By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA—Leaders of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Chief Edwin Clark and Obong Victor Attah, have asked people of the region to give the federal government time to respond to the 16-point demands presented to President Muhammadu Buhari last Tuesday.
In an interview with Vanguard, Chief Clark recalled that the President had promised to study their demands and get back to the leaders.
“As Mr President said, they are going to study our documents. So, we are waiting for them and we do hope it will be early response because the boys themselves have spoken today that they were happy with what we went for and the government should act immediately.
‘’We have our body, PANDEF, we would be in contact with the Minister of State (Petroleum) from time to time. So, the President too recognized that, and we too acknowledged it, that the Minister of State for Petroleum, is the bridge between us and the government.
“The President should not sit on our demands for too long. These things must be attended to as soon as possible because this opportunity that we had on Tuesday may not arise again. If nothing is done for some time and you ask Niger Deltans to go and see Mr President, they may not go, which would be dangerous.
“When government threatened to go with force to the Niger Delta, oil production fell to about one million barrels per day. The minister said the other day that since we have been talking to our boys and since we have been able to discuss with the government, the oil has gone up to about 2.1 million barrels per day.
‘’So, that is the present position, and with the fall in oil prices, you need the quantity to make up. So, if the federal government decides to take the other way round of trying to attack or occupy our communities, killing people and so on, it would be very disastrous. It will not be in anybody’s interest,” he warned.
On his part, Obong Attah said in the meantime, there was need for confidence-building on both sides, adding that the best way for government to do that was to immediately set up its own dialogue team to interface with the group.
“If you read that presentation properly, the essence of it is to say to Mr President, we have to build confidence on both sides. The militants in the creeks must trust that the government is determined to do something about changing the situation that they find themselves in today. ‘’The government must feel that the militants are prepared to lay down their arms and accept dialogue as a means of solving the situation. So, this confidence-building is one of the key issues and the first thing that needs to happen to demonstrate that government will set up its own dialogue team without any delay.”
‘’When the government does that, everybody would know that yes, government is now prepared to talk and find solutions. What we went there with were just issues that we know if discussed and resolved satisfactorily, would bring peace.
‘’So, it is not as people think. Yes, there are suggestions, there are even demands, if you like. Such things as please stop gas flaring! How can anybody suggest that gas flaring should continue in today’s world with this global warming and the devastating effects that we are seeing in it?
‘’Ask the International Oil Companies, IOCs, to relocate to their places of operation. That makes sense to everybody. Find a way of training these militants and transiting them into proper jobs.
‘’Give a robust ICT programme for them to go in so that they can make themselves entrepreneurs. Agriculture too is very important. These are the kin