A socio-cultural organization of the South South geo-political zone, Pan Niger-Delta Forum (PANDEF), has decried alleged marginalization of the Niger Delta region by President Muhammadu Buhari‘s administration in the past five years.

Making their position known, Thursday in a World Press Conference on the country’s 60th anniversary, National Chairman of the group, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, Rtd, who spoke on behalf of the organization, insisted that the APC-led federal government has perpetrated a high level of injustice to the region, hence the level of agitation currently going on.

“We mark today’s 60th Independence Anniversary of the Country at a time of colossal national upheaval, and disaffection; with several groups clamouring for self-determination”.

“PANDEF feels the anger and anguish in the land, and the various protestations are expected. People are not happy with the way things are going in the country, with worsening insecurity, unemployment and harsh economic strains on the populace; citizens are losing ever more trust in the political establishments and institutions; sadly, the government seems unperturbed.

There are people who are living in abject poverty in this country while others are living in stupendous wealth”
“In the face of these difficulties and contradictions, PANDEF cautions that something fundamental needs to be done, and urgently, by the government”.

The group called on President Buhari to demonstrate and reassure Nigerians of the government’s sincere commitment to the wellbeing of Nigerians, irrespective of religion and tribe.

It also highlighted other burning issues of concern to the people of the region to include, “injustice, inequity and unfairness” . lopsided appointments, refusal by IOCs to relocate their operational headquarter to the Niger-Delta region, even after the Vice-President of the Federation, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo had directed the oil companies to relocate to their operational base.

The non-completion of the East-West Road and the President ‘s seeming lack of interest in the speedy completion of the road project was also highlighted by PANDEF.

“We are in the middle of a mist; no one can predict what comes next. We can either work together in unity and respect or sink as a country. At this point, let me, at this World Press Conference further highlight a few critical issues and concerns of the people of the Niger Delta Region.

INJUSTICE, INEQUITY AND UNFAIRNESS

“The level of injustice being perpetrated against some sections of this country, the Niger Delta Region, in particular, is unprecedented. Uncouth bias, unfairness and injustice have become the norm in the conduct of affairs of government in Nigeria, under the present administration”.

“It is a well-known fact that PANDEF submitted a 16-Point Demand, which encapsulates critical concerns and interests of the People of the entire Niger Delta Region, to the Federal Government since November 2016”

“Following which the Vice President, as acting president, in 2017, visited the whole of the Niger Delta. During the course of his visits, the Acting President expressed disappointment at the level of underdevelopment of the region, and made far-reaching pronouncements on some of the vexing issues.

Including the establishment of modular refineries in the Region to replace the artisanal refineries being operated by some youths, and in which the Communities will have a stake; the directive to International Oil Companies (IOCs) to relocate their operational headquarters to the Niger Delta Region; and expedite work on Critical Infrastructure across the Region, amongst others”.

“Sadly, the 16-Point Demand has remained unattended to by the Buhari administration, except the establishment of the Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State, and the launch of Ogoni Clean-Up, whose status is unclear to us”.

“When the country was in recession in 2016, the president called us, and we went. We said, if you do these things there will be relative peace in the Niger Delta region. Some of those items don’t even require money but political goodwill, where you show that you care for the people”.

“The issue of the relocation of Operational Offices of IOC’s was one of the items on the 16-point agenda that we took to Mr President. And the Vice President came to Uyo during his tour of the Niger Delta states, and promised he was going to direct the IOC’s to relocate”.

“Nothing has been done, three years after, the IOC’s are located in Lagos. They pay tax to Lagos State, and they develop Lagos State. If you go to Lekki (in Lagos), you will see all the development by Chevron, Mobil and others. Those things would have been done in Niger Delta; in Ibeno, Eket, Warri, Sapele, Yenagoa, and all the oil-producing areas.

Some persons have been citing insecurity as a reason, the IOC’s cannot relocate to Niger Delta. They work and evacuate millions of barrels of Oil, and Gas, every day from the Region without mention of insecurity but they present the excuse of insecurity when it comes to relocation of their operational headquarters to the Region. Why are they not kidnapped at the point of drilling the oil? What are we talking about? Don’t they kidnap in Lagos or other parts of the country? They only come here to drill the crude and fly back to other places to enjoy it. Why would people not be unhappy?”

LET THE WORLD KNOW THAT THESE ARE THE ISSUES
“I wish somebody could look at our Coat of Arms; we talked about peace and progress; nobody is talking about justice. When there is no justice, how can you have peace?”

“The feeling of marginalization, neglect, discrimination, and injustice against the people by the federal government is growing in the Region. So let it be known to all that PANDEF shall continue to advance and support all legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Niger Delta people, whether demands of Oil Producing Communities in any of the States, issues of Environmental Remediation and Clean-up or the plight of Bakassi people in Cross River State.”

“The abandonment of the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) and Gas Revolution Industrial Park Project at Ogidigben in Delta State, in favour of the AKK Gas Pipeline from Ajaokuta to Abuja, Kaduna and Kano; the relocation of the Floating Dock; and the callous exclusion of Oil Producing Communities from participation in the Oil and Gas Industry, including the Ownership of Oil Marginal Fields and Blocks, are issues that cannot be swept under the carpet”.

“The East-West Road has been under construction for the past 10 years and has remained uncompleted. The Calabar-Itu Road is in an appalling state of disrepair. And if we may ask, what is the status of the US $333m Bodo-Bonny Road, a project expected to open up opportunities for rapid socio-economic development of the areas, even with a reported contribution of US $167m by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Limited”?

SUIT AGAINST PRESIDENT BUHARI
“As you are aware, our National Leader, Chief Dr. E. K. Clark, and 15 Others, including myself, instituted a case against the federal government and President Muhammadu Buhari for Constitutional breaches on federal character. The matter first came up for mention on June 22, 2020. It was again heard on July 10, 2020; the next adjourned date is tomorrow, October 2, 2020”.

“One of the questions we are asking the court to answer is that: “Whether the power to appoint designated public officers, including permanent secretaries, principal representatives of Nigeria abroad, which is vested in the first defendant has been lawfully exercised by him since the inception of his administration from 2015 till date and whether his actions are in breach of Sections 171(5), 814(3) (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended)”.

WATER RESOURCES BILL
“The People of the Niger Delta Region, particularly of the South-South Geopolitical Zone have rejected the Water Resources Bill from the beginning, and we still reject it because we do not think it is necessary. We think it is beyond just being water bill, we do not know what the issues are, for example, is it that the herdsmen do not have water to give to their cow and must we carry for those fishing to give to their cattle?”

“The 8th National Assembly heeded to the voice of the people, by throwing out the Bil. It would therefore be awful if the 9th National Assembly acts otherwise, and allows itself to be used against the people. We are using this medium to tell lawmakers of the South-South, and even, South-West, South-East and Middle Belt, not to stay in that National Assembly to support a bill that is anti-peace and against this country. We believe that if all of them come together, and say ‘no’, that bill will not be passed.

To all our National Assembly members, we are saying this is the time to stand up and be counted. It is a very dangerous bill that could completely destroy the fragile unity of this country. So, if the members in the National Assembly for whatever reason keep quiet and support such a bill, history will never forgive them.

RESTRUCTURING
“Today, we restate our position on RESTRUCTURING, and call on the federal government to, without any further delay, begin a constructive dialogue process on the restructuring of the country to guarantee harmonious and peaceful coexistence.

The present structure of Nigeria has become grossly defective and inappropriate for a heterogeneous society like ours. It does not provide the enabling environment for growth and progress among the component states and spawns unhealthy competition among the various ethnic nationalities and tribes in the country”

“You may wish to recall that derivation principle, which first came up in 1946 at the Phillipson Commission, and was intended to make regions with natural resources benefit from their God-given endowment based on contribution. That was the basis of the derivation principle, which existed before the discovery of oil in commercial quantities, in Olobiri, Bayelsa State”.

“When revenues from cocoa (in the West) and groundnut (in the North) were the nation’s economic mainstay, a derivation was the Revenue Allocation principle, at over 60 per cent, before Independence. It was dropped to 50 per cent in 1960; and 45percent, in 1969. It took a dizzying nosedive to 20 per cent in 1975, and further to 1.5percent in 1982; and 1 per cent in 1990. It was moved up to 3 per cent in 1992, before the current 13 per cent, as specified by Section 162 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended”.

“Today, the situation is that those who contribute little or nothing get plenty; paradoxically, those who contribute so much, get so little”.

“Meanwhile, oil and gas exploration activities have degraded the hitherto luxuriant, healthy ecosystem of the Niger Delta, and damaged the indigenous people’s means of livelihood, with little or no effort to ameliorate their consequential dire standard of living”.

“We, therefore, further call on Mr President to, without any further delay, begin a constructive dialogue process on the Restructuring of the country to guarantee harmonious and peaceful coexistence, because the extant structure of the country is inimical to progress.

Finally, to the media, perhaps one of the few sectors in Nigeria that deserve to be truly celebrated today, as we mark the nation’s Diamond Jubilee; you have done well, and we are very proud of you”.
“On behalf of the leadership of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, permit to say congratulations and thank you to the Nigerian Media for the work you have continued to do, in not just enlightening and informing, bringing to the front burner the issues, challenges and problems of the people, and your efforts to engender positive change in the country, and globally”.

“We are not unaware that there are troubling infringements on the independence of the media in the country. But we urge you never to renegade on your noble duty, for any reason. You have a constitutional responsibility to uphold in making government accountable to Citizens”.
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