Unity of purpose continues to be illusive among leaders of Niger Delta region as the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought (ILoT) has punctured the position of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) that President Muhammadu Buhari has a hidden agenda for the region.
Both Chief Edwin Clark-led PANDEF and Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) had in separate statement queried alleged surreptitious moves by President Buhari’s administration to frustrate dialogue as a means of resolving the decaying conflict in the oil region.
MEND had vowed not to have any dealings with Buhari’s administration any longer, demanding that the President stop his “cunning, crafty and unstatesman rhetoric about the Niger Delta region”.
According to the group, Buhari’s utterances are jeopardising the fragile peace in the region.
PANDEF on its part, queried government’s real agenda in allocating a whopping N29 billion in the 2017 budget to fight militancy in the Niger Delta when the causative factors, it sufficiently articulated and presented to Mr. President remained ignored.
However ILoT, in a statement by its Secretary, Chief Edward Ekpoko, said PANDEF do not have the mandate of Niger Delta leaders to dialogue with the Federal Government.
The statement by ILoT read in part, “The Itsekiri Leaders of Thought (ILoT) has read the press statement credited to the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, in one of the national dailies of January 1, 2017, wherein it falsely claimed that it has the mandate of Niger Delta leaders and stakeholders to dialogue on their behalf. This is false.
“The statement, which was released by a member of the Central Working Committee of PANDEF, Dr. Alfred Mulade, stated among others, that the intervention of PANDEF ‘has positively led to the cessation of hostilities by the armed agitators in deference to the appeal by the leaders, have actually led to the improvement in oil production…’ as the reason for the call for the dialogue between the Federal Government and PANDEF.
“Again, the issue of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenghigho (Okerenkoko), Delta State, which was one of the so-called 16-point demand presented to Mr. President was raised. The statement expressed PANDEF’s disappointment that the university has not taken off.
“ILoT and other major stakeholders in the Niger Delta have repeatedly called on President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigerians to be wary of PANDEF as many of its leaders are not to be trusted and are hands-in-glove with the militants. They simply want to eat their cake and still have it.
“A body that will also demand for the re-opening of a Maritime University that was never in existence in the face of the law cannot be taken seriously. The Bill to establish the university has just passed second reading in the Senate. No reasonable government will cave in to any demand for the withdrawal of the military/security personnel from communities that are prone to destruction of oil and gas facilities as the only panacea for peace as it is the case with PANDEF.
“The relative peace in the Niger Delta is as a result of the presence and activities of the security forces and the plea by some well-meaning traditional rulers and community leaders in the Niger Delta and certainly not PANDEF.”
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