- Clark says group satisfied with resolutions •Withdraws ultimatum to FG
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Forty-eight hours after the Pan-Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF) gave the federal government an ultimatum to implement its 16-point demand for the region or lose its co-operation, acting President Yemi Osinbajo last night met with the group behind closed-door in the Presidential Villa, Abuja and resolved to henceforth, work together.
The meeting which started at about 7p.m. was attended by notable Niger Delta leaders and traditional rulers including Chief Edwin Clark, former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, former Minister of Transport, Alabo Graham-Douglas, His Royal Majesty, King Alfred Diette-Spiff, former Chairman of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw, his successor, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, former Managing Director of NDDC, Chief Timi Alaibe and Chief Tony Uranta, among others.
Answering questions from journalists after the meeting, Clark said the group was satisfied with the outcome of the meeting. He praised the acting president, describing him as forthright, truthful and sincere adding that they had all resolved to work together including the militants who had earlier threatened to resume unrest on September 30.
He withdrew the ultimatum the group issued the federal government on some of the contentious issues.
“The meeting was excellent. We met with Mr. Acting President. He was very forthright, truthful. We were very satisfied. There is no ultimatum. We agreed on many things and we came in with our own address, presented it; the ministers presented their cases.
Mr. Acting President rounded it off and we saw in him the genuineness, truthfulness and forthrightness. He’s a gentleman and we support him. We are satisfied. We did not use the word ultimatum. We only.said we would withdraw. But we have agreed to work together.
“The message is that we had the opportunity to meet the acting president and we discussed various things – our 16-point agenda and the government’s 20-point agenda and we are all satisfied. The message is that everybody should maintain peace.
“We have agreed to work together. MEND is here. MEND was in the meeting. Jomo Gbomo does not exist as a human being. That’s a ghost name. MEND was here. Other organisations were here. I’m the leader of Niger Delta and every leader you can think of from Cross River to Edo State were here,” Clark said.
Also speaking on behalf of the government, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, described the meeting as a collaborative efforts towards finding a lasting solution to the crisis plaguing the Niger Delta region.
He said the meeting explored issues bordering on the development of the Niger Delta, pointing out that the atmosphere was peaceful and friendly.
“The meeting was a collaborative effort to find solution to Niger Delta issues. The acting president was visited by PANDEF led by Clark. The meeting explored how far we had gone with the fulfilment of our undertakings on the 16-point agenda.
“Several issues were discussed – issues relating to the development of Niger Delta generally, issues relating to amnesty programme and how well it is working. Issues relating to NDDC operations generally. It was exhaustive. We looked at the 16-point agenda…Today was an environment of peace, calmness, friendliness and mutual dialoguing on issues, to understand where we are coming from,” the minister said.
The meeting was meant to strike a deal between the federal government and the agitating people of Niger Delta over the region’s development.
The height of its success was conveyed in tweet last night by the media aide to the acting president, Mr. Laolu Akande, that PANDEF had joined the inter-ministerial group of the federal government with a view to actively working with the government on Niger Delta development.
PANDEF’s ultimatum on Monday was followed by that of Niger Delta militants who had threatened to resume the destruction of oil installations from September 30, following the perceived failure of the government to fulfill its promise to implement a developmental agenda in the region.
PANDEF had on its path, threatened to pull out of further co-operation with the federal government if it failed to reach a consensus with it on the 16-point demand it submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari in November, last year.
Ahead of the meeting, there had also been rumblings in the Niger Delta as militants withdrew their collaboration with PANDEF led by Clarke.
The militants had in a statement by their spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, said PANDEF lacked the moral right to issue an ultimatum to the government.
While discrediting PANDEF, Gbomo, the spokesman for Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), said: “In view of our irreconcilable differences, MEND hereby recalls its representatives in PANDEF for consultation with immediate effect.
“PANDEF, led by elder statesmen, Clark and King Diette -Spiff, lacks the moral justification in giving an ultimatum to the federal government and making demands they never made from Goodluck Jonathan when he was at the helm for six wasted years.
“Instead of listening to the so-called Niger Delta activists and the compromised Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), who have miraculously regained the voices they lost when Jonathan was President, and instead of issuing threats through fake internet-based militant groups, PANDEF ought to have used the forum and opportunity to commend the federal government for exposing the monumental looting of our commonwealth by some sons and daughters of the soil, starting from the former President, his wife Patience, cousins, relatives and cronies and so many other traitors; down to the mind boggling theft by Diezani Allison-Madueke, who empowered others while her people lived in squalor and abject poverty.
“PANDEF is also pretending not to notice that the Amnesty Programme is still operating on the corrupt template that still pays ghost militants after it hoodwinked the government into believing in the fraud. A program that has neglected the children of the dead freedom fighters and those in prison, for those that never made any sacrifice is curse,” MEND said.
Another group, Reformed Egbesu Fraternity (REF), also castigated both PANDEF and federal government, saying it had withdrawn from its peace pact with the government.
“At age 90, Papa Clark should step aside for younger people if at all, there is the likelihood of further engagement with the federal government, but we equally dissociate ourselves from the antics of the federal government in the peace process and call for outright destruction of the oil economy in our territories and communities to teach the Federal Government a hard lesson.
“By this resolution, we have withdrawn from the peace process and warn that the Niger Delta ethnic nationalities were never conquered and that we would match fire for fire with the Hausa-Fulani military. We have always spared their lives even when their excesses were glaring but in the next ground of confrontation they would learn in a bitter way,” the group threatened.
However, as the meeting continued late into the night, the presidency released a list of moves it had made since the visit of Osinbajo to Niger Delta earlier in the year.
According to a release by the acting president’s spokesman, Akande, the government had commenced the process of replacing illegal refineries with modular refineries.
He also said the government had put the machinery in place towards the opening of Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta State.
Akande also said the federal government had released N35 billion to sustain the amnesty programme in the region adding that another N70 billion had been allocated to fund amnesty programme in 2017 budget, among others.
“The Federal Government has started the process of replacing illegal refineries in the region with modular ones, including options on how to involve the communities as shareholders in the proposed Modular Refineries. Ground-breaking of the first set of such refineries are expected in the fourth quarter of the year.
In its operations, FG will supply crude to the local refineries at reasonably considered price, as an incentive to stop the current practice whereby illegal refiners vandalise and steal the crude. Each Niger Delta is expected to host 2 modular refineries each.
“Similarly, FG has commenced the process for the opening of the Maritime University at Okerenkoko in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Delta state. Already, a 5-man inter-agency committee headed by the Minister of Education is in the final stages for the official opening of the university in the 2017/2018 academic session.
“FG has released additional N35 billion to step up the Amnesty Programme in the Delta region, which is a specific and significant raise to the 2016 budgetary allocation to the office. This significant increase is already reflected in the 2017 budget with N70billion allocation,” Akande said.