By Emma Amaize, Jimitota Onoyume, Samuel Oyadongha, Festus Ahon, Emmanuel Una, Chioma Onuegbu, Perez Brisibe, Davies Iheamnachor, Ike Uchechukwu & Ochuko Akuopha
WARRI—NIGER Deltans across the divide, yesterday, urged the Pan- Niger Delta Forum, PNDF, headed by Chief Edwin Clark, meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, on October 29, for preliminary talks, ahead a proper Federal Government dialogue/negotiation with stakeholders, to tell Mr. President to come clean on his plans to develop the Niger Delta and resolve the crisis in the region.
They want leaders from the region to tell the President that the only way forward for the country is true federalism and warned them not to demand and take gratification from the Buhari government during their visit, adding that accepting hotel accommodation, money for transportation, feeding and entertainment could compromise their position.
Archbishop of Anglican Communion, Calabar, Cross River State, Reverend Tunde Adeleye, said: “It is my opinion that the main solution to restiveness in the Niger Delta is still true federalism. That is one issue that should be tabled before the president.
“We should have states that are autonomous to manage their resources so that the Niger Delta can use its resources to develop. It will stop the current restiveness in the region.
“Another issue is that he should not kill a fly with a hammer. He should not carry out unnecessary carnage by attacking and killing people because of Niger Delta Avengers. He should dialogue with stakeholders.”
Former Minister of Health, Chief Emmanuel Nsan, said: “Development of the Niger Delta should be the main issue. Our roads are bad, they should tell him to build good schools and equip our hospitals and also dredge the Port Harcourt and Calabar Ports.”
Former member of the House of Representatives from Bayelsa State, Ebikekeme Ere, said: “Our leaders should tell him to show leadership, that he needs to be honest about the issues that affect the Niger Delta. He needs to engage those who are interested in the region.”
Spokesperson of the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Mr. Eric Omare, said: “From the information I have, the demands of the Niger Delta people may not be presented during the meeting, but it would begin the process and give confidence to stakeholders.
“The message the leaders should deliver to President Buhari is that he should demonstrate sincerity towards the resolution of the current crisis by setting up the Federal Government dialogue team to start the process of dialogue.”
A Pan-Niger Delta civil society group, comprising the Niger Delta Security Watch Organization of Nigeria, led by Dickson Bekederemo; Ijaw Human Rights Monitors, headed by Fred Brisibe; Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative led by Austin Ozobo and Foundation for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade, FHRACC, commended President Buhari for fixing a date to meet with PNDF.
They said: “It is a fact that our coming together as a nation in 1960 was a product of negotiation and so we believe that the solution to our present differences still lies in dialogue. We advise that the Federal Government should use this medium to give a finishing touch to the recurring debacles in the region.
“Those who are representing the region in the proposed meeting should on no account do their own biddings other than the template suggested by the militants. Members of the Niger Delta Avengers have stated clearly that one of the templates for dialogue is the restructuring of Nigeria into six regions.
“We want them to note that the militants also demanded as part of their suggested template for the dialogue that the peace process should be mediated by home countries of all the multinational oil corporations, as well as other neutral international mediators.”
Former Head of Service, Cross River State and Commissioner representing Cross River at the Federal Character Commission and an APC chieftain, Chief Wilfred Inah, said that the best way to solve a problem was to face it headlong.
“An interface with Niger Delta leaders is a welcome development. It is only the people and indigenes who know where the shoe pinches. For Mr. President to initiate a meeting with leaders of the Niger Delta region, he should be given maximum cooperation by all concerned.
“For Cross River State, which is where I come from, I am aware that when the President was sworn in, a delegation from here went to him and part of the issues they raised was neglect of Cross River in terms of roads and the issue of our 76 oil wells. If I have an opportunity to speak with him again, even as the meeting is being planned, I will re-echo that the roads, which were neglected by the Goodluck Jonathan administration be revisited.”
Speaking to Vanguard, Chairman, Host Communities of Nigeria, HOSTCOM, Bayelsa State, Dr Bob Nabena, said: “The host communities should be the first priority by direct intervention through HOSTCOM to the grassroots. Let Mr. President know that we need capital human development by way of women and youth employment, training and empowerment through cooperatives and SMEs.
“They should tell him that we require major infrastructure to link more towns and villages, dredging of waterways and provision of ferries to ply the riverine communities and coastal land reclamation. Attract foreign investors to utilize the gas being flared daily to produce cheap electricity, fertilizer and domestic gas production,” he said.
Also speaking from Bayelsa, activist, Mr Alagoa Morris, said: “The Federal Government should not play the part of a parent who knows it all and will not allow the child to express himself even when in great discomfort. The Federal Government should have the patience to listen to the people’s representatives from the Niger Delta fully (even though they are not totally new), before attempting to respond and not make their response a finality, as the people may need to also react to the response of the Federal Government. That is how the dialogue should be viewed for it to be effective.”
Convener, South -South Reawakening Group, SSRG, Joe Ambakederemo, said: “I will appeal to those invited to try as much as they can to articulate their position before the Presidential team, but I doubt if they have any tangible thing to present.”
A Rivers State youth leader from Emohua LGA, Mr. Kenneth Ojingwa, said: “The leaders of Niger Delta that will be meeting with Buhari should not discuss anything concerning militants and the Niger Delta Avengers.
“They should not bring it up because that is not our problem. Those militants are even the major problems and panic that the region is facing. They have done us more harm than good.”
Another stakeholder from the state, Mr. Honest Chukunda, said: “I want the leaders to first of all tell the president to tackle the economic challenges facing the Niger Delta people and the country at large.
“They should tell him to come and build more refineries in the region so that our youths will get employment. It will also reduce the level of oil theft.”
Citizen Alabo Lloyd said: “They should tell the president that he should not just settle the militants that are disturbing the region because if he does that, other youths that will even be more dangerous will emerge. The problem of the Niger Delta is not militancy but development.”
Also speaking from Rivers State, Frank Amadi said: “The Federal Government should consider as top priority, fixing of roads in the Niger Delta. The East-West Road and several other federal roads in the region are in very deplorable states.”
Ex-militant leader, Philip, aka General Asama, said: “Government should continue with the amnesty programme. This is not time to end it because many of the youths who should benefit from it have not been effectively cared for.”
In Delta State, former governorship aspirant on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Sunny Onuesoke, said: “Our representatives should tell Buhari to come up with a realistic development plan for the region. The Federal Government should deploy more resources to the region.
“I am not a party to bombing of pipelines to draw the attention of government to the neglect of the Niger Delta. We want dialogue through capable men with impeccable characters, not people with questionable characters. There are a lot of erudite young men in the Niger Delta that can discuss with the Federal Government for final solution to militancy in the area not past political office holders who will go for the dialogue for selfish reasons.”
Also, Mr Steve Ovedje said: “They should please tell the President to revamp DSC to create employment; rehabilitate the Sapele-Eku-Agbor highway; completion of the East- West Road and the rehabilitation of Warri and Sapele seaports to boost economic activities in the region.”