Stop trivialising Niger Delta issues, group warns FG
The condemnation came against the backdrop of the circulation of invitation letters to some Niger Delta indigenes and others to attend a Niger Delta Stakeholders’ Summit slated for September 26 to 27, 2016, at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja.
The leaders who include Chief (Dr.) Edwin K. Clark, Senator Roland Owie, Air Cmdr. Idongesit Nkanga, Chief Isaac Jemide, Dr. Monday Okonny, Barrister Ledum Mitee, Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw, Chief Francis Doukpola, Alaowei Broderich Bozimo, among others, said the serious issue of the Niger Delta should not be trivialized into some academic exercise.
This was contained in a press release made available to The Guardian.According to the press release, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government have not deemed it fit for over six weeks, since cessation of hostilities as a result of the intervention by the traditional rulers, elders and leaders of the Niger Delta, to respond to the demands of the people of the region for a credible and proper dialogue process.
The group said that rather for the government to do the needful, the region has been over-militarized of its creeks and other spaces, which have resulted in claims of rapes, brutalisation, incidental deaths and undue harassments suffered by their innocent sons and daughters during the period of the ceasefire.
The leaders noted that internally displaced people are now littered all over the place.The release stated: “We wish to state that almost a month has elapsed since militant groups in the region agreed to a 60-day cessation of hostilities without the Federal Government constituting a negotiation team. Rather, the Office of the Vice President is organizing a summit of stakeholders purportedly for the Niger Delta. It is our considered opinion that for the federal government to contemplate a Summit of this nature, rather than proper dialogue and negotiations with leaders of the region, is to trivialize the gravity of the issues and opt for a cosmetic approach.
“Any reasonable person looking at the title and composition of attendees, officials, subjects and speeches at this so-called Summit, will discern that it is possible to replace the term Niger Delta with any other area of the country and it will not look odd. There is no Niger-Deltan of any level of representation there. Worse still, the speakers at the Summit are mainly government officials, who should at best of times be listening to the people, instead of talking down to the people. In such a gathering, there are definitely no spaces for any meaningful discussions.
“The point to note is that the Niger Delta crisis predates the present administration. In all the previous administrations, we never engaged in futile and cosmetic academic exercise as this summit, to proffer solutions to the Niger Delta agitations. It would be recalled that in 2008, a conference of this nature was proposed and which was to be chaired by Prof Ibrahim Gambari of the United Nations. Leaders and stakeholders of the region rejected the conference due to the fact that there had been series of Reports of such Conferences, Summits and Technical Committees on the Niger Delta not implemented by the Federal Government. This was what led to the setting up of a 45-man Technical Committee, under the chairmanship of Barrister Ledum Mitee, to collate and align all the various Reports on the Niger Delta. But after the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, that exercise never saw the light of day.
“We wish to state in unambiguous terms that the issues confronting the Niger Delta do not require an academic exercise of this nature, masquerading as a Summit to proffer solutions to the Niger Delta issues. Rather, a credible dialogue process between the Federal Government, the oil companies and the accredited and authorized representatives of the region. “
The group informed that the region is resolute in its decision to only engage the Federal Government through a credible dialogue process with accredited representatives of the Niger Delta Region to proffer long-lasting solutions to the protracted Niger Delta insurgency and not a summit of this type.
The release stated that the summit was organized to downplay the factor of serious dialogue between the critical stakeholders who have the mandate and authority to negotiate with the Federal Government.
They also observed that due to the cessation of hostilities on national assets by the armed agitators of the Niger Delta, oil production has increased to 1.7mbpd and if the peace process is further deepened, with proper negotiation, the possibility of reaching peak national oil production targets, is very realistic.
The release urged the United Nation Secretary General, Ban Kii Moon, the United States President Barrack Obama, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and all African countries, to get Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to see himself as President of all Nigeria, to give peace a sincere chance in order to expedite the escape of all Nigerians from the obvious economic hardship that has befallen Nigeria since the resurgence of armed agitations within the Niger Delta.
The group also appealed to all the armed agitators in the region to continue with the cessation of hostilities and to remain calm and peaceful, even in the face of obvious provocation.