SOUTH – SOUTH – Niger Delta leaders, under the aegis of Pan-Niger Delta Forum, have appealed to the Federal Government to address their 16-point agenda without delay.
They said if the government failed to do this before November 1, 2017 they would withdraw from the peace negotiation the government was having on how to bring lasting peace to the oil-rich region.
The National Leader/Convener of PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clark, who addressed at a press conference in Abuja on Monday on behalf of the group, said even though acting President Yemi Osinbajo had given a commitment after his visit to the region, the government had failed to take steps towards the implementation of the region’s 16-point demand.
This, he said, had been putting the Niger Delta leaders under immense pressure from the people of the region.
Clark, who was a former federal commissioner for information, was accompanied during the briefing by political and traditional leaders from the area.
He said it would be wrong to tag the people of the region as troublemakers, adding that they were been pushed to the wall by government’s lack of commitment.
He said, “I wish to urge the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, implement the pronouncements made by the acting President, Prof. 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 demand 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.”
The former minister said despite efforts made by the leaders in the zone to stabilise oil production and help the country out of recession, government had not demonstrated enough faith in the peace process.
Reacting to the ultimatum, the Senior Special Assistant to the Acting President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, told one of our correspondents on Monday that the Muhammadu Buhari Presidency was actively pursuing a new Niger Delta vision.
Akande said a lot of steps had been taken by the government to meet the demands.
“We are committed to promoting partnership between the Federal, state and local governments as well as the private sector and the people of the region.
“We don’t want it to be seen as government versus them. We want them to see it as a partnership that must work,” Akande said.
The presidential aide said Osinbajo would be meeting with the forum’s members and other stakeholders this week to update them on the steps taken so far.
For instance, Akande said an inter-ministerial group consisting of all ministries and agencies that had to do with the Niger Delta had been put in place as parts of efforts to reposition the region.
He said the group that meets regularly to evaluate the progress being made on the 16-point agenda is headed by Osinbajo himself.
He said the Federal Government increased the Budget of the Amnesty Office for 2016 by N35bn to enable the office to meet its obligations such as the clearing of backlogs of allowances for militants.
On Ogoni clean Up, the presidential aide said the government had set up all structures that would lead to the success of the exercise.
He said, “We have set up structures for the Ogoni Clean Up: the governing board, board of trustees, the project office and the coordinator are in place.
“The coordinator has invited a number of remediation technology companies to come and test some of the equipment to start the clean up.
“The data office had hired I believe 15 environmental technical assistants who are from Ogoni and they will be part of the eventual clean up.”
Regarding the forum’s demand on maritime university, Akande said a presidential approval had been granted for the school to start academic work in October.