By Emma Amaize,
Regional Editor, South-South
AMID the fury of PANDEF members, who are regrouping, next week, in Delta State after the October 26 disruption of their meeting by security agents in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, a militant group, Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, RNDA, has accused the regional organization and its leaders of fraudulently siphoning money from government agencies, officials and indigenous companies in the region.
RNDA jibes at PANDEF
RNDA leader, self-styled “Major General” Johnmark Ezonebi, alleged that PANDEF was a drainpipe used by the leaders and their associates, who could not use their influence to attract developmental projects to the region to loot money for their personal gains.
He claimed that a top official of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in concert with some indigenous oil companies that are contractors to NNPC, gave a PANDEF leader N200 million to host their aborted Port Harcourt meeting.
The group insinuated that the insatiable greed of PANDEF members among other things made the celebrated Niger Delta environmentalist, Mr. Ledum Mitee, to quit the body as secretary recently.
The militant leader, who also accused a PANDEF stalwart of collecting N10 million for militants, last year, and diverting the money, mentioned other scandalous deals, saying, “It is a shame that Niger Delta Avengers are accusing a Minister DSS , NSA, and the federal government for the woes that had befallen PANDEF.”
However, PANDEF chieftain, HH Anabs Sara-Igbe and Mr. Famous Daunemigha, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, denied that the regional organization was a drainpipe, saying that RNDA was a group of upstarts, adding that its attempts and others to rubbish the body would fail.
Nobody gave us such money – Sara-Igbe
Sara-Igbe, who dismissed the claim of PANDEF collecting N200 million from NDDC and others, told Saturday Vanguard, “The onus is on the accuser to prove that indeed some persons or company or an organization gave us N200 million or more or less to host our meetings.”
“Otherwise, they should remain silent forever. Since we did not collect such money from anybody or organization, there is no point defending ourselves or speaking it,” he said.
Blessing in disguise
On the siege against the body in Port Harcourt, he asserted, “The planned attempted disruption of the 4th national general assembly of PANDEF in Port Harcourt is a blessing in disguise. There is no ill –feeling because it gave us the opportunity to close ranks and come up with far- reaching decisions that will position the region on firm ground. “
He noted, “It is also unfortunate that some traditional rulers and citizens in the region, who out of greed and vendetta , have allowed themselves to be used by these small boys in the corridors of power, so as to ensure there is no peace and oneness in the region for their selfish end, but they will continue to fail.
Speaking on Mitee’s exit, Sara-Igbe volunteered, “It is true that Barrister Ledum Mittee resigned as the Secretary of the Central Working Committee that has almost concluded its assignments on personal ground. Mr Ken Robinson was appointed to take over pending the next meeting, when proper officers will be elected in line with the provisions of the constitution to run the affairs of the organization.”
The PANDEF chieftain said, “The claim of the laptop militant group, who call themselves the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) is laughable. The true Niger Delta Avengers have come out and they are challenging them to come out. If they are not laptop militant, let them come out openly and challenge the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA)..”
Who is RNDA to disband PANDEF?
Speaking on the purported disbanding of the organization, he said,”Who are they to disband an organization like PANDEF that they are not yet registered members. PANDEF has a constitution that is guiding its operations and it is a peaceful and law -abiding organization that works within the laws of the land, including the Nigerian Constitution.”
“PANDEF is willing and ever ready to accommodate and work with any individual, group or organisation that shares the same ideals, aims and objectives with us. That is what we have been doing. PANDEF is not a political association or party and is not a platform for sharing money. We stand for peace and development of the Niger Delta region. “PANDEF has achieved so much for the region within the period under reference, starting with the opening of dialogue with the Federal Government in the overall interests of the region, which has brought peace and security across the region.”
“We had also presented the common needs of the people of the region in form of the 16- point agenda that cut across all the needs region and it is before the Federal Government, International Community and the general public.
Open to dialogue
“The government in return has also set up an Inter- Ministerial Committee on Niger Delta to discuss the 16- point agenda. Our meeting with federal government has also led to the Vice President visiting the region and made promises, including the opening of the Maritime University, Okerekoko, Delta State, including passing into law the bills setting up the same University and the one in Oron, Akwa Ibom State and flag off of the Bodo – Bonny Road amongst others,” be boasted.
Sara-Igbe added, “It is true that the government has not taken bold steps to physically implement the 16- point agenda, but we believe that we shall get there someday. We are still open to dialogue with the Government and the International Community in the common interest of the region. Meetings are also going on at different levels to restore peace in the region. “
NDCC assisted PANDEF with only N15m – Daunemigha
Daunemigha, a former governorship candidate of the defunct CPC in Bayelsa state, told Saturday Vanguard, “It is laughable to hear such unfounded accusation when the NDDC is a government agency. This can be verified by the media, but for clarification and information it is important to enlighten the public that the patriotic activities of PANDEF, last year, in resolving the Avengers attack on the oil facilities, gave birth to the increase in oil production.”
“This goes to inform you so that well- meaning Niger Delta sons and daughters assisted in providing the venue and launch for the PANDEF meeting delegates. The NDDC knowing the important role played by PANDEF in stabilizing the region assisted PANDEF with N15m, which was used for accommodation of delegates. These are the facts of the story – do your investigation,” he said.
Mitee couldn’t have made such statement
On Mitee saying that PANDEF was greedy for money, he said, “My brother, Ledum Mitee, is a man of honour and I believe that statement is not from him.”
Daunemigha, who questioned the standing of RNDA, said, “Who are these RNDA people? I do not respond to a desktop organization because I am an institution when it comes to the struggle for a better Niger Delta. As a founding member of the famous Kaiama declaration, I have built a name over the years – a name with integrity that rats cannot smear when lions are talking.
No minister gave money to militants
He also maintained that no minister or any government gave money to any desktop group.
On the disrupted PANDEF meeting he said, “What happened in Port Harcourt is a shame to the DSS and the Nigeria Police,” adding, “If elders, leaders and major stakeholders from the regions are negatively compromised with the administration, it will plunge the economy into the deepest recession and impel irreversible doom.”
Division with common agenda
Daunemigha does not think that anybody should panic about the activities of PNDPC, saying, “I have not observed stakeholders speaking in any tone of division, however, you must agree with me that people are free to opine because it is their right. All the groups speaking for the region are pointing to the fact that government needs to institute development. And for me it is a division with a common agenda.”
. PNDPC, RNDA cannot retire Clark
Like Sara-Igbe, he said, “PNDPC and RNDA do not have such powers to disband PADNEF or retire a leader that is first of his kind in the country, Nigeria, Chief Edwin Clark.”
“It is advisable to tell the government of the day to manage its success because failure to do so will plunge the economy into the deepest recession – A key fact to state in clear terms,” he said.
Daunemigha asserted that PANDEF was the acceptable regional platform and the “Avengers have no choice than to listen to the appeals from PANDEF because the battle for our development is all inclusive. We are all co-pilots in this project and I speak as critical activist from a major oil producing community, Peretorugbene in Bayelsa state.”
He said, “The Federal government statement that it has not forgotten the region is rhetorical and never backed with action and as such can never be taken seriously.”
Regarding the allegation that PANDEF is partisan, he said, “I am a very strong APC member and journeyed with Mr President, General Muhammadu Buhari in 2011 from the days of CPC. As the gubernatorial candidate for Bayelsa state, I took him to the very historic campaign to Bayelsa state, the rest story he knows, so I can tell you that it is a congregation of all the various political parties and other diverse socio-ethnic organizations, they fused together to form one voice called PANDEF.”