Niger Delta leaders have requested the Federal Government to withdraw troops from the creeks as part of a 16-point demand. They told President Muhammadu Buhari their position at an exploratory meeting of political, business and traditional rulers of the restive region with the Federal Government at the Aso Villa in Abuja. ”We presented a 16-point request to the President, which includes the withdrawal of the military in oil producing communities in the region,” the Amanyanabo of Twon Brass, Bayelsa State, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, said after meeting. “We don’t want the communities militarised,” he added.
The stakeholders met with the government under the aegis of Pan Niger Delta Forum.
The demands include:
“.The presidential amnesty Programme: they decry that out of the five components of the disarmament and retrieval of weapons from the ex-militants, only the disarmament and demobilisation component is being implemented.
.Tensions over the fate of the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme is as a result of lack of genuine exit strategy. They want the programme reviewed to reappraise its core mandate to provide a robust exit strategy, in order to transit recipients into jobs, effectively integrate them and free them of dependency on stipends, so that their new-found skills would be of benefit to themselves and larger community.
“. Law and Justice issues: in view of the insecurity situation in the Niger Delta, a number of pending law and justice issues regarding some aggrieved groups and individuals are yet to be resolved. It is important to address these issues urgently as a step towards lasting peace.
“.The effect of increased military presence in the Niger Delta: the increase in military presence has resulted in invasion of communities, displacement of persons, harassment and other forms of human rights abuse. They want government to halt the escalation of tension in the region.
“.Plight of internally displaced persons: they want government agencies to meet the immediate needs of those displaced by upsurge of insecurity in the region.
“.The Ogoni clean-up and environmental remediation: they want government to speed up the exercise. They want the government to enforce zero gas flare deadline. They want the devastating effects of coastal erosion and lack of an effective shoreline protection for the coastal communities tackled urgently. They ask federal government to commission a region-wide credible assessment of the impacts of crude oil pollution of the environment in the region and undertake to enforce environmental laws.
“.The Maritime University Issue: want prompt take-off of the Niger Delta university
“.Key regional critical infrastructure: they want completion of of East-West road, full implementation of the rail project that is designated to run through the Niger Delta region to Lagos.
“.Security surveillance and protection of oil and gas infrastructure. They want pipeline surveillance contracts given to the communities rather than individuals some benefits to their responsibility. Communities would the see their responsibility over the pipelines as protection of what belongs to them.
“.Relocation of Administrative and Operational headquarters of IOCs: the headquarters of most oil companies are not located in the Niger Delta Region. As a result the region is denies all the developmental and associated benefits that would have accrued to the region from their presence. It has therefore become imperative for the IOCs to relocate to their areas of operation.
“.Power supply: they advocate a power plan that strongly ties power supply in the region to gas supplies, thereby giving all sides a stake in proved stability.
“.Economic development and empowerment: they want Brass LNG and fertiliser plant project, including the Train 7, implemented, reviewing and updating the national gas master plan to integrate the economic interests and industrialization of the region, creating a Niger Dekta industrial corridor that would process some portions of the bat hydrocarbon natural resources, expediting work on the export processing zones, harnessing the huge rain-fed agricultural potentials of the area through the development of farms estates, fishery development projects and Agro-Allied industrial clusters etc.
“.Inclusive participation in oil industry and ownership of oil blocs. They want the federal government to enunciate policies and actions that will address the lack of participation as well as imbalance in the ownership of oil and gas assets.
“.Restructuring and funding of the NDDC: The restructuring will ensure it refocuses as a true interventionist agency to respond swiftly to the yearnings of the grassroots of the Niger Delta. Communities must be able to have a say in what projects come to them and also want full implementation of the funding provisions of the NDDC Act.
“.Strengthening the Niger Delta Ministry: they say the era of abysmal funding should end.
“.The Bakassi Question. A comprehensive resettlement plan, including development for the host communities and displaced population to reduce the risk of making them into a stateless people.
“.Fiscal federalism. The region supports the call for true federalism and urges that the Federal Government should treat the matter expeditiously.”
The Niger Delta leaders and others at the meeting are Governors Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), traditional rulers and ministers from the Niger Delta, among others.
Also present were some former governors including Obong Victor Attah, civil rights activists; Service Chiefs and Inspector-General of Police; National Security Adviser and Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Minister of State (Petroleum Resources) Ibe Kachikwu told reporters after the meeting that it was largely a courtesy call to bring to the front burner the issues of the Niger Delta and the concerns from the leaders and what they believed the federal government should do to bring down pressure, stress and militancy to the barest minimum, if not eliminated.
According to him, it was the beginning of a process.
He said: “We had over a hundred representatives. So, it was a very well- attended function. Opinions given were very honest, very frank to the point. But I think at the end of the day, we exchanged enough thought processes to go back to the drawing board to begin a process of work.
The minister said that a lot of behind-the-scene talks had been going on, which had boosted oil production to 2.1 million barrels.
“The reality is that as of today and this morning, we are at 2.1 million barrels production. That’s substantial. That would not have happened without efforts that went behind through the royal fathers and leaders, through the militant leaders. A lot of behind-the-scene engagements had taken place and will continue to take place.
“If you look at 7 Big Wins that we set up last week, part of the expectations by 2017 is to target a zero shut as a result of militancy. What that means is that it is going to be an ongoing engagement. It will never finish. Different from what teams were setting up to do negotiations after the President had looked at this and given a strata, will also be the fact that on a roll on basis, the Ministry of Petroleum is continuing a quarterly meeting involving the oil companies who fairly beaten up a little bit today amd the governors and the stakeholders which will happen once every three months.
“The first one is going to happen in Uyo in December and we are going to rotate that between the states so that we will have a platform, irrespective of the negotiation that’s going on to deal with the issues and continue.”
Chief Edwin Clark said the meeting was arranged by Kachikwu and all interest groups were represented.
He said: “We also accepted and agreed that we should meet. There were many factions. Some had their own built-up base, hotels and so on. But it was agreed that we should meet to galvanize, collapse all the agitations, all the interest groups into one and this is what we did. So, we formed a central body known as Pan Niger Delta Forum with me as the leader and HRM Diette Spiff, and former Governor of Akwa Ibom, Obong Victor Attah as some chairmen of the Central Working Committee.
“Mr. President received us very well. Today is November 1. A remarkable day.
“We have 16 points. We mentioned them in our address. Then we will appoint a very capable team of experts to negotiate on our behalf.
“But let me say this. You mention about the Niger Delta Avengers. They were not supposed to be here. They gave us authority as their fathers to negotiate on their behalf on the 19th of August when we met at the PTI, Warri. There is no doubt many groups will spring up.
“We cannot continue to destroy the assets of this country and at the same time destroying the ecosystem of our own region. So, we are appealing to the youth and they are listening.
“One thing that gladdens our minds today when the minister was addressing the audience, he mentioned that the issue of maritime university has been settled. We now have it, first goodwill from the government and we have a duty to react.”
Okowa said there was no issue with the Niger Delta Avengers in the past two and half months.
“I know that after the meeting in August, that was a stakeholders meeting led by E.K. Clark and since then The Nation