By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South and Egufe Yafugborhi
PAN-NIGER Delta Forum, the umbrella group of monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of the ethnic nationalities of coastal states of the Niger Delta region, PANDEF, yesterday, said the group has a clear mandate from all stakeholders and agitating groups in the region to dialogue with the Federal Government.
PANDEF stated this in a statement by a member of the Central Working Committee, CWC, Dr. Alfred Mulade, in reaction to a recent declaration by the Presidency that it was searching for credible leaders of the region, apparently dismissing the legitimacy of the forum, which met with President Muhammadu Buhari, November 1, 2016 in Abuja.
It stated categorically that it was its intervention, some months ago, that led to the cessation of hostilities by militants in the region and consequential noticeable improvement in oil production from low ebb of 900 bpd to 2.2 million bpd.
Noting the prevailing peaceful atmosphere and improvement in crude oil production, the group wondered why “the Federal Government has not demonstrated any commitment to the dialogue process by the setting up of its Dialogue Team.”
PANDEF also took a swipe at the federal government for allegedly being swift in making policy decisions and taking actions that have harmful effects on the people of the region like the allocation of N29 billion in the 2017 budget to fight militancy, whereas the causes of the unrest remain untouched.
The statement read: “The attention of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has again been drawn to some uncomplimentary remarks credited to the Senior Special Adviser to President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, to the effect that the Presidency was yet to have credible leaders from the Niger Delta region to dialogue with.
“This statement, coming from the Presidency at such a time when it has become very clear that the militancy and destruction of oil and gas facilities has abated, owing to the timely intervention of PANDEF, the umbrella body of monarchs, leaders and credible stakeholders of the ethnic nationalities of the coastal states of the Niger Delta region.
“This intervention, which has positively led to the cessation of hostilities by the armed agitators, in deference to the appeal by the leaders, has actually led to improvements in the crude oil production, which was, hitherto, at its low ebb of about 900,000bpd to the appreciable benchmark of 2.2 million bpd.
“This achievement recorded in the upsurge of crude production could not have been possible without the unification of all credible stakeholders under the aegis of PANDEF. This explains the quality and diversity of the composition of the PANDEF delegation to President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, on November 1, 2016, at Abuja, where the position paper of the region containing 16 – point dialogue issues was presented to Mr. President, with a firm commitment to dialogue as a way of resolving the lingering challenges in the Niger Delta region.”
Continuing, it said: “In the meeting with Mr. President, and at other responsible fora, PANDEF has consistently advocated for the need for dialogue, and the urgent setting up of a Dialogue Team by the Federal Government to demonstrate credible commitment in resolving the crisis in the region, for dialogue with PANDEF, which bears clear mandate from all stakeholders and agitating groups in the region.
“Two months down the road, since the PANDEF visit to Mr. President, and which consolidates the prevailing peaceful atmosphere enjoyed in the region, with improvements in crude production, the Federal Government has not demonstrated any commitment to the dialogue process by the setting up of its team.
“Curiously too, is the fact that, one of the items among the 16 – point dialogue issues – the reopening of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State, which the government announced that has been given positive consideration has not seen the light of the day, in spite of the fact that hopes have been raised, and expectations have been heightened.”
“It is instructive to place on record that the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, is an iconic project of that touches the heart of the region. That the functionality of this institution will engender sense of belonging, participation in speeding up the process of healing old wounds occasioned by age-long deprivations cannot be over flogged. Keeping it closed, without any practical sign of activities geared towards its resumption betrays lack of commitment and goodwill towards the deprived oil rich region.”
“To make matters worse, the government is reported to have earmarked a whooping N29 billion of oil revenue to fight militancy in the Niger Delta region. This, of course, will further exacerbate the crises in the region, where PANDEF has been working assiduously to ensure permanent peace.
“How on earth would government begin to think this kind of huge expenditure following the dwindling economic conditions just to fight militancy, when the causative factors, sufficiently articulated and presented to Mr. President, by PANDEF, remain ignored?