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Niger Delta, POLITICS

Doubts Over FG’s Dialogue With Niger Delta Stakeholders

Ikorodu Attacks
Posted: Sep 13, 2016 at 7:35 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Ejikeme Omenazu

Lagos – As a fall-out of its National Working Committee (NWC) meeting held in Akure, the Ondo State capital at the weekend, the United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy (UNDEDSS), a coalition of ethnic nationalities and civil society groups in the Niger Delta, decried what they termed President Muhammadu Buhari’s unwillingness for a peaceful resolution to the crisis rocking the Niger Delta region.

While accusing the Federal Government of insincerity, the coalition in a statement issued by Tony Ipriye Uranta, its Secretary-General, said despite the peace efforts and ceasefire reached by the Chief Edwin Clark-led group, the federal government, through the military, has continued to harass innocent citizens through ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’.

Government accused of neglecting proposal

UNDEDSS’s latest accusation came few weeks after it claimed that a proposal had been drawn up and placed before President Buhari on how best to resolve the Niger Delta crisis. The document, it maintained, captured the interests of all the parties involved in the agitation in the Niger Delta.
Uranta, the organisation’s scribe, had stressed that the position of UNDEDSS and other Niger Delta citizens, who had been interfacing with patriotic members of the president’s inner cabinet and intelligence chieftains, drew up the proposal, which he described as ‘win-win’ for all parties concerned.

He said: “This dynamically tweaked proposal is before Mr. President, the armed agitators in the creeks, the international community (including the UK & the USA) and other relevantly interested Nigerians like Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka.

“The proposal is hinged on four vital prerequisites, viz., the affirmation by Mr. President that there is no change in policy regarding the need to commence Matriculation of students this year in the National Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State; the rebirth of the Niger Delta Council (with its five relevant sub-committees!) of President Yar Adua’s 2009 template.

“And the guarantee of safe passage for delegates to any dialogue locations, after all armed parties publicly agree to a 60-days Armistice to be proposed by the FGN; and, the attendance of Foreign Observers (including Diplomats from the EU, UK & USA), to be invited by the FGN, to any such dialogue.

“This proposal has been presented to President Buhari over four weeks ago, after many meetings between the FGN (represented at different points by the chief of staff to Mr. President, the DG DSS, the EFCC chairman, the DG NIA, the minister of state for petroleum…etc.) on the one hand, and credible Niger Deltans (including past special advisers to Nigerian Presidents on the Niger Delta, UN consultants and former apex ‘Creeks Generals’ of the three zones of the Niger Delta) plus prominent members of the 2009 Aaron Team that negotiated with President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2009.

“Ultimately, UNDEDSS calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to exhibit the patriotic and objective decisiveness necessary to end the ongoing crisis in the Niger Delta, by announcing his adoption of the said proposal now.”

Buhari’s alleged disdain for peaceful resolution

In its outburst, UNDEDSS, “decried President Buhari’s seeming disdain for peaceful resolution of the Niger Delta crisis, and concluded that the Buhari led government is insincere in the quest to end the Niger Delta imbroglio peacefully and expeditiously.”

According to it, “The increasingly excessive and anti-people attempts by the Federal Government of Nigeria to seemingly intimidate and coerce the peoples of the Niger Delta, via military harassment, into submitting to what is perceived as an attempt to openly steal its resources and rights, worries all right-thinking people of the world; especially since all this is at a time that the Chief Edwin Clark-led Pan Niger Delta Group has succeeded in getting the armed agitators to cease fire unilaterally and express their collective readiness to embrace dialogue.”

UNDEDSS lamented that while the agitators had honoured the ceasefire agreement which resulted in non-bombing of oil installations, the federal government had reneged. He stressed: “The world should note that the armed agitators have kept faith with their ceasefire, and the creeks of the Niger Delta are relatively at peace, save for the Nigerian military ‘maneuverings.’

“We do not understand how any peace-intent government would waste weeks before accepting any olive branch that would help free all Nigerians from the present nationwide economic hardship being suffered, when we can trace dwindling government revenues, power instabilities and mass impoverishment directly to the ongoing imbroglio in our region.”

“Would we blame the men in the creeks if they lose confidence in the FGN’s sincerity? The delay in the FG responding to these positive peace moves from the region as a whole, is making many lose faith in the sincerity of this Administration to see Nigeria as its constituency; and has again resurrected the bogey of a virtual 97-5% dichotomy which Mr. President appears not to have progressively renewed his mind on.”

“Finally, whilst we want the world to know that there appears to be a myopic hawkish agenda at play within FG leadership circles, we unconditionally reiterate our 100 per cent confidence in the Chief Clark-led Pan Niger Delta Group; we strongly reiterate our position that only a sincere embracing of the 2009 Yar’Adua Niger Delta/National Peace Template can comprehensively and sustainably bring this impasse to an end, once and for all.

“We unequivocally condemn all continuing innocent harassment of innocent citizens and communities under the guise of a thinly-disguised military offensive, aka aptly as ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’.

“We urgently call on all international observers to keep keen watch on the FG and the Niger Delta; we advise Mr. President to show that he really is President of all Nigerians, and begin demonstrating true positive change that begins with him doing the right things at all times; and, we call on President Buhari to urgently issue a Presidential position embracing the peace overtures from the Niger Delta armed agitators, and summoning all to a negotiation table, so as to more help speedily ameliorate the hardship currently bedevilling most Nigerians nationwide.”

FG must show commitment for dialogue –  Niger Delta Rights activist

Alaowei Ebikonbowei Cleric, a Warri-based lawyer and activist, is the National President, Foundation for Human Rights and Anti-corruption Crusade (FHRACC), in his reaction to UNDEDSS’s allegation against the Federal Government, stated that he and his organisation had been advocating for dialogue, and as such could not be aloof to any genuine dialogue between the government and the Niger Delta stakeholders, including the militants.

He however maintained that the President Buhari administration must show confidence-building commitment to commence the process of dialogue. He however agreed with the UNDESS that the federal government had not shown that it was ready to explore peaceful means in resolving the crisis.

According to him, “President Muhammadu Buhari only learnt his ears to the yearnings of those Fifth Columnists around him who are averse to dialogue instead of the advice of majority of Nigerians who are calling for peaceful resolution.”

Although that most of the political leaders from the region had failed the people, Cleric also stressed that “the political leaders did not help matters with their lack of prudent management of public resources by the political office holders from the Niger Delta is the reason we are still where we are today. That is not to say Buhari has been exculpated.

“His anti-people policies towards the region are the causes of this present crisis. How can he justify the scrapping of the Maritime University at Okerenkoko? What the Buhari government is doing to the Niger Delta people is not different from the build-up of events that led to the bloody civil war. Not everybody is ready to suffer political attrition in the hands of President Buhari. Nigeria belongs to all of us and we all have equal right to the governance of the country.”

Cleric was sad over the military build-up in the Niger Delta, especially the failure of the government to keep to the ceasefire pact, stressing that “the military siege in the Gbaramatu Kingdom is unhealthy. “That is the resultant effect in the deployment of military to a place that rather needs government’s attention. The wonton destructions of property and the unlawful arrest of innocent civilians in Gbaramatu Kingdom by the military is the height of government’s insensitive to the plight of the people. Worst still is the arrest, harassment and intimidation of innocent civilians in the Kingdom by those war-hungry military men even when the government has declared ceasefire. I think this is the handiwork of those nay Sayers who are loath to the peaceful resolution of the faceoff.”

FG insincere, unpreparedness for dialogue -Adikwuru, PDP chieftain

Hon. Dennis Adikwuru, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain in Imo State, in his reaction to the UNDEDSS allegation against President Buhari, said he did not feel any different from Uranta and his group regarding the insincerity or unpreparedness of the federal government to bring a peaceful resolution of the Niger Delta crises. In the first instance, he faulted the sole reposition of the negotiation on Edwin Clark for what he termed “obvious reasons of his inconsistencies and his desperation for relevance.”

For this reason, Adikwuru maintained that he saw the government satisfying Clark’s personal interests ahead of the Niger Delta general interests. This is as he accused President Buhari of being more interested in discovering oil in the North, which he felt the president would see as the only viable option for his government to bring an end to the lingering Niger Delta insurgency.

Adikwuru added: “Unfortunately, oil is still far from being found in the North making it imperative to address the imposing crises. In the face of this, I think the government should either disband the negotiation team and embrace a more proactive and efficiency driven conflict resolution mechanism or confront the Niger Delta militants in a full blown warfare.

“I can bet you that the government is choosing the latter option because the movement of troops to the Niger Delta region is a combatant readiness for the government. I do not know how far it can go in resolving the inherent economic depletion this crisis has sunk the country.”

FG Should Meet Niger Delta Leaders For Dialogue – Anike, Political Activist
Hon. Charles Anike, National President of the Eastern Union (EU), a socio-political pressure group fighting for the interests of the people of Old Eastern Nigeria, maintained that dialogue, rather that military action, has always remained the sine qua non for the type of crisis in the Niger Delta.

According to him, “Military action will never be an option at anytime. The government needs to meet and dialogue with the leaders of the region and the leaders of various militant groups. Dialogue is just the only solution to the Niger Delta crisis, most especially when the militants are not faceless and are always ready for dialogue.”

As part of the issued to be raised during the proposed dialogue to assuage frayed nerves in the region, Aneke suggested that the amnesty programme of the former President Umaru Yar’Adua and ex-President Goodluck Jonathan should be revised, reviewed and restored, while the pipelines surveillance contracts also should be reviewed and restored.