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Niger Delta, PANDEF and needless threat

Recently, a group called the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), comprising the leaders and elders from the so-called Nigeria’s oil rich Niger Delta region, sensibly took a decision to withdraw the ultimatum it gave to the government to, as a matter of urgency, constitute a negotiation team to engage in talks with the region’s stakeholders. Th e withdrawal was announced by an elder statesman, Edwin Clark, shortly after he led the PANDEF to a meeting with Acting President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. It would be recalled that the PANDEF had called on the government to implement its 16-point agenda otherwise it would withdraw from the peace negotiation between the government and people of the Niger Delta aimed engendering peace in the troubled oil rich region if the forum’s demands were not met before November

1. Th e Ijaw national leader warned that youths of the region were becoming impatient over delay in the talks. Part of the demands presented to the government by the PANDEF is the establishment of a maritime university, relocation of oil and gas companies to the Niger Delta, and allocation of oil blocs to people from the area. Clark told State House correspondents that they had an excellent meeting with Osinbajo, adding that “the discussion was very honest, truthful and forthright. We are very, very satisfi ed.” Speaking earlier, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, told reporters that the meeting discussed how far the government had gone in implementing the 16-point agenda of PANDEF. Kachikwu said: “Several issues relating to the university, the development of the region, amnesty programme, and NDDC operations in the Niger Delta were discussed. It was very exhaustive. We looked at the 16-point agenda.” Th us, it can be seen that the government attached great importance to the Niger Delta issue. Of course it does, not mainly because the nation’s greatest chunk of revenue comes from the area, but also because the government is interested in engendering and sustaining peace and development in the entire country, especially in this period of crisis and criminalities taking place in several parts of the country. And Clark and his people from the Niger Delta should appreciate what the government does. But they do not, or so it appears. Did they fail to appreciate the government’s eff ort to keep peace and develop the country because the government pays too much attention to the socalled Niger Delta crisis and, maybe, Clark, in particular? So it seems Because sooner had the group led by Clark issued its warning, another group, also based in the troubled area, the Niger Delta People’s Congress, had faulted the November 1 ultimatum given by the Chief Edwin Clark-led Pan Niger Delta Forum, describing the decision as “highly selfi sh and unpatriotic.”

Th e group’s Convener, Chief Mike Loyibo, said this in a statement in Abuja shortly after the threat given by Clark. Loyibo said, and he couldn’t have said better, that the threat was uncalled for, considering the right steps taken by the federal government to fi nd a permanent solution to the crisis that had bedevilled the region. He described PANDEF as just one of the many groups in the region, saying the forum’s decision cannot be binding on everybody.

Loyibo pointed out, and many have concurred with his argument, that there is no need for the federal government to negotiate with any group claiming to represent the interests of people in the area, regardless of Clark’s membership. Rather, the Presidency should go back to the people in the host communities, in the event of any problem or misunderstanding in the implementation of the region’s agenda for peace and development, just the same way that the Acting President went round initially to seek their buy-in.

After all, it was not PANDEF that secured peace in the region and it cannot maintain it because it lacks the capacity to do so. Essentially, it should be said that there’s a road map for the development of Niger Delta region, fashioned out by the federal government. Th erefore, government should remain focused and determined to implementing the road map. It should not allow any group of selfi sh and greedy individuals to divert its attention and slow its ongoing work in the region

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