Militancy may erupt again soon —Niger Delta leaders

PROMINENT personalities of the Niger Delta led by elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, have rejected the planned Niger Delta Stakeholders’ Summit slated for the 26th – 27th September, 2016, being organised by the federal government, saying that it would be meaningless since government has failed to negotiate with the region despite the cessation of hostilities by militants.

Speaking under the aegis of the Pan-Niger Delta Coastal States Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum, they said the summit slated for the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja and for which invitation has already been sent out to some Niger Delta indigenes, was a talk shop meant to trivialise the Niger Delta issue.

A statement signed by 30 prominent Niger Delta leaders and made available to newsmen in Abuja, on Friday, noted that the summit was contrary to the expectations of people around the world on the Niger Delta question.

“Whilst we do not begrudge the right of any authority or persons to convene any talk shop, we feel concerned that serious issue of the Niger Delta should not be trivialised into some academic exercise.

“We also hold the view that the holding of such summit at this time is clearly contrary to the expectations of all right-thinking persons worldwide.

“The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Federal Government, for over six weeks, since cessation of hostilities as a result of the intervention by the traditional rulers, elders and leaders of the Niger Delta, have not deemed it fit to respond to the demands of the people of the Niger Delta for a credible and proper dialogue process.

“We note with happiness that the region has been relatively quiet and stable following the ceasefire brokered by the leaders of the Region with the expectation that the Federal Government will urgently interface and commence negotiation with accredited representatives of the Niger Delta Region.

“Rather than doing the needful, the region has however, been over-militarised of its creeks and other spaces, which have resulted in claims of rapes, brutalisation, incidental deaths and undue harassments suffered by our innocent sons and daughters during this period of the ceasefire,” the statement read.

While noting that the ceasefire in place has led to a significant increase in the quantum of oil production of 1.7 mbpd, the Niger Delta leaders observed that almost a month has elapsed since militant groups in the region agreed to a 60 day cessation of hostilities without the Federal Government constituting a negotiation team.

“Rather, the Office of the Vice President is organising a summit of stakeholders purportedly for the Niger Delta, “It is our considered opinion that for the Federal Government to contemplate a summit of this nature, rather than proper dialogue and negotiations with leaders of the region, is to trivialise the gravity of the issues and opt for a cosmetic approach.

“Any reasonable person looking at the title and composition of attendees, officials, subjects and speeches at this so-called summit will discern that it is possible to replace the term Niger Delta with any other area of the country and it will not look odd.

“There is no Niger-Deltan of any level of representation there. Worse still, the speakers at the summit are mainly government officials who should, at best of times, be listening to the people, instead of talking down to the people.  In such a gathering, there are definitely no spaces for any meaningful discussions.

“The point to note is that the Niger Delta crisis predates the present administration. In all the previous administrations, we never engaged in futile and cosmetic academic exercise as this summit to proffer solutions to the Niger Delta agitations,” they added.

The leaders posited that the issues confronting the Niger Delta do not require an academic exercise of this nature, “masquerading as a Summit to proffer solutions to the Niger Delta issues, rather, a credible dialogue process between the Federal Government, the oil companies and the accredited and authorized representatives of the region.”

They called on UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, US President Barrack Obama, and other world leaders to prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to see him as the president of the entire country.