Tension is again building up in the Niger Delta region following the disruption of the fourth assembly of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, penultimate Thursday, at Port Harcourt, Rivers State, by heavily armed security agents. The Forum, in its reaction had demanded an explanation from the Federal Government why a gathering of elders and leaders of the region was aborted by operatives of the Nigerian Police Force and the Department of State Services, DSS but the government ignored the Forum.
PANDEF in a communiqué signed by the national leader, former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, wondered why the government had not extended such bad-mannered gesture to the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACG, in the north, Afenifere in the south-west and Ohaneze Ndi Igbo in the southeast regions.
A source hinted that government was not in the mood to offer any explanation to the body and there was apprehension about safety at further PANDEF gathering in view of government’s refusal to speak out and clear the air on the speculation that the authorities had directed security agencies to stop further meetings of the group.
While awaiting government response to its request, PANDEF reportedly activated its contacts in Abuja to uncover who gave the orders to stop its Port Harcourt assembly and for what reason.
An informed member said: “We are interested in knowing if President Muhammadu Buhari authorized the security agencies to abort our meeting or it was an act by some overzealous officials. But even if it was an act by overzealous officials, we also expect government to denounce it and rebuke those who ordered the illegality.”
Saturday Vanguard learned that a PANDEF leader contacted the office of the Vice President to find out what was amidst, but our source said, “he was not told who was responsible and we do not want to speculate.”
Meanwhile, details have emerged that the regional body related with Rivers Command of the Nigerian Police Force, and the Command deployed police officers and vehicles, but when the orders from above to abort the meeting came, the police withdrew its men.
The spokesperson of the Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, NDRC, W O I Izon Ebi has accused the federal government of instigating insecurity in the region and funding RNDA to rope in ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, while the leader of the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, RNDA, self-styled “General” Johnmark Ezonbi said PANDEF was using NDRC and other militant groups to impose its will on the people.
PANDEF has nothing to lose, Oyibode explodes
In his reaction, a member of the Local Organizing Committee, LOC, for the aborted meeting, Olorogun Vincent Oyibode, told our reporter that PANDEF had nothing to lose if the federal government decided to severe dealings with the body.
He asserted, “We shall move on to plan the way forward for the Niger Delta region. Government needs us because PANDEF agenda is for peace in the region and Nigeria.”
“I can tell you that what happened has made PANDEF members stronger, focused, committed and more dedicated to the group. Niger Delta people must have a voice in Nigeria, not just to have peace for oil production. The DSS invited two of our members from Rivers, HRH Anabs Sara-Igbe and Comrade Ken Robinson and they went to see the state Director of DSS who later informed them that the authority did not want the programme to hold.”
“All arrangements had been made and delegates had already checked into their hotel rooms before we received the information on Wednesday. On the militant group, RNDA, whose threat the security agencies cited as the reason for their action, Oyibode declared, “RNDA is faceless, the real militants who are visible are all behind the PANDEF. Some of them were angry over the way PANDEF was treated but the elders appealed to them because we could not ascertain who was behind the action of the Police and DSS.”
“But if it was the Federal Government that sent the Police and the DSS, I may not be able to guarantee existing peace. Afenifere, Ohaneze, Ndi-Igbo and Arewa Consultative Forum never faced this kind of harassment, we are peacefully watching the action of the federal government.”
We have disbanded PANDEF- RNDA
RNDA leader, “General” Johnmark Ezonbi, in a statement, Tuesday, castigating PANDEF, said militants in the region had since disbanded the body, urging the federal government to deal with the Pan Niger Delta People’s Congress, PNDPC, endorsed by the majority.
The group stated, “Pan Niger Delta Forum PANDEF remained disbanded from representing the region in any discussions or negotiations despite its move to change its leadership at the botched Port Harcourt meeting.”
It said PANDEF was parading a retinue of failed politicians, who contributed immensely to the underdevelopment of the long neglected region in spite being in power in different administrations, from post-independence era until date.
RNDA urged the APC- led Federal Government to enter into fresh talks with the Pan Niger Delta People’s Congress, PNDPC, led by the paramount ruler of Seimbiri kingdom, HM Pere Charles Ayemi Botu, OFR JP.
It said that PNDPC with the national chairman of HOSTCOM, Rev Dr Mike Emuh, who has been working tirelessly to restore peace to the region by engaging the teeming youths of the region in non violence training, High Chief Dr Francis Inegbiniki and others have been endorsed by militants in the region.
“We sincerely thank the Presidency for not entering into any further discussions with PANDEF after the mandate given to them by militants and stakeholders was withdrawn after high level discussions and appraisal from all various militant agitating groups and well- meaning stakeholders from the Niger Delta region.
Branch of unsuccessful political party
“The group was an arm of a failed political party that has contributed to the woes of under development in the region despite being in power for over 16 years. We thank the security agencies for aborting the planned meeting of PANDEF in Port Harcourt. PANDEF is no longer recognized as it does not enjoy the blessings and support of the people any longer. If you check their antecedents, over 90 per cent are members of PDP, while 99 per cent have either held elective or appointive positions with nothing tangible to show in terms of practical development in the Niger Delta region,” it added.
RNDA noted that it was disgraceful for PANDEF to compare itself to Afenifere in the south -west, Arewa Consultative Forum in the northern part of the country and Ohaneze in the south-east, saying the groups referred to “do not promote corruption in their regions, rather they fight and work hard to bring development to their regions.”
PANDEF not behind ceasefire
It picked holes in the claim by PANDEF that the group was behind the ceasefire by militants on August 21, 2016.
According to it, “Mr. Jude Tabai, Dan Ekpebide and other notable respected traditional rulers from the region like the paramount ruler of Seimbri kingdom, who is the national leader of PNDPC, traditional ruler of Ogulugha kingdom and other respected youth leaders, came to the creeks to plead with us to shield our swords.”
NDRC counters, says FG funding RNDA
Joining the fray NDRC pointed accusing finger at the federal government for the current insecurity in the region, alleging that it was intimidating PANDEF and promoting the activities of the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, RNDA, to paint fugitive ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, in bad light.
“We are, therefore, consulting to review our ceasefire and come out with our next line of action tagged Operation Zero Barrel, late November 2017,” NDRC warned in a statement by its spokesperson, W O I Izon Ebi.
According to the group in a statement “Doomsday is imminent if Federal Government pushes for it and It is now obvious that the federal government is the same entity behind the insecurity in the Niger Delta just because of the oil.”
“It is now an open secret that the federal government is the same entity funding the activities of the RNDA with the sole purpose to rope in Tompolo and accuse him with trumped up corruption charges, and assassinate his true character as a rights activist after the planned scrapping of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko that failed.
“These same distinguished personalities and royal fathers of PANDEF that the federal government is trying to vilify are the same personalities who came to the rescue when it was hot. Their pedigree and their sincere approach for the Niger Delta and Nigeria at large led to the present peace, which we are enjoying and the economic boom that brought us out of recession.
“Their patriotism for one Nigeria, equity, peace and justice led to the 16-point agenda and the unveiling of the 25-point federal government initiative. Both reports were adopted by the federal government, so why this insensitive action from the federal government?
Cabal rubbishing Osinbajo
It stated, “We have all seen, all patriotic Nigerians have seen that there is a deliberate ploy by the cabal to vilify and rubbish all the good and patriotic deeds of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo when he was holding forth as the acting president.”
“We all saw what was done to Minister of state for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu for all his painstaking efforts and sacrifices to see a peaceful and steady exploration of oil to meet our budgeted estimate of 2.2million barrels of oil per day.
“We therefore want to warn that the NDRC, the 21st Century Youths and all agitators would not tolerate this conqueror approach where the federal government would pretend to be making peace but at the same time using an ex- militant leader to form the RNDA.” the group asserted.
The militant group said government was funding RNDA to quash the agreements reached with PANDEF on peace and progress of the region and appealed to all well-meaning Nigerians, “to call the federal government to order because doomsday is imminent and zero barrel oil production seems to be the last option.”