Sylvester Idowu in Warri
Chief Edwin Clark-led Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) yesterday said no amount of military intimidation by the federal government would suppress agitation by the people of the region for justice, equity and development.
The leadership of the body and delegates from all the states in the region maintained this stance at a PANDEF emergency general assembly held at Petroleum Training Institute Conference Centre, Effurun, Delta State.
They further resolved that any attempt by anybody, either in government or outside, to divide the Niger Delta regional body would fail.
Firing the first salvo. National Leader of PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clark, wondered why military was deployed to the region under the guise of â€œOperation Crocodile Smiles 2â€ when their is relative peace in the Niger Delta.
â€œWhere agitations for better treatment are met with dastardly killings and deaths, it looks like we the people of the Niger Delta region, are under a big siege.
â€œBut we will continue to demand that the country practices true federalism, where the states have the right to fiscal autonomy and control, self-management of the resources, and development structured in accordance with the capacities and capabilities. inherent in each state,â€ he added.
The leader of PANDEF in Delta State and Chair, Local Organising Committee, Professor Godwin G. Darah, said the emergency assembly was to deliberate on the current insecurity situation in the region with worrisome situation arising from the issuance of statements by some aggrieved groups concerning oil and gas facilities.
He said further: â€œThe situation has been made worse by the belligerent response of the federal government, including the deployment of military contigents and weapons. Fear and tension have replaced the fragile peace in many oil producing communities.â€
Darah described PANDEF as a unique and precious organisation noting that the forum is the first trans-ethnic and multi-national formation in Niger Delta and coordinating platform for all the 50 ethnic nationalities and groups in the region.
Former Minister of Police Affairs, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, commended the delegates for their turn out assuring them that the struggle now has international support which is encouraging to all Niger Deltans.
He said PANDEF would continue with the agitations for the development of the region, though not with violence but through peaceful engagement and dialogue but urged the youths to follow same way.
In a 14-point communique issued at the end of the deliberation, the delegates expressed appreciation to the federal government for the commencement of academic activities at the Nigerian Maritime Universities. Okerenkoko and Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun, both in Delta State.
They however, urged the federal government to rethink and jettison the use of violence through military repression but embrace dialogue initiated by PANDEF by creating the framework to discuss the 16-point agenda now submitted over a year ago.
The communiquÃ© also urged the youths to remain and maintain peace, promising that PANDEF would continue to mediate and bring sustainable peace to the region.