The rejection of the Federal Government –sponsored two –day Niger Delta Summit initially planned to hold Monday and Tuesday by the Pan –Niger Delta Coastal States Consultative Forum, led by former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark and pointed disagreement over the one-sided concept , forced government to suddenly postpone the talks, Friday night. This came as Chief Edwin Clark warned President Muhammadu Buhari not listen to the Minister of Transport, Rt Hon Rotimi Amaechi, saying that “Amaechi is one of the problems of the Niger Delta, he is seeing himself as next to the President’ and that the people of Niger Delta were ready to work with President Muhammadu Buhari, but he should not listen to people like Amaechi and others that were allegedly confusing him and telling him untruths about the region. Secretary of the Planning Committee of the Summit, Mr. Donald Wokoma, in a statement, announcing the postponement, gave no reason for the suspension, but Vanguard learned that government got intelligence that the summit would be largely boycotted by the mainstream Niger –Delta leaders and ex-agitators, supposed to the main target
Amid the confusion over the suspension of the summit, Minister of Transport, Rt Hon Rotimi Amaechi , was learned to have invited some persons to a separate conference on initiative for peace and governance in Niger Delta , Saturday, but some of those spoken to by Vanguard, said they would not attend. Before government deferred the summit, information had leaked that Chief Clark, former Senate Chief Whip, Senator Roland Owie, Barrister Ledum Mitee, former Minister of Police Affairs, Alaowei Brodrick Bozimo, Air Commodore Idongisit Nkanga (retd.), Chief Isaac Jemide, Dr Monday Okonny, Chief Timi Alaibe and Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw would not be part of the summit. Indeed, the leaders, including the former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Idada Ikpomwen (retd.) Col Paul Ogbebor(retd.), Chief Francis Doukpola, Prof. Lucky Akaruese, Mr. O’MacEmakpore, High Chief Johnson Opone, Prof. G. G. Darah, Hon. Chief T. K. O. Okorotie, Dr. Efiong Edunam, P. Z. Aginighan and Prince Maikpobi Okareme had prepared a position paper. Also part of the leaders against the summit were Chief Douglas Naingba, Chief Simeon Efenudu, Dr. Emmanuel Akpanobong, Mrs. Marie Ebikake, Mr. Tony Uranta, Nella Ewa, SAN and Chief Ogar. They said: “We reaffirm our collective resolve 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.” “They said the summit is organized to down play the factor of serious dialogue between the critical stakeholders , who have the mandate and authority to negotiate with the Federal Government. “That due to the cessation of hostilities on our 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 national oil production targets, is very realistic. “Therefore, this should serve as an impetus to commence the negotiation process, rather than engaging in frivolities and trivialities. We are of the opinion that the Federal Government should not unnecessarily take steps that could lead to a relapse to insurgency by its inaction,” they added. Their words: “The same Federal Government that feigns ignorance of whom to interface with is seen actively orchestrating false flag operations and sponsoring diverse bodies with the intent of dividing the Region’s already unified fronts and justifying a continuation of the balkanization of the Region to facilitate uncontrolled access to its resources.” They leaders, however, stated: “The indigenes of the Niger Delta who are invited to the said Summit are free to exercise their democratic rights to association. However, such attendees, do not represent the Pan-Niger Delta States Stakeholders’ Forum and are not authorized or mandated to speak or represent same.” They also asserted: “The Niger Delta calls on the UN 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 MuhammaduBuhari 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.” “We also appeal to all the armed agitators to continue with the cessation of hostilities and to remain calm and peaceful, even in the face of obvious provocation. “As a people we are, still committed to the vision of a peaceful, prosperous, united and restructured Nigeria where no one is oppressed,” they said. According to them: “The attention of the leadership of the Pan-Niger Delta Coastal States Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum has been drawn to the circulation of invitation letters to some Niger Delta indigenes to a Niger Delta stakeholders’ summit slated for the 26th – 27th September, 2016, at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja.” “Whilst we do not begrudge the right of any authority or persons to convene any talk shop, we feel concerned that serious issue of the Niger Delta should not be trivialized into some academic exercise. We also hold the view that the holding of such summit at this time is clearly contrary to the expectations of all right-thinking persons worldwide. “The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Federal Government, 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, have not deemed it fit to respond to the demands of the peoples of the Niger Delta for a credible and proper dialogue process,” they said. They asserted: “We note with happiness that the region has been relatively quiet and stable following the cease fire brokered by the leaders of the region with the expectation that the Federal Government will urgently interface and commence negotiation with accredited representatives of the Niger Delta region.” “Rather than doing the needful, the region has, however, been over militarized of its creeks and other spaces, which have resulted in claims of rapes, brutalization, incidental deaths and undue harassments suffered by our innocent sons and daughters during this period of the ceasefire. However, a significant achievement of the ceasefire is the increase in the quantum of oil production of 1.7 mbpd, according to the Hon. Minister of States, Petroleum, and Dr. IbeKachikwu. “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 the Pan-Niger Delta Coastal States Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum is to trivialize the gravity of the issues and opt for a cosmetic approach,” the leaders said. They added: “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 LedumMitee 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,” they said. The leaders declared: “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.” Speaking to Vanguard on phone on the meeting convened by the Minister of Transport, Chief Clark said: “Hon Amaechi sent an invitation to me to attend the meeting at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja on Saturday, but I want to say that is an insult for Amaechi to invite me to such a meeting.” “Amaechi is one of the problems of the Niger Delta, he is seeing himself as next to the President, why is he calling a meeting now, he knows our position as leaders, and he has not shown any concern to the plight of the people since. Where was he when the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu and others went around trying to solve the problem? “Is he the Minister of Niger Delta, on what platform is he calling his fathers to a meeting. In fact, no reasonable Niger Deltan will attend such a meeting by Amaechi. “”The youths have ceased fire and waiting for us to discuss on their behalf, is it now that he will call for dialogue. He is not the type to call for peace. He should reexamine himself. He is found guilty of corruption by a Judicial Commission of Inquiry by his state government. Now, other persons are being harassed and prosecuted for corruption and he is not. Is it not strange and is that right,” he said. Chief Clark said that the people of Niger Delta were ready to work with President Muhammadu Buhari, but he should not listen to people like Amaechi and others that were allegedly confusing him and telling him untruths about the region. His words: “President Buhari is straightforward, we will work with him. He should not listen to Amaechi. Ameachi should not arrogate to himself the authority to moderate dialogue. When Kachikwu came to the Niger Delta to see things for himself, is it not Amaechi, who lied to about the Nigerian Maritime University without coming to the area?