•It’s devolution of powers or N’Delta Republic –ex-militants insist •Disown Clark, Diete-Spiff, others
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Fred Itua, Abuja
STAKEHOLDERS from the Niger Delta, under the aegis of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), after the meeting with Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, last night withdrew their November 1 ultimatum in which they urged the Federal Government to meet their 16-point agenda or they withdraw from the peace talk.
Speaking to State House Correspondents at the end of the close to five hours meeting, the leader of the group, Edwin Clark, described discussion as “honest, truthful and forthright,” adding that they were “very very satisfied.”
He said: “No more ultimatum. 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. 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.
“The message we are sending back home is that we had the opportunity to meet with Mr Acting President and we discussed our 16-point agenda and government’s 20-point agenda, and we are all satisfied. We all agreed that everyone should maintain peace.”
He denied that the people of Niger Delta were not speaking with one voice, insisting: “We are speaking with one voice.”
On MEND disassociating itself from PANDEF, Clark replied: “MEND was in the meeting. Jomo Gbomo does not exist as a human being, that is a ghost name, fake name. Other organisations 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.”
Minister of Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, who also addressed newsmen, said the environment of the meeting was not that of ultimatum, and that the group had pledged its loyalty to the government.
He said: “We discussed how far we have gone with the implementation of the 16-point agenda. Several issues relating to the university, the development of the region, amnesty programme, NDDC operations in the Niger Delta. It was very exhaustive.
“Today’s was environment of peace, calm, friendliness and mutual dialoguing of issues, where we are coming from and most pressing issues that they have.
“There is more consensus; it is not an alarm meeting that we are going to pullout of the negotiations. They did, in fact, pledge their loyalty and their willingness to continue to work with us.
“I didn’t see an environment of ultimatum here.”
Those at the meeting include: Amayanabo of Brass, Alfred Diete-Spiff, Victor Attah, Senator Ndoma Egba, Don Etiebet, Timi Alaibe, Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw, Tony Uranta, Hosa Ogunbor, Stella Omu, Godknows Igali, Graham Douglas, ministers of Petroleum, Kachikwu, Niger Delta, Usani Usani and Coordinator of Amnesty Office, among others.
The FG/PANDEF meeting nothwithstanding, a new group, the Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators (CNDA), has issued a fresh set of demands to the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government, warning that failure to adopt full devolution of power and fiscal federalism, they would declare Niger Delta Republic.
The agitators also disowned the PANDEF led by Chief Edwin Clarke.
In a statement signed by their different heads, the agitators said they would work with similar groups in the South-East and South-South to ensure that their objective to actualise the Niger Delta Republic.
Those who signed the statement included General John Duku of the Niger Delta Watchdogs and convener, Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators; General Ekpo Ekpo of Niger Delta Volunteers; General Osarolor Nedam of Niger Delta Warriors and Major-Gen. Henry Okon Etete of Niger Delta Peoples Fighters.
Others were Major-Gen. Asukwo Henshaw of the Bakassi Freedom Fighters; Major-Gen. Ibinabo Horsfall of the Niger Delta Movement for Justice; Major-Gen. Duke Emmanson of Niger Delta Fighters Network; Major-Gen.
Inibeghe Adams for Niger Delta Freedom Mandate and Major-Gen. Abiye Tariah of Niger Delta Development Network.
The statement read: “We have fully resolved to re-echo the following for the umpteenth time:
“That the authority to represent the Niger Delta ethnic nationalities no longer rests on the current leadership of PANDEF. The Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators (CNDA) has since withdrawn its support and reliance on the current leadership of PANDEF, as the mouthpiece of the peoples of the Niger Delta;
“The Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators will rally round all other agitating groups in the Niger Delta for the actualisation of the Niger Delta Republic. This will give us the freedom to develop ourselves and at our own pace;
“That the least considerable action on the part of the Federal Government is the total devolution of power and fiscal federalism. Anything short of that, the people of the Niger Delta will go their separate way;
“That the Coalition will work to convince other agitators in the Niger Delta for a collaborative action to ensure the least acceptable demand which is total devolution of power and fiscal federalism;
“That the people of the Niger Delta will fully support the call for a referendum by other agitators in the country;
“The Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators firmly resolves to pursue its decision and actualise them by any means necessary.”
On the reasons for pulling out of PANDEF, the coalition said: “PANDEF was formally put together in the month of August-October 2016 with 18-member steering committee called the Central Working Committee co-chaired by King Diete-Spiff and Obong Victor Attah. Apart from showing itself and driving the body in two meetings, the Central Working Committee has become docile and extinct.
“After the visit of the body to Mr. President in November 2016, and the subsequent presentation of the 16-point agenda, every meeting held under the leadership has toed one monotonous pattern without any new ideas and spirit for liberation of the people of the Niger Delta.
“The last meeting in Bayelsa was dismal as serious issues were neither presented for deliberation nor a slot given for serious issues to be discussed in the meeting. The meeting ended abruptly without concrete decisions, and hence shows that the leadership has become clueless.
“The leadership itself does not appear to be cohesive and united in thoughts and actions because, while a congress meeting is being called by Pa E. K. Clark in Bayelsa, the Secretary of the Central Working Committee was calling for a Constitution review meeting in Abuja the following day. We have no doubt in our mind that there are contending interests and positions that have become overriding in the leadership of PANDEF, and we can no longer sit by and allow it to fester further.