Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Pan Niger Delta Peoples Congress (PNDPC), a group of elders in the oil-rich region, led by King Charles Ayemi-Botu , paramount ruler of Seimbiri kingdom, wednesday justified last weekâ€™s disruption of a meeting convened by Chief Edwin Clark in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
In a release in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, the former National Chairman of the Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria (TROMPCON), said having withdrawn from him the mandate to negotiate on their behalf by militants in the region, any meeting called by Chief Clark remains a nullity.
He maintained that Clarkâ€™s Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), which the police stopped from holding its meeting at Presidential Hotel, in Rivers, no longer has the mandate of the people of the Niger Delta region since it was withdrawn by â€œour Boysâ€, the agitators, on August 19, this year.
â€œThe security agentsâ€™ action was justified sequel to series of warnings by the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA), a coalition of nine militant groups that prevailed on the Federal Government to abort the meeting.
â€œ It (PANDEF) has lost the credibility to represent the region in future dialogues with the government. The federal government has the moral obligation to ensure peace and stability as well as the protection of oil installations in the region. Since the militants threatened to blow up oil installations, the meeting became a security riskâ€, he insisted.
The first class monarch described the disrupted meeting as a â€political jamboreeâ€ declaring that PANDEF had become a â€œmoney-making forumâ€.
â€œClark was not part of the dialogue group until some of our foot soldiers reported to him about four months after some of us had to take up the gauntlet in appealing to both the Federal Government and the militants to sheathe their swords and embrace dialogue.
â€œSequel to that, the U.S. Consulate-General, Mr. John Bray visited me in my Warri Palace annexe and had an hour closed-door meeting and a joint press conference, calling on both federal government and the Avengers to sheathe their swords and embrace dialogueâ€, he added.
The PNDPC national leader, who claims to have the mandate of the agitators to negotiate with the federal government accused the nonagenarian of usurping PANDEF and making himself the sole convener and Treasurer of the forum.
He alleged that Clark had accepted to step aside as PANDEF leader with the condition that the name of the group should be retained, a condition he (the monarch) rejected.
Chief Clark was not immediately reachable, but he had said in an interview last week that all the allegations against him were untrue, wicked, malicious and mischievous.
The Ijaw leader had boasted that PANDEF did not favour any political party, insisting that the group was made up of people with proven track records of achievements and integrity.
â€œPANDEF comprises men and women of integrity and honour. We have responsible traditional rulers in our fold. The so-called coalition of militants does not existâ€, he had said.