By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South–South, Henry Umoru, Jimitota Onoyume and Livinus Nwabughiogu
•Diette-Spiff, Obong Victor Attah to co-chair new CWC; Ledum Mitee is Secretary •Amaechi never formed a separate group – Ibim Seminatari, ex MD, NDDC
ELDERS, leaders and stakeholders of the Niger Delta, weekend, restrategised against those who it accused of using divide and rule tactics against the region, especially in the proposed dialogue/negotiation with the Federal Government, by fusing all the separate groups into one umbrella body, Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PNDF.
The groups, including the Pan-Niger Delta States Consultative Forum, led by former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, Niger Delta Dialogue and Contact Group, NDDCG, led by King Alfred Diette-Spiff, and a new cluster facilitated by the Minister of Transportation, Rt Hon Rotimi Amaechi, resolved to henceforth speak with one voice.
The decision was taken at a meeting of elders, leaders and stakeholders of the region held, Friday night, at the Abuja residence of Clark. Other groups that collapsed into the PNDF were the Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria, TROMPCON, Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas, HOSTCOM, Initiative for Peace, Governance and Development, South-South Consolidated Forum, among others.
Clark remains leader
The PNDF, at a press briefing addressed by a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, announced the merger of the groups and selection of Clark as its leader after a two-hour deliberation, after which journalists were ushered out for further deliberations.
At the end of the meeting, which lasted into the night, a Central Working Committee, CWC, was set up to run the affairs of PNDF following the request of Clark that he was now old and that younger elements should take charge.
Diette-Spiff, Attah co-chair CWC
The CWC is co-chaired by a former military governor of old Rivers State, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, formerly leading the NDDCG and Attah with environmentalist and social activist, Ledum Mitee, as Secretary.
Members of the CWC are a former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, Brig. General Don Idada Ikponmwen (retd); a former Special Adviser to the President of Niger Delta, Chief Timi Alaibe; Professor G.G. Darah; Professor Lucky Akaruese; Nella Ewan, SAN; and Dr. Alfred Mulade. Also in the CWC are ex-military governor of Akwa Ibom state, Air- Commodore Idongesit Nkanga; Engr. Don Ben; T.K. Ogoriba; Ken Robinson; a former Permanent Secretary, Amb. Godknows Igali; Tony Uranta; Amb Nkoyo Toyo; and a former National President of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Dr Chris Ekiyor.
Operation Crocodile Smile caused more tension
In a communiqué signed by Clark, Alfred Diete-Spiff and Attah, the PNDF picked holes in President Muhammadu Buahari’s ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ launched by the military, saying that rather than advance the course of peace, it heightened tension in the region.
The communique read, in part, “Elders, leaders of thought, and representatives of various relevant stakeholders from the Niger Delta met today, 7th October 2016 at the residence of Chief Dr. Edwin Clark at 43, Haile Selassie Street, Asokoro Abuja. The meeting had in attendance representative of government of Delta State, HRM King Alfred Diete Spiff, Chief Daniel Usifo, Chairman, Bayelsa Council of Traditional Rulers, Air Cmdr Idongesit Nkanga (retd), former Governor Akwa Ibom State; Obong Attah, former Governor of Akwa Ibom State; Justice F.F Tabai, Retired Justice of the Supreme Court; Prof Turner Isoun, former Minister Science and Technology; Alaowei Brodrick Bozimo former Minister of Police Affairs; and several other leaders of groups and ethnic nationalities.
“The meeting deliberated on current developments in the Niger Delta and agreed as follows: A. commended various groups and initiatives, which have been working to achieve peace and stability in the Niger Delta since the escalation of renewed militancy in the region. These include the Pan Niger Delta Coastal States Consultative Forum, Niger Delta Dialogue Contact Group, Initiative for Peace, Governance and Development, South-South Consolidated Forum, TROMPCON, and HOSTCOM and resolved as follows: “That all the various groups should work together under the central umbrella of Pan Niger Delta Forum with Chief Edwin Clark as leader. “The setting-up of a Central Working Committee taking into regard representation of states, ethnic nationalities and special interests under the C]chairmanship of Obong Victor Attah. “That the problems of the Niger Delta remain as follows: Question of fairness, justice and equity, as the region remains largely unfairly treated and shortchanged on most national issues.”
‘Amaechi wants peace in N-Delta’
Meanwhile, a former Acting Managing Director of NDDC, Mrs. Ibim Seminatari, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, on the merger, said: “The Minister of Transportation did not at any time form a group, he only facilitated a conversation of Niger Deltans, which people attended. He is not against Niger Delta leaders speaking in one voice. He has nothing against the merger.
Convener of Concerned Niger Delta Elders, High Chief Mike Loyibo, who also spoke to newsmen, said that all the groups, indeed, resolved to collapse into a single umbrella, Pan-Niger-Delta Forum and speak with one voice on matters affecting the region. In a related development, Ijaw National Congress, INC, has warned the Federal Government against going into negotiations with ad-hoc groups angling for relevance in the Niger Delta, describing them as self-serving.
President of INC, Chief Charles Harry, who spoke in Port Harcourt, yesterday, said the groups were merely on a self-serving mission, stressing that they were inimical to the common good of the region. He said government will only give room for more groups to spring up if it dared to open negotiations with the ones already struggling for attention.“We are averse to the bickering/influence peddling that has led to the formation of several adhoc bodies by Chief E.K. Clark, HRH, Alfred Diete Spiff, Rotimi Amaechi and others, which we believe are self-serving and inimical to the interests of the region”, Harry said.Also, yesterday, the Presidency urged Niger Delta Avengers and other militant groups in the coastal region to leave the creeks and enlist in the Amnesty Programme for a better future.Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Brigadier-General, Paul Boroh (retd), made the appeal in Abuja while welcoming four ex-agitators from the region who had trained in electrical transformer repairs, maintenance and establishment by Brainbox Matrix Services Limited, a vendor to the Amnesty Office.