Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Niger Delta leaders have again called on the federal government to immediately commence the process of restructuring the country, to save it from crumbling.
Speaking under the umbrella of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), the group of elders and leaders in the region, said as currently constituted, the country’s delicate fault lines would continue to widen if the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration decides to do nothing about returning Nigeria to a truly federal state.
National Chairman of PANDEF, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (rtd), who spoke during the inauguration of the Bayelsa State branch of the group, noted that the imbalance in the country was not sustainable.
“Today, Nigerians have begun to speak out about this 10-storey building called Nigeria, which is sitting on the foundation meant for a bungalow. The main issue has been that Nigeria needs to be restructured so that our people can be accommodated, so that there will be no first class country with second class citizens.
“That call for restructuring has reached a deafening crescendo and it has come to the point that anybody who wants to be in charge of the affairs of this country must explain to us how restructuring will be carried out in his administration.
“ Our issue in the Niger Delta is that, of the three pillars of the restructuring, fiscal federalism is non-negotiable. It also touches on true federalism and devolution of powers so that this will be a balanced country.
“As far as sustenance of this country is concerned today, it’s the oil. Our people bear the brunt of the exploitation and exploration of oil, the pollution and other environmental factors. Therefore, we have the right to say if we don’t benefit from this oil, Nigeria should not let us not die from it,” he said.
Nkanga urged the new exco to continue to preach the ‘religion of restructuring’ to the creeks of the Niger Delta, which he said remains the number one agenda of PANDEF.
The former military administrator of Akwa Ibom State also called on the federal government to re-open talks on the 16-point agenda, which commenced in 2016 with leaders of the South South.
The new Exco in Bayelsa State is led by Chief Thompson Okorotie as Chairman, with Senator Enatimi Rufus-Spiff as Vice Chairman, while Douglas Naigba is the new Secretary.
In his acceptance speech, Okorotie expressed joy that the Niger Delta can now speak with one voice.
“We are saying the federal government should make a pronouncement on restructuring and they should begin the implementation now. Until this country recognises the oil-producing areas, there will not be peace,” he said.