By Emma Amaize, South-South Editor
WARRI— LEADERS of Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, an umbrella body of traditional rulers, leaders and stakeholders of states of Niger Delta were in a dilemma, yesterday, over how to get the Niger Delta Creek Warriors, a coalition of militants, which called off the ceasefire deal with the Federal Government, weekend, to back down.
The spokesperson of the coalition, including, Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, Niger Delta Republic Seekers, Niger Delta Creek Warriors, Ogunuma Camp and others, self-styled “General” Christ, in a statement, on Sunday, said they were issuing the Federal Government a fresh seven-day ultimatum to meet the demands of the militants.
Vanguard gathered that militants in the region had contacted PANDEF, which brokered the ceasefire between them and government on the alleged failure of government to meet the demands of the region, but Niger Delta leaders could not explain the reason for the letdown after several promises.
“It is because they are no longer ready to wait anymore for the elders, who kept appealing to them to simmer down without getting the government to meet their demands for which they called off the ceasefire,” a source said.
A PANDEF leader told Vanguard, “Elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, who is the national leader of PANDEF is disturbed by the new threat by the youths because this is what the Forum has been warning the government about.”
Contacted on phone, Secretary of PANDEF, Dr. Alfred Mulade, confirmed that the South-South body was actually in a dilemma over the threat by militants to end the ceasefire.
He, however, said that destruction of oil installations was not the solution and appealed to the militants to reconsider their decision.
His words: “Yes, we as leaders are also in a fix on how to contain the anger in the region against the government. The issues raised in the publication are matters we have been raising all along, and when you look at them, those are items listed in the 16- point agenda of PANDEF presented to the Federal Government.
“And if you will recall, in July, last year, we called government attention that if the items in the agenda were not attended to, the anger of the region was already getting to breaking point and we are finding it difficult containing the boys. We raised this alarm that time.
“It was the alarm that led the Vice President and acting President at the time, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, to call a meeting in August where those issues were discussed and promises made, but unfortunately, till today, none of the promises had been attended to.
“Look at the issue of inclusion in the oil industry in the terms of oil blocks, marginal fields, which are in the demands by the militants, nothing meaningful has come out of that direction.
“And you talk about promises made by Vice President when he came to Niger Delta, the issues of modular refineries, so many other things, nothing has actually happened. The Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, is also there in the list. So many others that were there.
“In as much as we will not be in support of any group taking up against government oil installations in the region, it is really a point of disappointment that a group made up of critical leaders in this region, led by Chief Edwin Clark, is denigrated in this manner.
“This is a group that has been struggling all these while to ensure that there is peace in the region and that there is flow of oil to maintain the economy. It presented demands after brokering a peace deal with militants, yet government did not deem it important to address the issues.
“You see, people are not happy over government attitude to the demands of the region, but as we say that, we also want to appeal to the youths that bombing oil installations is not the best solution.
“But PANDEF will continue to press to ensure that the right thing is done in this country. Look at the issue of restructuring which we have pushed largely, but the government of the day feels otherwise. They feel that those advocating for restructuring are not patriotic Nigerians, but we that are talking about restructuring are doing it for the benefit of everybody.
“As a body, PANDEF had presented the same demands that the militants raised afresh and our stand is that government should attend to them.
“On restructuring, which they also raised, we have not changed our stand, the country has to be restructured and in the coming dispensation, PANDEF will support any government that fully believes and is ready to restructure the country to the benefit of Niger Delta people and all Nigerians.
“The summary of what I am saying is that the demands listed by the militants are demands that we have presented to government, which it had made promises, but up till today, nothing meaningful has come out of them.
“And as we stand today, we cannot really say that government is interested in addressing any of the demands, so we as leaders are also in a fix on how to contain the anger in the region against the government,” Mulade stated.