The fragile peace currently being enjoyed in the Niger Delta region may become jeopardised following fresh threats by the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) to pull out of negotiations with the Federal Government.
PANDEF said that no restructuring no Nigeria.
The group’s grievance stems from government’s alleged delay in implementing a 16-point recommendation outlined in a previous document earlier submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari before he took ill.
It told a news conference in Abuja that the Federal Government had failed to implement promises to drag the region out of poverty, a key demand by militants who had stopped attacks on oil pipelines to give peace talks a chance.
Chief Edwin Clark, National Leader/Convener of PANDEF, who spoke on behalf of the group on Monday, said government has until November 1, 2017 to meet those recommendations.
According to Clark, even though Acting President Yemi Osinbajo had shown some level of commitment by personally visiting states in the region, there seems to be no clear steps to implement the 16-point agenda, a development, he said, has put the Niger Delta leaders under pressure from their people.
“I wish to urge the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, implement the pronouncements made by the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, during his fact-finding visits to the Niger Delta region, and to set up, without delay, the Federal Government Dialogue Team to engage PANDEF, towards resolving the pending issues contained in the Forum’s 16-point demands on behalf of the people of the Niger Delta region, by, or before, November 1, 2017 (one year anniversary of our meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Human endurance has a limit beyond which one cannot predict what the outcome will be.
“We submitted a 16-point demand to Mr. President on November 1, 2016, and we had expected that by its next anniversary, the 16-point agenda would have been comprehensively sorted out.
“If, at the expiration of the November 1, 2017 ultimatum, the Federal Government fails and/or refuses to accede to these lawful and legitimate demands of the Niger Delta people, PANDEF may consider pulling out of the ongoing peace process in the Niger Delta.”
PANDEF regretted that government has not reciprocated its laudable gesture to stabilise oil production and help the country out of recession.
Clark stated, “Unfortunately, however, it is a matter of regret to note that, the efforts of PANDEF to help Nigeria climb out of recession through a stable oil and gas production regime have not been met with tangible reciprocal action by the Federal Government.
“Indeed, through PANDEF intervention, the people of the Niger Delta region have demonstrated tremendous patriotism and goodwill towards the current administration.
“This is in spite of our being placed at a disadvantaged and marginalised position, even on issues concerning the oil and gas industry.”
Chief among issues which may jeopardise peace in the region includes a 10% for host community in the just passed Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) which Clark said must not be tampered with.
Alienation of Niger Deltans from Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) appointments, relocation of oil companies’ headquarters to Niger Delta are also grievances troubling PANDEF.
The Niger Delta elders also rejected the new board of the NNPC, appointment of chief executives of NNPC subsidiaries, selection of indigenous oil operators and marginal oil fields operators.
He said, “I have been beset with statistics on the level of marginalisation against indigenes of host communities in the Niger Delta in the area of indigenous oil and gas concessions and their directors/shareholders.
“I am shocked to discover that virtually all the oil blocks or marginal oil fields in the country are owned by Northerners, and their counterparts in other parts of Nigeria, who are mostly South-Westerners and South Easterners.
“I have a duty to draw the attention of the Federal Government to the marginalisation and neglect of the region.”
Clark argued that for too long the people of the Niger Delta, who produce the bulk of the commodity unjustifiably, suffer degradation and the hazards.
“We advocate strongly that there must be a deliberate review to involve qualified indigenes of the oil and gas host communities in top and middle level positions as well as in the allocation of oil literate blocs/marginal fields in the oil and gas industry.”
PANDEF added: “It is ridiculous that the people of oil producing communities in the Niger Delta are not millionaires, not to talk of billionaires, in the oil industry.
“Yet when oil was not discovered in the Niger Delta, we were wealthy fishermen, farmers, traders and timber merchants and so on.
“And when we now cry out, we are labeled as ‘troublemakers, militants’ ‘terrorists.’ But now, it is people from faraway places, where oil and gas are not produced that are rich Nigerians. Why?”
Clark also took a swipe at the National Assembly for voting against devolution of powers in the ongoing constitution amendment process.
He noted that particular sections of the country were antagonistic to the Niger Delta cause.
“Suddenly, the word ‘restructuring’ has become a pain in the ears of a few champions of wicked hegemony.
“All we are saying is let us go back to the negotiated 1960 Independence Constitution on which the 1963 Republican Constitution was molded.
“If there be anything wrong with that constitution, it can become an issue to ameliorate, by amicable negotiations and consensus.
“Anything else is most obnoxious, and totally unacceptable to the peoples of the entire Southern and Middle Belt areas of Nigeria, as well as the growing numbers of well-meaning Nigerians from the Northern parts of the country.
“All we are saying is, ‘No Restructuring, no Nigeria.”
He noted that the people of Niger Delta believe in the corporate existence of Nigeria but regretted the antagonistic rhetorics from other parts of the country.
He added: “You can therefore understand why some Northern elements are constantly opposed to any increase in the derivation formula of 13% under section 162 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) during the Political Reform Conference of 2005, and also the National Conference in 2014, where the Northern delegates vigorously opposed any increase in the derivation provision, and this was responsible for our staging a walk-out from the conference.
“It is on record that during the 2014 National Conference, prominent Northern delegates, again, opposed the increase of derivation revenue from 13% to 25%, but the conference eventually recommended 18% derivation revenue for oil producing states; and also recommended 5% for rebuilding the North East that has been devastated by the insurgent activities.
“Some Northern delegates were opposed to it because Kano and Kaduna were not included.”
Top members of PANDEF at the press conference which held at Clark’s residence in Abuja were King Alfred Diete Spiff; Senator Stella Omu, Senator Henshaw, Kayode Ajulo, among others.