The impression one gets from their visit is that of a serious crack within them. But they said that was not the case. They had, in large numbers, met with President Muhammadu Buhari on November 1, 2016 at the Presidential Villa, Abuja under the platform, Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, where they pressed a 16-point demand, which included the ownership of oil blocs, the taking-off of maritime university in the Niger Delta, the relocation of oil companies headquarters to operation sites and the withdrawal of troops from the oil rich region..
Those were the conditions they gave to the government for lasting peace to reign in the Niger Delta which had witnessed renewed bombings and destruction of oil assets.
The meeting paraded the crème de la crème from the region consisting of nine states namely, Ondo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Edo, Cross Rivers, Imo, Akwa Ibom and Abia. Governors of Bayelsa, Delta, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Edo and Cross River States were in attendance.
Also in the delegation were Chief Edwin Clark; King Diete Spiff; a former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke; a former governor of Akwa Ibom, Obong Victor Attah; Ankio Briggs; Alabo Graham Douglas; Timi Alaibe; Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, among others.
15 days after, another group, numbering 38 and parading over 90 percent of PANDEF membership, visited the Presidential Villa, this time, meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Led by King Spiff, a former Governor of old Rivers State and the Amayanabo Towun Brass, the group, known as Niger Delta People’s Congress, NDPC, on Tuesday, November 15, forwarded another list of demands to the government.
A copy of the presentation made at the meeting, signed by the Congress Secretary, Professor Benjamin Okaba, and sighted by Sunday Vanguard correspondent, gave the highlights of the demands as follows:
“This delegation is not only to re-affirm the plausible submissions made earlier but to also prioritize these concerns and place them in clearer perspectives. This is premised on our objective assessment of the anxieties, sentiments and myriads of reactions from the key drivers and players in the crises across and outside the region that immediately trailed the meetings.
“We are very confident that our modest contributions as articulated below would constitute the panacea to the age long crises in the Niger Delta Region.
“The fundamental concern is political reconstruction and fiscal federalism. We are persuaded to uphold that the nation practices true federalism with legitimate and acceptable division of power among the constituents (the center and regions) and the principle and practice of ownership and management of resources by the constituents. The derivation principal should allow the different unit annex and control its resources and pay appropriate and agreed tax to the centre.
“Demilitarization and peace/confidence building: we are persuaded to request the federal government to stop further invasion of the region under any guise; release unconditionally all freedom fighters from detention and deploy political solution to the issues surrounding the leadership of the agitators/freedom fighters; cause multinational co-operations not only to relocate their operational bases to the region but more significantly create a minimum of 6,000 jobs for the teeming population of unemployed and restive youths of the region; cause the resumption of academic activities at the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State and establish similar institutions in other parts of the region
“Funding Interventionist agencies: Cause the release of over 800 billion Naira outstanding allocations yet to be paid to the NDDC; we request the building of more refineries (modular type), petrochemicals and other petroleum related industries to add value to the crude oil and gas produced from the region.
“Environmental and Human Right Protection: To drastically reduce thze current state of environmental degradation and threat to life occasioned by the activities of the mult-national cooperation in the region, we recommend that the federal government should: urgently cause the appropriate agencies and co-operations to begin the comprehensive remediation (clean up etc) of the Niger Delta environment affected by oil spill; provide medical facilities and attention to people suffering from ailments associated with oil and gas activities; prompt the legislative process for the review of the nation’s laws on Environmental impact and give stiffer penalties to defaulters; cause the immediate implementation of all laws stopping Gas flaring in the region; cause the establishment of Internally Displaced Persons camps for the re-settlement of displaced persons at Bakassi, Gbaramatu, etc”
We represent the aggrieved people; we are not political Speaking to Sunday Vanguard at the end of the meeting, the Coordinator of the group, High Chief Mike Eyakama Loyibo, said NDPC represented the aggrieved boys in the creeks. -High Chief Mike Eyakama Loyibo
He said that the recommendations made by the group if implemented would bring about lasting peace in the Niger Delta region. He however stated that their mission to the villa was similar to the mission of PANDEF.
He said: “This is Niger Delta peoples Congress. King Afred Diete Spiff and other leaders; about 38 member delegation came again to represent the aggrieved people because you can’t be finding peace without taking into consideration of the problem of the boys in the creeks.
“That is what we have come to inform the presidency and I am very sure the aggrieved people were represented in this meeting and we don’t have any political affiliation to any other group. We have come genuinely to solve this problem once and for all.
“After the first meeting, there were a lot of distractions and other issues. We were misrepresented. The people said we came to ask for oil bloc for ourselves and they came with specific demands and we have come to inform the presidency this is the demand of the aggrieved people.
“The mission is the same. We are trying to find peace whether we are talking about differences or not. We are all one people.”
Loyibo said that the group was well received by the Vice President, hoping that there would be more consultations from now.
He also revealed that a summit of the Niger Delta group would be convened next month where all the issues would be articulated just as he stated that there were asked to stop the bombing first before coming to the negotiation table.
Stop the bombing/vandalism first-FG
Lending his voice, the Head, Media and publicity unit of the group, Hendricks Opukeme said that certain important issues were left out in the first meeting between PANDEF and the federal government hence the second meeting.
Meanwhile, painstaking efforts made by Sunday Vanguard to ascertain the position of government on the group’s demands revealed that the Vice President told the delegation to first prevail on the militants to stop bombing and vandalization of oil and gas installations in the region first before any meaning discussion could hold.
While noting that the it was the independent producers who are Nigerians that always suffered from vandalism more than the International Oil Companies, IOCs, a dependable source quoted Osinbajo as saying that the problems of Niger Delta and indeed, every social problem could be solved if the elites in the regions across the country unite and speak with one voice against the problems.