By Ovie Okpare
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) on Wednesday gave her full backing to the demands by Itsekiri, Ijaw (Gbaramatu Kingdom) and Urhobo ethnic nationalities in Delta State on the alleged marginalization and abandonment of the multi-billion dollars Export Processing Zone (EPZ) Gas Revolution Industrial Park Project and the relocation of the Floating Dock by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.
PANDEF also endorsed demand that the bidding process for the award of the Marginal Oil Fields in the region by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) be terminated until indigenes and people of the Niger Delta region are given opportunity to own resources in their land.
The three ethnic groups had threatened to shut down oil and gas facilities in the region if the Federal Government fails to address the marginalization and ensure immediate take-off of the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) and the relocation of the Floating Dock located in Ogidigben and Gbaramatu area of Delta.
PANDEF, the apex socio-cultural umbrella body for ethnic nationalities and people of the region, warned that the President Buhari’s government cannot continue to take Niger Delta people for granted despite providing the nation’s economic mainstay.
In a statement on Wednesday signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Ken Robinson, lamented that the people of the region have not been accorded their dues by the current administration through the appointment key officers and projects execution.
The statement said it endorsed the demands of the three ethnic groups after a virtual meeting of the Forum’s National Executive, in consultation with strategic and critical stakeholders, on Tuesday, 14th July, 2020.
It said, “The demands by the people of Gbaramatu kingdom, the Itsekiri and Urhobo groups are germane and congruent. The issues of marginalization and exclusion, of neglect, discrimination, unfairness and injustice against the Niger Delta people by the Buhari administration; the abandonment of the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) Gas Revolution Industrial Park Project, the relocation of the Floating Dock, the Ownership of Oil Marginal Fields, and other issues raised variously by the groups, are issues that PANDEF has been talking about. Sadly, the federal government has been heedless, detached, and carried on with unconcerned ease.
“The arising development where oil and gas producing communities and ethnic groups in the Niger Delta region are now issuing ultimatums and threats to the federal government, is therefore, not unexcepted. We had warned that the people will soon run out of patience with the government. The country should not be surprised to see more oil producing communities and ethnic groups take similar steps. The Buhari administration cannot continue to take the goodwill of the people of the Niger Delta region for granted.
“The situation whereby the Niger Delta region continues to suffer marginalisation and isolation in critical sectors of the country, especially in the Oil and Gas Sector, is aberrant and unacceptable.
“We had asked that Niger Delta indigenes with the capacity and willingness to participate in Oil and Gas industry should be given Right of First Refusal in the bidding processes for Oil Marginal Fields and Blocks. We have exhaustively highlighted these issues; written several letters, issued press statements, and held presses conferences to draw attention to these abnormalities.”
PANDEF in the statement recall that some of the demands were contained in the 16-point demands presented to Mr President when its National Leader and former minister of information, Chief Edwin Clark led a delegation of 100 Niger Delta people, including traditional rulers, eminent Statesmen, and technocrats to visit Buhari on 1st November, 2016.
It posited that despite the patience so far exercised by leaders and peoples of the region especially youths the Buhari government has not attended to demands contained in the 16-point demands presented to him about four years ago.
“No responsible government would do what this government is doing to the Niger Delta region. How do you explain the fanfare accorded the flag-off the $2.8 billion Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) Gas Pipeline project, against the abandonment of similar and related projects in the Niger Delta region, from where the gas would be gotten to the celebrated AKK project?
“Look at the state of the East – West road, considered a signature project, because of its significance. No inch of construction work has been added in five years by the Buhari administration.
“There seems to be a deliberate agenda to run the Niger Delta region to the brink, and perhaps confine the people to a state of depravity. God forbid!
The Federal government seems to be instigating situations to truncate the proper functioning of agencies of government that has direct bearing to the development of the Niger Delta region, and the wellbeing of the people.
“Look at what they are doing to the Presidential Amnesty Programme; where they have refused to appoint a Chairman, and has kept the Programme in the control and command of the National Security Adviser, with a supposed “northern” Committee running. The current shambles over the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, is not anything different.
“Meanwhile, the North East Development Commission, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, which is apparently a “ministry of northern affairs” and other agencies, are operating unfettered.
“PANDEF therefore fully endorses the demands of the people of Gbaramatu kingdom, Urhobo and Itsekiri groups, and any consequential, legitimate, action or process they may take. We urge them not to waiver; they should remain resolute and steadfast.
“We advise the federal government to heed to their demands, and urgently put in place modalities to holistically address the Niger Delta issues. President Muhammadu Buhari must act fast and rightly”, the statement added.