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Storm in N’Delta over plot to sack PANDEF, Clark

…There’s no reason to remove Clark•There’s no reason to remove Clark   – HM Igbugburu, NDRC, others

…PANDEF, Clark should go   – Reformed Niger Delta Avengers

…We reject PANDEF, Clark; PNDPC,  Ayemi-Botu, Loyibo – Reformed      Egbesu Fraternity

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South

IT was like a bolt from the blue when a coalition of nine militant groups, convened by the leader of the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, RNDA, self- styled “Major General Johnmark Ezonbi, announced the withdrawal of the approval given to the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, the umbrella body of monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of Niger Delta region, led by former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, by militants in the Niger Delta, penultimate weekend.

The coalition not only withdrew the mandate, it proclaimed a new assembly, the Pan Niger Delta Peoples’ Congress, PNDPC, to take over further dialogue with the Federal Government from Clark-led PANDEF with a young Niger Delta activist, Chief Mike Loyibo as leader. But barely 24 hours later, it restyled Loyibo as Coordinator and named former national chairman of the Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals Producing Communities of Nigeria, TROMPCON, and paramount ruler of Seimbiri Kingdom, Delta State,   His Majesty Charles Ayemi-Botu as Leader of PNDPC.

EDWIN CLARK

The names on the restructured list of PNDPC available to Saturday Vanguard are HM Charles Ayemi Botu- National Leader and Chief Mike Loyibo- Coordinator.   Others are former governor of Bayelsa state, Chief Timipre Sylva, HRM Archanga (Dr) Effiong Bassey, Akwa Ibom state, Gbenemene Bua II, Ogoni, Rivers state,   HRH King Suanu Baridam, former Speaker, Delta House of Assembly, Rt. Hon.Olisa Imegwu, Chief Paul Evwierhoma, Prof Patrick Mouboghare, Secretary, Niger Delta Peoples’ Congress,   NPDC, Professor Benjamin Okaba, Professor Etim Eyong,    former member, House of Representatives, Hon Mercy Almona-Isei, AVM Austine Ekon, National President of Host Communities of Nigeria, HOSTCOM,   Bishop Mike Emuh , a renowned oil and gas expert, Reverend OJ Agbarah, Justice Chris Ajama (retd.) and Pastor Victor Egoh.

Spanner in the works

Coming few weeks after PANDEF survived what seemed like a suffocating pressure from militants on the 2016 mandate, which abated only after its successful meeting, August 3, with the Vice President, then Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, the declarations sounded bizarre to many. The elder statesman and South-South leader was to say the least disturbed by the impudence. At first, many thought it was the entire militants in the region that came together and took the decision, but it became evident from the reactions hours later that it was a section of militants and since then, opinions are divided among stakeholders over the action.

But those, who reflected on RNDA and its antecedents in the region, recalled that it was the same militant group that rose against Chief Clark, last year, branding him and some others as sponsors of the dreaded Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, which the elder statesman strongly refuted. For such persons, it was not difficult to smell sabotage because the proclamation came shortly after Clark led PANDEF to groundbreaking meeting with Prof Osinbajo in Abuja.

Our complaints- Ezonbi, RNDA leader

RNDA leader, Ezonbi, however stated the position of the group clearly saying : “We, the RNDA group with the coalition of other militant groups in the creeks are saying that Chief Clark and PANDEF group cannot negotiate and speak for Niger Delta region because they contributed to the underdevelopment of the region and he cannot eat his cake and have it back.” He said Chief Clark had called several monarchs and leaders of the region to persuade them to reject the rebellion against his leadership but    retorted: “We, RNDA and other militant groups that accepted the Federal Government dialogue offer re-affirm our position that Clark and PANDEF do not have any moral justification to negotiate and speak for the people of Niger Delta region, having contributed to our massive underdevelopment.”

File: Militants

Ezonbi claimed that the Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, the militant group supporting Clark and PANDEF, was a faceless group headed by a struggling fellow who has been blackmailing the PANDEF leader.

He boasted that at the appropriate time, Chief Clark would discover that apart from some few cronies, well-meaning leaders of the region had since abandoned him because he has nothing more to offer the region at his age.

Ezonbi added: “We cannot continue to be led by one person over the decades, he should give way for others to also lead too, Niger Delta leadership is not a family business, and the point really is that he is old, so should give way to others. We have achieved practically nothing in the region with him, he makes noise and even the Presidency, which we are supposed to be negotiating with, does not want to see him, they are only tolerating him.”

“What is he advocating now that should not have been done when his famous son, former President Goodluck Jonathan, was in power for six years? Why were the 16-point demands prepared in his Abuja residence not done under Jonathan, why now under Buhari? Buhari lived in the region; he is one of our own and knows our problem, let us give him a chance,” he said.

I was dumbstruck by my nomination- Loyibo

Coordinator of PNDPC, Chief Loyibo, who described himself as a social crusader and activist in the forefront of providing responsible and transparent leadership to the people of the region and founding leader of PANDEF, told Saturday Vanguard:   “I was shocked to see my nomination as the Coordinator of PNDPC with several others to lead the region in the new discussions. I did not nominate myself, it is the same militants that gave PANDEF mandate that withdrew it and named us as the new face of the region. If the people who earlier sent you on errand later said that they are no more comfortable for reasons best known to them, why should there be hoopla?

“PANDEF was founded with the understanding that all Niger Deltans should speak with one voice and I am one of the founding leaders.   It is important that I give a brief synopsis of the events preceding the announcement of ceasefire by the boys in the creek. We were the first group to condemn the Avengers when destruction of oil facilities started. The GMD, Security of NNPC was mandated by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachukwu to assemble a team to solve the problem,” he said.

We secured ceasefire without Clark

According to him, Dr Kachikwu assembled Loyibo Team X headed by Famous Daunamigha, a former gubernatorial candidate in Bayelsa state with Chief T.K Ogoriba, Chief Dan Ekpebide, Lady Ann Kio Briggs, Dr. Chris Ekiyor, Jonathan Lokpobiri, Golden Tamuno, Marshall Kunou and Dr. Andrew as members, which he worked closely with while the team, and not Clark, secured the ceasefire by militants.

We worked extremely hard to ensure ceasefire and peace in the region.   While working with the team, we needed prominent persons with clout in the region to enhance our activities. We contacted His Majesty Ayemi-Botu, who is the current head of PNDPC, King Jaja of Opobo and other key leaders, who led us in securing the cease fire.

“It is important to note that Pa E. K. Clark only came in at the Petroleum Training Institute, PTI, Effurun, meeting after Team X had secured the ceasefire. One Hendricks Opukeme and Kennedy Orubebe brought in Clark, we advised against it, but we were ignored.    My reasons then were that he was part of the Jonathan administration that achieved nothing in the region and at over 90, he is too old, he should be allowed to rest and we can consult him.    After the meeting, we decided to meet with Mr  President. What happened at that meeting, I will not want to say for now.

How problem erupted

“The problem started with the compilation of the names of those who will go, what we wrote as our demands were written without consultations and we came back from the meeting with the President very dissatisfied. There were bombings again by the upland militants and the complaint was that PDP people dominated the PANDEF arrangements and   were part of the problems.

“We went to Mr Vice President with other expanded demands by the militants, this time under the leadership of King Alfred Diete Spiff, Hon Justice F, F Tabai (retd.),    Prof Benjamin Okaba , His Excellency, Peremobowei Ebebi , AVM Austin Ekehon (retd), Prof Eyo Etim Eyong and several others under the Niger Delta Peoples’ Congress.  I was the convener/coordinator; it was after our meeting that peace came and since then,   I have stood on my own with my people working because I was warned by my people not to be part of PANDEF again”, Loyibo said.

According to him,: “One thing is very clear, ever since we came together; things have never been the same again. The hard truth is that PANDEF has deviated from our core objectives. A lot of things have happened that I am not ready to say now. If anyone pushes me to the wall, I will open my mouth.  King Diette-Spiff was not even ready to be part of the group initially, I was the one that reached out to him and he eventually came on board.  Everybody became frustrated due to trend of events and there was no viable and purposeful leadership in the group.

Few days after the meeting, bombings started.  Our demands were not very robust and elaborate, we needed to go back to the Presidency for further dialogue after making contacts with the boys in the creek. We went back to the Presidency again under the leadership of Chief Diette-Spiff, Hon Justice F.F. Tabai and I,” he added.

PNDPC swings into action

“We have started working already based on the new mandate and call to duty. I consulted before I accepted, I and others were nominated based on our integrity. I will continue to call the boys in the creek to maintain the ceasefire and support the current federal government to deliver on their promises and ask all our people to be patient with government.

The Buhari I know means well. It is all politics, blackmail will not distract us. At the recent meeting with the Vice President as Acting President, Clark shouted down Victor Atta when he was already addressing the Acting President, we should not pretend that things are well when they are not,” he added.

RNDA, PNDPC‘re traitors, says NDRC

Reacting to the continued rejection of PANDEF and Clark, the NDRC spokesperson, W O I Izon Ebi, stated in an electronic mail to Saturday Vanguard: “It has become obvious that the PNDPC is a group of ex-militants under the guise of coalition of militant groups that issued quit notice to fellow Nigerians.

They were opposed to the siting of the Nigerian Maritime University at Okerenkoko. After failing in their quest, they have adopted the sinister method of trying to blackmail PANDEF under the leadership of Pa E.K Clark and suggested the name of their paymasters for the leadership of PANDEF.

“This, we assure them will also fail, their aim was to truncate the progress that had already been made in the ongoing dialogue process. Peace, equity and justice are the tripod on which the development of the Niger Delta stands and the days of these blacklegs of profiting from chaos and anarchy are slowly coming to an end”, he said.

The militant group, which earlier gave PNDPC nominees three-day ultimatum to renounce their nomination, asserted: “We are sounding it loud and clear that we know them, Niger Deltans know them, and few traitors cannot hold the collective zeal and determination of the Niger Delta people to ransom. These blacklegs were those that were granted amnesty by the last administration and till date, the government has spent not less than N700 billion in amnesty program.”

“Being aware that the amnesty program would soon come to an end and their gravy train is about to stop, they want to introduce their shock and awe tactics, thereby painting the region in a bad light for the benefit of their political paymasters, this time,   we assure them that they would fail. NDRC and the 21st  century youths of the Niger Delta have respect for our royal fathers and distinguished personalities of the PANDEF and this alone was the reason the NDRC declared a detente to give room for genuine dialogue.

We advise those amnesty militants, who have transmuted themselves to PNDPC and Reformed Niger Delta Avengers to retrace their steps and ask for forgiveness. If truly they are reformed and have tangible contributions to make for the emancipation of the Niger Delta, they should sincerely approach the distinguished members of PANDEF to air their views because for now, PANDEF has the best brains and leaders that have the Niger Delta at heart and are very committed to ameliorate the plight of the Niger Delta people, “the group stated.

No reason to outmaneuver Clark-   HM Igbugburu

Among the monarchs who had publicly rejected their appointment by the militants were the Ebenanaowei of Boma Kingdom, Bayelsa state, HRM King Joshua Igbugburu, and Ebenanuowei of Ogulagha kingdom, Delta state, HRM Joseph Timiyan.   Pioneer chairman of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, Chief Wellington Okrika, also discountenanced his nomination.

Igbugburu pointedly told Saturday Vanguard that there was no reason to overthrow PANDEF and Clark, saying that the elder statesman has not failed the region.

Loyibo not qualified to be a leader- Oyibode

However, PANDEF member, National Secretary of Urhobo Youth Leaders Association, UYLA and contemporary of Loyibo, Olorogun Vincent Oyibode, said: “Mike Loyibo is seeking cheap popularity, he is being used by anti-Niger Delta people and pursuing his personal and selfish interest. If he knows any person in those groups and they gave him that mandate, such person or group should come on air in the electronic media, such persons should be visible.

What these people are looking for is the promise made to the Niger Delta Youths by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo during his tour to the region. He promised that pipeline surveillance will be given to indigenes of the region among other promises. They want this contract and as such, anyone of them is ready to betray the genuine fight of PANDEF aimed at developing the region,” he said.

REF slams PANDEF, PNDPC, Clark, Ayemi-Botu

Despite the claims and counter claims, another coalition of militants under the aegis of the Reformed Egbesu Fraternity, REF, during the week, rejected both the PANDEF and PNDPC, including their leaders, Chief Clark and HM Ayemi-Botu, saying that the militants would come out with an acceptable leadership structure soon.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.