Uranta: FG Stonewalled N’Delta Peace Process

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  • Says Osinbajo not responsible for peace in region
  • •Expresses concern over uncertainty in the presidency

 Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The Executive Secretary of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Mr. Tony Uranta, has accused the federal government of being an impediment to the sustainable peace and stability in the Niger Delta region.

Urranta made the remarks yesterday while speaking as a guest on Arise Television, a THISDAY sister broadcast organisation.

He said the presidency is not serious in engaging stakeholders in the region to bring a lasting peace.

Uranta, however, noted that President Muhammadu Buhari  started on a good footing when he met with the leadership and representatives of PANDEF in November last year at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

At the meeting, he said the PANDEF leadership presented a 16-point agenda before the presidency.

“But all the 16-points revolved around one point and that one point was: ‘Mr. President, no matter how much and well intentioned you are towards this region, we need to see it in action and it cannot be auctioned just randomly. And we do not need a new conference or summit because there has been conferences and summits held since the Wilkinson Commission of 1958.

“So Mr. President, all we want is please constitute a panel to meet with a corresponding panel or groups from this PANDEF and we will table certain issues and address low hanging fruits  that can bring about not just security in the region but stability in the nation, and hopefully, development for the region,” he said.

Unfortunately, the PANDEF leader said the presidency has been merely acting up and has not shown any serious intention of dialoguing with the people of the region since the November meeting.

Uranta opined that the presidency was only playing to the gallery, avoiding the real issues while mounting propaganda of unintended actions.

He said: “As it is to date, in fact, since then, it has been virtually stonewalled by the government. All we got in response to this the best that we saw was a putative tour of the region by the vice president, which we were glad to accept but we made it clear at that time and we are still repeating that it does not substitute for the crucial needs for PANDEF to meet with the presidency on steady basis.

“Through this, we can fashion our an agreement of understanding among parties, because it’s not just us and the government, there are the international oil companies (IOCs), there are other interested stakeholders but these have not happened.

“And we want that even Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and other major groups were not going to be able to guaranty that they will continue to the ceasefire . A few individual in government felt otherwise. They felt, oh we got certain people in our pockets so to say. But like I said to one minister…Niger Delta is a big place, and it’s not really composed of a new people but really a combination of old travail fellows who felt it’s about time to renew the agitation.”

Speaking further, Uranta disclosed the role PANDEF played in bringing about the current peace and stability being enjoyed in the region.

 He said  last year, PANDEF (the premier body composed of the elders and youths of the region) of which he was one of the executives of the Central Working Committee, prevailed on the NDA and four other major groups to lay down their  arms and declare a unilateral ceasefire.

This, he said, was to “say to the government, we are prepared to stop, to cease any negative action so as to allow you the room to negotiate with our representatives. That was PANDEF words to the presidenc, and the president in particular, started off on a right footing, eventually met with the leadership in November, 2016.”

 Uranta also clarified that contrary to reports, it was not the visit of the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo  that brought peace to the region, but rather the intervention  of the premier Niger Delta group.

According to him, the region “has been stable because of PANDEF, not the vice president”, adding “that narrative is a total lie that the vice president stabilised the  region.

“No he did not. The region had become stable two months before we met with the president in November and we achieved this stability by having very intense engagement with these individuals in the creeks. But we don’t mind anybody taking credits for anything. What is important is there is need to substitute substance for shadows, and movement for motion.”

According to him, “And all we have seen are photo-ops and people sitting down making promises that are not backed by plans and even plans that are not backed with resources. For example, the Ogoni  restoration was announced from the first day of May 29, 2015 by President Buhari. And it was flagged off well over one year ago and roll date, we still haven’t seen any movement.”

“In fact, at a meeting that was held on Tuesday, that looked at the issues of Nigeria’s composition and the need for restructuring, the Ogoni representative that was there have our fliers, saying that  ‘Ogoni itself may return so to say back to the trenches.”

 Urantta warned: “Now, this is not comforting, and this is not helpful, especially in the situation we are in, where we don’t even know who is leading Nigeria at the moment.”