogue. He is not the type to call for peace.”. Clark said the people of Niger Delta were ready to work with Buhari, but he should not listen to people whom he accused of confusing him and telling him things that are not true about the region.
N’Delta leaders to U S govt: Tell Buhari we want dialogue, not summit
In a separate development, the Niger Delta, yesterday, pleaded with the US government to prevail on President Buhari to create genuine dialogue and avert renewed militancy in the region.
The Clark group spoke to a three-man delegation of US officials who visited Warri, Delta State after a first visit earlier in the month. Unlike the first visit, the US officials, made up of the Political Officer from the US Embassy in Abuja, one official from Washington and one security detail, opted for a closed-door session with the stakeholders, denying journalists access.
Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, a former Police Affairs Minister, who represented Clark, told journalists at the end of the meeting: “It is timely that the US government has come again on a fact-finding mission. We just told them that we want dialogue and not the summit that Federal Government had intended to convene.“”It is equally a wise decision of government to have suspended that inappropriate summit going by reports we have received. We believe that the answer is not summit. The answer is dialogue. “”An incongruous gathering of nearly 500 persons with government officials talking to themselves in Abuja which would have been the experience with the summit could not have addressed the key issues. “”We have faith in the U S fact-finding team. Members of the team have come to see things for themselves. And we take them for their word to take the feedback to their home government who will then be in a position to advise the Federal Government on the overall goal of resolving the current situation.”“A member of the US team, who spoke on why they declined comments on the visit, told Sunday Vanguard: “We can’t talk to you on this visit. It is the Consul General or the Ambassador that could have spoken to you if they were here. We are sorry, don’t feel offended.”“Also present at the meeting were Jemide, Ikpomwen, Darah and Akaruese. “Others include King Jerry Perebor, Dr. Sylvester Piniki (Gbaramatu), Chief Mrs. Margaret Unukegbon, and Francis Obule, Chairman, Forum of Contractors to the Delta State Oil Producing Development Commission.
Resumption of hostilities
Signalling renewed bombings in Niger-Delta, yesterday, NDA claimed to have blown up the Bonny 48-inch crude oil export line in Rivers State, saying it was a warning signal to Buhari and the Federal Government over their ambiguous attitude to the Niger Delta dialogue and negotiations with stakeholders. Although the claim could not be independently confirmed, spokesperson for the group, self-styled Brigadier General Mudoch Agbinibo, in a statement, said: “On the 23rd of September! 2016, our strike team, at 20:40 hours, brought down oil production activities at the Bonny 48 inches crude oil Export Line. “This action is a signature to the over dramatization of the so-called dialogue and negotiation process on the side of President Muhammadu Buhari and his government.
“Since the cessation of hostilities and the commitment of the Pan- Niger Delta Elders and stakeholders team, the Nigerian government and her agents have turned the expectations of the Niger Delta to shameful scenes obtainable in Nollywood acts and intimidation, blackmails and continuous profiling of Niger Delta sons and daughters. This is only a wake up call; we may not have other way to say it better.
“We are still in favour of dialogue and negotiations but we are warning against ‘the peace of our time’ ! We want the ‘ peace with honour’.
“We will resist all actions undermining the ceasefire from the side of government and its security agents/ agencies. The world is watching, time is running against the Nigerian state; while we were promised that the concerns of Niger Delta will be addressed once a truce is declared, the activities of government and her agents are not assuring enough.
“There has been no progress and no breakthrough. We cannot be continuously fooled. Government cannot justify the indiscriminate targeting of Niger Delta youths while glorifying victimization of law abiding citizens of the region.”