No Restructuring, No Nigeria, Niger Delta Leaders Insist

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*Gives FG November 1 deadline to meet its 16-point demand 

The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) vowed on Monday that without restructuring of the country, there would be no Nigeria. The group also threatened to pull out of peace negotiations with the Federal Government if (latter) does not  address its 16-point.

It accused the government of not reciprocating the efforts of elders in the region  to stabilize oil production and help the country out of recession, insisting that government has not demonstrated enough faith in the peace process.

National Leader/Co-Convener of PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clark, made this declaration at a press conference in Abuja on Monday, giving  the Federal Government ultimatum of November 1, 2017 to meet their demands.

November 1, will make it exactly one year the group submitted  16-Point Agenda to President Muhammadu Buhari, led by Clark and King Alfred Diete Spiff, who co-chairs the group.

While acknowledging that  Acting President Yemi Osinbajo had given a firm commitment after his visit to the region, Clark regretted that the government has failed to take steps to implement what was agreed upon thereby putting Niger Delta leaders under pressure from their people.

He said: “I wish to urge the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, implement the pronouncements made by the Acting President, His Excellency, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON, 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 Demands on behalf of the people of the Niger Delta Region, by, or before, November 1, 2017 (one year anniversary of our meeting with His Excellency, 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 comprehensive 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.”

Clark while accusing government of not demonstrating enough faith in the peace process said,  “Unfortunately, however, it is a matter of regret to note that, the efforts of PANDEF to help Nigeria climb out of recession through a stable oil and gas production regime, have not been met with tangible reciprocal action by the Federal Government.

“Indeed, through PANDEF intervention, the people of the Niger Delta Region have demonstrated tremendous patriotism and goodwill towards the current Administration.

“This is in spite of our being placed at a disadvantaged and marginalized position, even on issues concerning the oil and gas industry.”

According to him, some of the vexed issues include 10 per cent for Host Community in the just passed Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) which he said must not be tampered with, alienation of the people of Niger Delta  from Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) appointments, relocation of oil companies’ headquarters to Niger Delta, etc.

Clark said PANDEF rejects the new board of the NNPC, appointment of Chief Executives of NNPC subsidiaries, selection of indigenous oil operators and marginal oil fields operators.

He said: “I have been beset with statistics on the level of marginalization against indigenes of Host Communities in the Niger Delta in the area of indigenous oil and gas Concessions and their Directors/Shareholders.

“I am shocked to discover that virtually all the oil blocks or marginal oil fields in the country are owned by Northerners, and their counterparts in other parts of Nigeria, who are mostly South-Westerners and South Easterners.

“I have a duty to draw the attention of the Federal Government to the marginalization and neglect of the Region.”

Listing all the affected NNPC board members, heads of its subsidiaries and oil block allocations, Clark further stated: “From the above records, it is shown clearly that the people of the Niger Delta, who produced the commodity unjustifiably, suffer degradation and the hazards, are not involved in the process.

“We advocate strongly that there must be a deliberate review to involve qualified indigenes of the Oil and Gas Host Communities in top and middle level positions as well as in the allocation of oil literate blocs/marginal fields in the Oil and Gas Industry.

“It is ridiculous that the people of oil producing communities in the Niger Delta are not millionaires, not to talk of billionaires, in the oil industry.

“Yet when oil was not discovered in the Niger Delta, we were wealthy fishermen, farmers, traders and timber merchants and so on.

“And when we now cry out, we are labeled as ‘troublemakers militants’, ‘terrorists.’ But now, it is people from faraway places, where oil and gas are not produced that are rich Nigerians. Why?”

The elder statesman condemned in strong terms the rejection of devolution of powers by the National Assembly in the ongoing Constitution amendment process, noting that particular sections of the country were antagonistic to the Niger Delta cause.

According to him, “Suddenly, the word ‘Restructuring’ has become a pain in the ears of a few champions of wicked hegemony.

“All we are saying is, let us go back to the negotiated 1960 Independence Constitution, on which the 1963 Republican Constitution was molded.

“If there be anything wrong with that Constitution, it can become an issue to ameliorate, by amicable negotiations and consensus.

“Anything else is most obnoxious, and totally unacceptable to the peoples of the entire Southern and Middle Belt areas of Nigeria, as well as the growing numbers of well-meaning Nigerians from the Northern parts of the Country.

“All we are saying is, ‘No Restructuring, no Nigeria.”

Clark, however,  stressed that the  people of the region believe in the corporate existence of Nigeria but regretted the antagonistic rhetorics from other parts of the country.

According to him, “You can therefore understand why some Northern elements are constantly opposed to any increase in the Derivation Formula of 13 per cent under Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) during the Political Reform Conference of 2005, and also the National Conference in 2014, where the Northern delegates vigorously opposed any increase in the derivation provision, and this was responsible for our staging a walk-out from the Conference.

“It is on record that, during the 2014 National Conference, prominent Northern Delegates, again, opposed the increase of Derivation Revenue from 13% to 25%, but the Conference eventually recommended 18% derivation revenue for oil producing States; and also recommended 5% for rebuilding the Northeast that has been devastated by the insurgent activities.

“Some Northern Delegates were opposed to it because Kano and Kaduna were not included.”

Among prominent members of PANDEF at the press briefing were Senator Stella Omu, Senator Henshaw, Kayode Ajulo, among others.

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