The recent threat issued by some Niger Delta groups to resume hostilities in the littoral region if President Muhammadu Buhari does not meet the demand of its eminent leaders deserves urgent attention. Eminent socio-cultural leaders from southern and middle-belt Nigeria had sued President Buhari for N50 billion over marginalisation of the people of the region in the appointments to security, quasi-security agencies and “strategic agencies” of government.
The 16 plaintiffs filed the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/595/2020, at the Federal High Court in Abuja on June 8, 2020. Among the plaintiffs are an Ijaw leader, Chief E. K Clarke, the Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr John Nwodo, a leader of the Middle Belt people, Dr. Pogu Bitrus. Others Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Alaowei Bozimo, Mrs Sarah Doketri, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Air Commodore Idongsit Nkanga, a former Deputy Governor of Lagos state, Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Prof Julie Umukoro, and Elder Stephen Bangoji. The rest are Alhaji Tijani Babatunde, Mrs Rose Obuoforibo, Mr AdakoleIjogi, and Dr. Charles Nwakeaku.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria, Buhari, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, and the Federal Character Commission are the defendants sued in the suit. PANDEF, the apex socio-cultural body of the Niger Delta people, had lamented that President Buhari has not only forsaken, but continued to exhibit bias against the region in the last five years. National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Hon Ken Robinson, in a press statement, reacting to Buhari’s Democracy Day broadcast, said his administration has also abandoned the strategic East-West Road that traverses six states, turning it to a sanctuary for criminals.”
Consequently, former creek warlords have called on President Buhari to urgently look into the 16-point demand presented to him since November 2016 by PANDEF. They, however, commended Buhari for directing a forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), but said that the peace in the Niger Delta remained fragile until the demands were met. The ex-militants, under the auspices of the 21st Century Youths of Niger Delta and Agitators with Conscience (21st CYNDAC), also decried the continued vilification of Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo), saying it was creating tension in the oil-rich region.
The PANDEF leaders, including a former Federal Information Commissioner, Edwin Clark, and a former Akwa Ibom state Governor, Victor Attah, had while presenting the proposals to the president argued that they would help restore peace to and spur development of the oil-rich region. The leader of the ex-militants, Izon Ebi, in a statement titled, “without justice, there will be no peace”, said the Democracy Day speech of the president reassured the region that despite the ongoing shenanigans, the ongoing forensic audit of NDDC would be concluded by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the commission’s Interim Management Committee (IMC).
Ebi said the speech further confirmed that the synergy between the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and the IMC was paying off and called on them to continue to act as bulwarks against economic vampires ravaging the NDDC. He said the region was particularly impressed by Buhari’s assertions that the East-West road and the permanent headquarters of NDDC would soon be completed.
“In as much as we commend Mr. President for his positive response of the wanton looting in the NDDC, we also implore him to look at the 16-point demand of the Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF). These demands are intrinsic to the sustainable peace in the Niger Delta which is the cash cow of the nation. The present peace obtained in the region is peace of the graveyard and it is not sustainable.
“The continued vilification of Tompolo does not resonate positively in the majority of the Niger Delta people as most people see it more as political victimization despite his numerous contributions to the peace and development of the Niger Delta, for example the maritime university Akerenkoko, and numerous philanthropic gestures, most especially during this Covid-19 period. We urge Mr President to take a more holistic look at these issues and bring sustainable solutions to them”.
Ebi added: “We implore the minister of Niger Delta affairs Senator Godswill Akpabio to continue his role as a bulwark against the onslaught of those economic vampires in the commission. Also, we want the minister to know that his antecedent as an uncommon performer preludes his appointment into the ministry. Such uncommon performance and nothing less is expected of him in his new endeavour. We assure Mr President and the nation of our unalloyed support in the quest to move our region to a more equitable destination”.
It is pertinent to draw the attention of President Buhari to the fragile peace in the Niger Delta as exemplified by the legal action of its eminent leaders. It is, therefore, incumbent on Mr President to act swiftly to avert a renewed attack on the nation’s oil installations which will compound the nation’s already comatose economy amidst the looming “severe” recession.