A16-point demand has been presented to President Muhammadu Buhari, Tuesday, which the Niger Delta elders felt if jealously implemented will ease tension in the region.
At a meeting between the leaders and the President, which included Governors and Ministers and over 100 representatives from the region, including Edwin Clark and former Akwa Ibom Governor, Victor Attah, the proposal was tabled before the President.
But in a swift reaction, militants in the region described the stakeholders meeting as an exercise in futility that will not end attacks on oil facilities.
The agitators stated that none of the stakeholders chosen to be part of the meeting with the Federal Government was aware of the plight of the Niger Delta people.
Speaking through separate statements, the Niger Delta Peoples Democratic Front and the Concerned Militant Leaders, expressed dissatisfaction that former militant leaders werenot among those chosen to be part of representatives of the region in the meeting with government.
However, President Buhari admitted that the problems in the region needed long term planning.
One of the topmost demand on the list is the relocation of the administrative and operational headquarters of major International Oil Companies (IOCs) to the Niger Delta region. The leaders say the decision would fast-track the development of the region.
The region’s leaders, under the aegis of Pan Niger Delta Forum, also demanded the clean-up of other communities affected by spill, besides Ogoniland.
They also asked for a review of the amnesty programme’s core mandate of providing a robust exit strategy, to ensure that those trained have jobs to return to or are given stipends.
Briefing journalists after the closed-door meeting, State for Petroleum, Ibeh Kachikwu, alongside the Minister of Niger Delta, Usani Usani, Edwin Clarke, King Alfred Diette Spiff, the Amayanabo of Twon-Brass and Francis Tabai, a retired justice, said the meeting was the first of several meetings that would hold quarterly in different states in the region.
They said the dialogue had already begun to yield results as daily oil production had reached 2.1 million barrel.
“What that means is that it is going to be an ongoing engagement. It will never finish. The Ministry of Petroleum is continuing a quarterly meeting involving the oil companies who fairly beaten up a little bit today and the governors and the stakeholders which will happen once every 3 months,” Kachikwu said.
“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 is going on to deal with the
issues and continue.
“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,” he said.
The oil minister said the president, in his response, said there was no quick solution to the problems, and that he would prefer to go to the roots of the Niger Delta problems.
“He wants to dig in and find a final solution,” Mr. Kachikwu said.
Mr. Clark, who spoke on behalf of the group, said the president received the document and “will now set the ball rolling with the Minister assisting him. Then we will appoint a very capable team of experts to negotiate on our behalf”. He said the issue of the maritime university was sorted out during the meeting.
The group, in the document presented to the president by King Spiff, asked for economic development and empowerment for the region.
He called for the implementation of the Brass LNG and fertiliser plant project, including the NLNG Train 7 in Bonny, and a review and update of the national gas master plan to integrate the economic interests and industrialisation of the region amongst others.
The leaders also demand an inclusive participation in oil industry and ownership of oil blocs.
They also want a fast track of key regional critical infrastructural projects in the region, including the East-West road, and the full implementation of the rail project that is designated to run through the Niger Delta region to Lagos.
The other issues are: The issue of increased military presence in the Niger Delta which has resulted in the invasion of communities, displacement of persons, harassment and other forms of human rights abuse.
They demanded the prompt take-off of Maritime University, and proposed that contracts for the security surveillance and protection of oil and gas infrastructure should be handled by communities rather than individuals.
The representatives also called for increase the restructuring and funding of the Niger Delta Development Commission and the strengthening of the Niger Delta Ministry.
The leaders also supported the call for fiscal federalism and urged that federal government to treat the matter expeditiously.
Meanwhile, the Niger Delta Peoples Democratic Front and the Concerned Militant Leaders said they were not impressed with the meeting as former militant leaders were not among representatives of the region.
Leaders of the two groups, General Ben and General Playboy maintained that such a meeting without any recognised former Niger Delta militant would not protect the interest of the people of the region.
They also doubted the Federal Government’s sincerity on the $10bn development fund to be earmarked for the Niger Delta.
“Pipeline bombing cannot stop because the people going for the meeting do not know why they are going there. It is not the first, second, or third time and would not be the last. So, we cannot be deceived or bamboozled by whatever tag is given to the meeting.
“We insist on implementation of the report of the National Conference and other reports on the development of Niger Delta region. Anything short of this is insincere and will not be accepted. For a genuine peace, past reports of several commissions on Niger Delta must be visited,” they said.
General Playboy specifically said, “Our elders and leaders are not helping matters at all. They do not really know the plight of Niger Delta people because they are wealthy, quite rich and do not take issues about the region seriously.
“They do not know the common people in the region because they are not based in Niger Delta and cannot show holistic commitment to our struggle. Our elders represent themselves, and not the people in the rural areas.
“We don’t need people who will play politics with the genuine struggle of Niger Delta people. We don’t want people, who are not agitators. The real agitators are people like Alhaji Asari Dokubo, High Chief Government Tompolo, Egberipapa, General Africa, General Joshua and many others.
“These are the kind of people that can negotiate for our people. They know the plights of the Niger Delta people because they live in the same environment with them. They are not based abroad. They come down to the communities to know the feelings of the people. Such people should represent us.”
General Playboy however noted that their position did not mean that they were disrespectful to the elders in the region, insisting that the elders were not needed at the meeting with the Federal Government.