A former Federal Commissioner of Information and leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clark has warned that militant groups in the Niger Delta might return to the creeks and resume hostilities if the federal government continues dragging its feet on the issue of dialogue with the agitators, calls for caution.
He stated this in his country home, Kiagbodo in Delta State while receiving the newly sworn-in executives of Izon-Ebe Oil and Gas Producing Communities Association, IOGPCA. The association of oil and gas contractors of Ijaw extraction cuts across the entire oil-rich region.
“It is getting late for President Muhammadu Buhari and the federal government on the issue of dialogue with the aggrieved Niger Delta agitators who have stopped the bombing of pipelines and other oil facilities.
“If the dialogue fails to commence as soon as possible, the boys may feel betrayed and go back to the creeks and resume hostilities,” Clark said.
He further averred that it was great insult for the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, to state that groups in the region were not united and that the federal government was still in search for those to negotiate with on behalf of the agitators.
The presidential spokesman had disclosed in a television interview that, “The President told the Niger Delta elders that visited him that it was important we get these militants under one umbrella because after you might have talked to this group, another group will come up. With this kind of arrangement, you won’t get to know the real people.
“This is why the President has given an assignment to certain people to determine how many these groups exist. They should speak with the leadership and ascertain what they want and how government can meet with them.”
Reacting to this, the Ijaw leader said, “I saw the president’s media man claiming that we are not one and not united, and that the federal government was still looking for people to negotiate with.
“That was a great insult to us. I was in government before he was born. On July 30, 2016, I summoned a meeting of all Ijaw leaders and traditional rulers to my house in Warri and the Deputy Governor of Delta State was in attendance.
“After that first meeting, I decided to call for another one with paid adverts in national dailies, since it was not only the Ijaws that have oil and gas.”
Clark added that at that meeting, which was held at the Petroleum Training Institute, PTI, Effurun, with over 500 delegates in attendance, the Ijaw leaders advised the agitators to lay down their arms and stop the destruction and vandalism of oil and gas facilities.
He disclosed that after the meeting, the “boys in the creeks” quickly responded and mandated him to negotiate on their behalf, stating that on November 1, 2016, he led a delegation comprising traditional rulers, leaders, women and youth leaders from the Niger Delta to the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where they presented to the federal government a 16-point demand for dialogue and negotiations.
“Yet, this government is saying that it does not know whom to negotiate with. We are ready to negotiate, the earlier the better. Therefore we are using this opportunity of you coming to see me, to tell the federal government that it’s getting too late. We are Nigerians and we are nationalists,” the Ijaw leader warned.
While advising the association to maintain peace in expressing their grievances and not let their enemies to divide them, the elder statesman said, “Let us come together and fight our cause as one. I am happy that you realised that for us to achieve our aim we must come together and fight our common enemy”.
He warned against the scrapping of the Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta State, stressing that, “I do not see any reason why people are opposed to the Maritime University in Okerenkoko as this was something that was recommended as far back as 1998.”