Saturday, 5 August 2017

Leaders of Niger Delta back down on ultimatum to FG

The Edwin Clark-led Pan Niger Delta Front  (PADEF) has agreed to resume its collaboration with the federal government to develop the oil producing region.

The group will, consequently, have a representative in government’s Inter-Ministerial Group tasked with the implementation of the Niger Delta vision which Acting President Yemi Osinbajo vowed government  will spare no effort to see through.

These are some of the highlights of the peace meeting  between Oshinbajo and PADEF  held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Thursday night.

The Niger Delta elders  had given the federal government up to November 1, 2017 to meet the 16-point demand made by PANDEF last November.

A militant group,Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, had even threatened to resume hostilities by September 31 should the federal government continue to drag its feet in addressing the demands of the people.

However, Chief Clark emerging from the  Thursday night meeting told reporters that his delegation was “very, very satisfied” at the outcome of the parley with the acting president.

“We agreed on many things. They came with their own address, the ministers all spoke, presented their cases and at the end, the Acting President rounded it up,” he said.

“We saw his genuineness and forthrightness; he is a gentleman. We are satisfied. We have agreed to work together and the issue of dialogue must take place.”

He asked  Niger Deltans  to keep the peace as  the delegation was  able to discuss the regions’ 16-point agenda as well as government’s 20-point agenda, “and we are all satisfied.”

He confirmed that the meeting was well attended by respected  leaders from the region including representatives of the militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) which had distanced itself from PANDEF  ahead of the parley.

MEND had said Chief Clark and King Alfred Diette -Spiff, “lack the moral justification in giving an ultimatum to the federal government and making demands they never made from Goodluck Jonathan when he was at the helm for six wasted years.”

Clark said: “MEND was in the meeting. Jomo Gbomo does not exist as a human being, he uses a ghost Name, a fake name. Other organizations were here. I am the leader of the Niger Delta and every leader you can think of from Cross River to Ondo State were all here today (Thursday).”

He denied that PADEF issued an ultimatum to government.

He said it only threatened to ‘withdraw’ from further talks with government.

Oshinbajo, speaking at the meeting, declared that no effort would  be spared to implement the new vision for the Niger Delta, adding that government would  be fair to all parties in implementing the vision.

His Senior Special Assistant on media and publicity, Laolu Akande, quoted him as saying that the Federal Government is fully committed to the realization of  a new and prosperous Niger Delta developed through forthright partnerships between Federal Government, State Governments, private sector and local communities.

His words: “We are fully committed and thankful for your contributions and feedback. We are working on this day by day. From the beginning, we took the 16-point demand very seriously and we also developed our own plan mostly based on those demands.

“Personally, I believe the issues of the Niger Delta must be addressed. When I undertook the visit to the Niger Delta region, my sole intention for participating in this process is that we need forthrightness and a hands-on approach.

“There is no week that has passed that I‘ve not held one meeting or the other on the Niger Delta issue. I’ve spent quality time looking at how we can implement this (new vision).

“It can’t be done overnight. We are also looking at the integrity of the process so we can meet our targets. We are not out of line. Everything is on course the way we set it out. We have got to do it right.”

The acting president said  Federal Government remains committed to the Amnesty Programme, the establishment of the Maritime University, the clean-up of Ogoni and the general development of the Niger Delta region.

Minister of State for Petroleum,Dr. Ibe Kachikwu who also spoke to reporters at the end of the meeting said they reviewed  how far the government had gone in implementing the 16-point agenda of PANDEF.

He described the deliberation as very exhaustive.

 ”They did in fact pledge their loyalty and their willingness to continue to work with us,” he said.
The inter-ministerial group which is made up of representatives of all  relevant ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs of the FG and  relevant State governments is headed by Osinbajo.

It meets on a regular basis  to drive the different initiatives and ensure effective and ongoing implementation of the Niger Delta new vision.

The media office of the Acting President in a summary of government’s efforts in the Niger Delta said it has  ” started the process of replacing illegal refineries in the region with modular ones, including options on how to involve the communities as shareholders in the proposed Modular Refineries. Ground-breaking of the first set of such refineries are expected in the 4th quarter of the year.

“In its operations, FG will supply crude to the local refineries at reasonably considered price, as an incentive to stop the current practice whereby illegal refiners vandalise and steal the crude. Each Niger Delta is expected to host 2 modular refineries each.

“Similarly, FG has commenced the process for the opening of the Maritime University at Okerenkoko in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Delta state. Already, a 5-man inter-agency committee headed by the Minister of Education is in the final stages for the official opening of the university in the 2017/2018 academic session.

“FG has released additional N35 billion to step up the Amnesty Programme in the Delta region, which is a specific and significant raise to the 2016 Budgetary allocation to the office. This significant increase is already reflected in the 2017 budget with N70billion allocation.

“The Amnesty Office has since paid up all ex-militants backlog of their stipends up to April 2017. School fees for ex-militants studying abroad have been paid up to 80% this July. School fees in Nigeria paid up to 90% this July.”

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