By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
THE Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, yesterday, criticised the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, Mallam Garba Shehu, over his alleged claim that the people of the Niger Delta were not ready for dialogue.
PANDEF, led by a former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, in a statement by a member of the Central Working Committee, Dr. Alfred Mulade, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call him to order.
Speaking in Kano, last Wednesday, in an interview on Express Radio, the presidential aide had allegedly claimed that militants in the oil-rich region were not ready for talks.
He was quoted as saying militant groups in the Niger Delta had continued to blow up crude oil facilities despite the Federal Government’s effort to engage the stakeholders.
Shehu’s words: “Despite the government’s demonstration of goodwill by bringing stakeholders to the roundtable, militant groups have continued to blow up national economic assets.”
He also called on elders in the Niger Delta to help put a stop to the violence and destruction in the region, adding: “We must keep national interest above all else and give priority to eschewing violence and destruction.”
PANDEF statement, responding to the claim of the presidential spokesman, read, in part, “The Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, notes with concern, the reported statements attributed to Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President On Media and Publicity, regarding recent bombings in the Niger Delta”.
“As patriotic Nigerians, PANDEF dissociates itself from any act of destruction of oil and gas facilities in the region.
“PANDEF, once more, calls on the perpetrators of these acts to desist forthwith, and join the current effort of dialogue with the Federal Government.
“PANDEF, however, expresses surprise at the resort by Garba Shehu to cheap blackmail of the people of the Niger Delta region by giving the impression of a lack of sincerity in engaging in dialogue.
“The fact that some elements carry out these unacceptable acts does not in any way call to question the unwavering commitment and sincerity of the people of the Niger Delta, to peace and dialogue.
“We note specifically that it was the effort of the elders and leaders of the region, working together with critical stakeholders that brought about the general ceasefire, which has led to crude oil production increase from about 900,000 bpd, to 2.2 million bpd in the past two months”.
“The PANDEF particularly appeals to Mr. President to call Mr. Garba Shehu to order, and direct him to show respect to the elders and leaders, who are trying to bring peace to the region. Perhaps, it would be useful for Mallam Garba Shehu if he must, to make a similar call to the elders and leaders from the Northern parts of this country to stop the renewed attacks on our soldiers by the Boko Haram insurgents, which continue to bring tragedy and pains to us all.