Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Militant groups from the nine states of the Niger Delta wednesday met at the Benin River, Delta State, maintaining that the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), which had hitherto been given the mandate to negotiate on their behalf remain disbanded.
The warlords who spoke under the auspices of the Reformed Niger Delta Agenda (RNDA), insisted that the Chief Edwin Clark-led PANDEF has now lost the authority to talk to the federal government on their behalf, noting that any agency of the government which continues to deal with PANDEF does so at its own risk.
Citing reasons why they took the decision, Johnmark Ezonbi, who presided over the meeting, in a communique he personally signed, declared that members of PANDEF comprised mainly of former appointed or elected political office holders in the Niger Delta region who should be blamed for the current state of the region.
The ex-militants argued that while in power, the disbanded PANDEF did not use their privileged position to positively impact on the lives of the people of the region.
The RNDA leaders noted that the proposed PANDEF meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, scheduled for October 26, 2017, has put paid to speculations that the group was an arm of a failed political party with the calibre of persons invited.
According to Ezonbi, â€˜those invited include former governors, former ministers, senators and ex-House of Represetatives members from the Niger Delta region which shows that PANDEF was parading a retinue of failed politicians who had contributed to the underdevelopment of the region.
â€œ PANDEF has been disbanded and it remains so. Federal and state Governments or agencies should stop dealing with the group under any guise on behalf of the region as PANDEF does not have the locus standi to meet to discuss issues affecting the region.
â€œThe RNDA and other agitating militants in the creeks of the region will not allow these failed leaders to thwart our genuine agitation for the development of the region. They cannot be trusted to speak on behalf of the region,â€ the militants said.
They added: â€œPANDEF should know that the same militants who gave them the mandate has since withdrawn it and given it to a more robust transparent group of persons.
â€œThis body is the Pan Niger Delta Peoples Congress (PNDPC) led by His Majesty Pere Charles Ayemi Botu, Paramount ruler of Seimbiri kingdom and former National Chairman of TROMPCON.
â€œThe withdrawal of the mandate from the Clark-led PANDEF followed wide consultations and deliberations from all the agitating militant groups across the entire Niger Delta region. Anyone relating with PANDEF on behalf of the region is on its own.
â€œWe call on President Muhammadu Buhari not to have anything to do with the disbanded PANDEF group as they cannot speak or negotiate with the federal government on behalf of the Niger Delta region.
â€œThe coalition will be forced to resume hostilities in the creeks in a well coordinated approach if the federal government enters into any discussion with PANDEF.â€
They also named Bishop Mike Emuh, the National Chairman of HOSTCOM and Dr. Francis Inegbeniki, representing Edo State, as other members of the group the federal government should negotiate with on behalf of the warlords.