Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa and Sylvester Idowu in Warri
A group of Niger Delta elders under the Pan Niger Delta Peoples Congress (PNDPC) yesterday vowed never to work with the Edwin Clark-led Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF), insisting that Clarkâ€™s group remains disbanded.
The PNDPC is led by Dr Charles Ayemi-Botu, king of Seimbiri kingdom, a border town between Bayelsa and Delta States and former National Chairman of Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals Producing Communities of Nigeria (TROMPCON).
In a statement in Yenagoa yesterday, the monarch said reports that he had acceded to work with the Ijaw leader were spurious and preposterous , noting that there was no truth in the insinuation that his group had merged with PANDEF.
â€œFor the avoidance of doubt, the purported merger is not only false and misleading but also a mere figment of the imagination of those who orchestrated the non existent merger. It is worthy that at no time did the leadership and members of the PNDPC resolve to merge with PANDEF.
â€œOn the contrary, at the Opokuma Summit of the PNDPC which was attended by the clergy, politicians, traditional rulers, agitators and representatives of various ethnic groups in the Niger Delta including those pushing for the merger, it was unanimously agreed that the PNDPC would continue to operate as an independent entity mandated by the agitators to open fresh dialogue with the federal government on the way forward.
â€œIt should be placed on record that no meeting has been held to review the standpoint of the PNDPC after the Opokuma Summit, therefore no such decision has been taken to merge with any other organization,â€ Ayemi-Botu, leader of the PNDPC maintained.
He added that while PNDPC was open to constructive engagement with all critical stakeholders in the Niger Delta Project, it has no plans to merge with any organisation â€œat least not in the foreseeable futureâ€
He said the PNDPC was aware of the infiltration of â€œfifth columnists and political jobbersâ€, whose sole aim is to continue to make capital gains out of the Niger Delta struggle.
â€œPNDPC notes with deep concern that unbridled greed for wealth, contract and people seeking political relevance have plunged the Niger Delta into an irredeemable abyss of underdevelopment.
â€œThe PNDPC is irrevocably committed to the Niger Delta struggle and no amount of blackmail, betrayal of trust and an unholy gang-up shall dissuade its leadership from delivering on its core mandate to seek a peaceful resolution of the Niger Delta question,â€ the group added.
Meanwhile, a militant group, the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) led by â€œMaj Genâ€ John Mark Ezonbi has dismissed the defection of some members of the PNDPC as a charade.
He said the purported members who left the group were traitors who were never committed to the group, urging the federal government not to recognise or enter into any form of negotiations with Clark and his group.
RNDA claimed that PANDEF had a hidden agenda and has derailed from the mandate to enter into dialogue with the federal government, and now pursuing â€œselfish aggrandisement.â€