Stakeholders from the oil-rich Niger Delta, yesterday, demanded that the region be included in the allocation and ownership of oil blocs in the country.
They said making Niger Deltans partakers in the exploitation of the black gold and implementation of 15 other demands will quicken efforts to ensure peace in the region.
They made the demands at a crucial meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, in Abuja.
This came as the President told Niger-Delta leaders that he was desirous of tackling head-long, the challenges of the region but regretted that there were no quick fixes, if lasting solutions were to be found.
Other demands included review of the presidential amnesty programme, relocation of the administrative and operational headquarters of IOCs to the areas of operation, approval of Maritime University, strengthening the Niger Delta Ministry, resuscitation of key regional critical infrastructure, resettlement of Bakassi indigenes and adequate funding of the NDDC.
Others are introduction of fiscal federalism, economic development and empowerment of Niger Delta people, improvement of power supply, security surveillance and protection of oil and gas infrastructure, meeting immediate needs of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, addressing effects of increased military presence in the Niger Delta and the Ogoni clean-up and environmental remediation.
Rising from the meeting, which lasted for about three hours at the council chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the leaders, who gathered under the aegis of Pan Niger Delta Forum led by Chief Edwin Clark, stated that the issues were critical to finding lasting peace in Niger Delta.
What we discussed —Kachikwu
Addressing the press at the end of the meeting, Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who was joined by Clark, HRM Diete-Spiff, Minister of Niger Delta, Usani Uguru and Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, said the meeting was successful as major issues of concern were tabled.
He said: “This afternoon, we had the privilege of having a meeting chaired by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari. A meeting with Niger Delta Stakeholders led by Chief Edwin Clark and HRM, Alfred Diete-Spiff. Five governors were in attendance. Four in attendance, one represented. Series of ministers were also in attendance.
“It was largely a courtesy call to bring to the front burner the issues of the Niger Delta and the concerns. And we spent time hearing from the Niger Delta leaders in terms of their concerns and what they believe the Federal Government should do to reduce pressure and stress in the area and to reduce militancy to the barest minimum, if not eliminated.
“It was a fairly good, civilized dialogue between all the parties. I did make a speech in terms of what the federal government direction should be. The President gave his ideas in terms of what his thought processes were. I think it is a frank conversation. It is the beginning of a process.
“We had over 100 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”, he said.
No quick solution to the problem — Buhari
Asked if President Buhari was disposed to the demands, the Minister of State for Petroleum stated that the President would study them before stating government’s position.
“The President was very happy the meeting took place. He was very quick to point out that he did not want a quick solution, he needed to go to the roots of why this problem has persisted through all the various governments.
“On why some of the militants were not represented, the President’s position was that there was a need for him to properly understand working with the elders who were the opinion leaders in the areas, so that when he does engage them, he is able to say authoritatively that these are the opinion leaders who can have a convergent influence in their thought process and how they do things.
“So, he wants to get into the root causes of where this is coming from and what the solutions are. He shared his life experiences growing through these reign of militancy both in the north east and here and why it is important to dig in and find lasting solutions. He was very happy and took pictures with everybody at the end of the day. Knowing him for who he is, he is going to go back and sleep on all the things that have been said and begging to fashion solutions going forward”, Kachikwu said.
Why oil companies were not at the meeting – Kachikwu
Responding to a question on why oil majors were not at the meeting, Kachikwu stated it was not necessary as they were not the leaders of the region.
He said: “This is a meeting for the leaders of the region, oil companies are not leaders of the region. They are contractual beneficiaries of the region. So, the meeting that we called today was for the leaders of the region. So, you find that the assembly was represented, the governors were represented, the opinion leaders were represented, our fathers, the royal fathers and the elders were represented.
“And the whole idea was just to have a convivial relationship with the President and this is the first meeting that is actually happening with him since he became President. It was important for both sides to sort of de-scale the mutuality of suspicion that was beginning to take over the whole process. That was the essence of today.
“We couldn’t bring in contractual parties in the midst of such a meeting. But, yes, going forward, they are a critical element. We expect that in the quarterly meetings that will happen, we need to bring in oil companies to the table. Things about capitals, operational headquarters, opportunities in the area, contracting proceeds, those are the things the oil companies can help with that will de-scale the level of difficulties you have in the terrain. So, the meeting that you will have quarterly will involve them, and other key players in the industry and the militants you are talking about if you can locate them. Hopefully their number does not continue to increase, it continues to reduce.
Nigeria now produces 2.1m bpd
Elated by the current level of oil production, the Minister also revealed that Nigeria now produces, at least, 2.1 million barrels of crude oil daily.
“Let me just say two things. One, we put a lot of moment on the fact of these incidences that happen. But I think the time has also come, as members of the fourth estate of the realm, to begin to put a lot of emphasis on the successes that have been recorded.
“The reality is that, as at 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 the ‘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 end. The Ministry of Petroleum is continuing a quarterly meeting involving the oil companies and the stakeholders which will happen once in three months.
“The first one is going to take place 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”, he said.
Buhari happy meeting us – Chief Clark
Also speaking, Chief Clark gave a background to the meeting.
He said: “The meeting was arranged by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and we accepted it. And I will say that it was when he approached us that he had been discussing with the President about meeting him to discuss a way forward. We also accepted and agreed that we should meet. There were many factions. Some had their own built-up bases, 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 Diete-Spiff, former governor of old Rivers State and former governor of Akwa Ibom, Arc. Obong Victor Attah as co-chairmen of the Central Working Committee. We invited all the interest groups and they came and what we saw today is a combination of all interest groups.
“Mr. President received us very well. Today is November 1, a remarkable day. There were many of you particularly the press who tried to give a wrong impression that all was not well between the Federal Government and the Niger Delta people. So, I am, therefore, not surprised that you want to know how the meeting went. It went very well and all groups were represented. We discussed and presented a paper which was presented by HRM, Alfred Diete-Spiff and Mr. President said he has noted everything that was there and that he would see that it is studied and that is what we have been looking for. It is the disconnect that made the government not to know what we were doing.
“It was clear that dialogue was key. The President will now set the ball rolling with the Minister assisting him. 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.
On Niger Delta Avengers
“But let me say this. You mentioned 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. One man will be in his house and say we are 20 and you will publish it. But we will continue to appeal to them. We have no other country but Nigeria. 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, was the issue of maritime university which has been settled. We now have it, first goodwill from the government and we have a duty to react.”
He also said that the President was happy that the meeting was called to discuss the major problems of the region.
“The President was quite happy with our delegation. I saw that in him. And from his answers and his address, even though he said he was not responding to everything in the address. But he would study the various points we have raised and he was quite happy that we should work together.
Lending his voice, King Diete-Spiff, Amanyanabo of Twon-Brass gave details of the demands.
“The sixteen points raised included infrastructural development, manpower, human resources and development and of course, welfare of the people. These are the main things.
“Relocation of the oil companies. One of those things that we pointed out is that these IOCs have their headquarters somewhere in Lekki or Abuja. Even their operational headquarters are not in their area of operation. So, they are very divorced from the whole activity. This is not right because even the pay as you earn tax is not coming to the region. The workers, nobody is engaged locally there. They just come and harvest and go away. In fact, one or two of the French companies there fly in people from abroad and the next crew goes on board the next flight going out. It’s as serious as that. Since it’s a federal government controlled thing, we cannot do very much, so we have to appeal to see that this thing is stopped.
“The presence of the military of course, you know has been agitating the boys. That too we said should be reversed. We don’t want to see the place militarized.
“Then you have the university issue which has been resolved. Oron has been there in the last 18 years, it’s going to be made a degree-awarding institution. You also have situations where most of our ports, the estuaries are silted. You know Koko for instance, ships can’t get in there. Escravos has been silted. You have Burutu, Warri, and all those ports. So, they need to be dredged and kept passable.
“We also have situations where the youths, who have dropped their arms and demilitarized, are now being sent on training and they come back and they have no jobs. What are you pushing them to do?. To use their new skills and go back to the creeks? No. So, the engagement is to make sure that they either form cooperatives to do farming or fishing or do something gainful.
“So, we really need to engage the youths who have been trained by the amnesty programme. In addition, the Ogoni situation for instance, is one of many. So,while they are doing the clean up in Ogoni, this should be extended to other parts of the Niger Delta.
“And, water supply is very essential because the United Nations environment programme has declared that the water is unfit for human consumption. So, all these are things which add up to what makes the people of the Niger Delta. Although the laugh and act and smile. Beneath that frown and smile, they are wearing a frown. So, that is the situation.
“They are really feeling cheated and shortchanged. These are what has been pointed out. The Federal Government should bring out a key, to go there, have a look-see, confirm all that we are saying and see that things are addressed. And they are minor issues that can be done just by the red pen of the president.
“The minister has got to help in pushing this process. This is why we are here. He has done that much to see that this has come to pass”, he said.
Avengers have sheathed their swords-Gov Okowa
Also speaking, Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa stated that the meeting was not about sharing of money but finding a future for the people of Niger Delta.
He remarked that the Niger Delta Avengers had in the last two months sheathed their swords, a development, he said was for the good of all.
“In the first instance, it is important that we understand the issues so that we can report correctly. In the last 2 and half months, I don’t think we have had any issues with the Niger Delta Avengers because I know that after the meeting in August, that was a stakeholders meeting led by E. K. Clark and since them, we have had any real issues with them. It is important that we put this on paper and it is our hope that we will continue with the consultation and they have given the elders the mandate to speak on their behalf in the meeting that will follow through.
“I do know that we have had a few issues mainly on the land area now, not within the waters because many of these groups believe that they are not being carried and that to a very large extent, those in the creeks are have been given some prominence. No body has been given any prominence.
“The negotiation going on is not about money sharing. It is about talking about the future of the Niger Delta people and what we need to do in terms of development and empowerment, in terms of partnership and in terms of presence of the oil companies. We think that the Niger Delta rather than offices being driven from far off and many other issues that have been raised.
“So, largely the Niger Delta Avengers have sheathed their swords and things are moving on well. I can truly tell you. The security agencies are working very well with us to provide the best of security but this is going this going to take sometime. But the few incidences you have had and reading on papers about the Green Landers, they are not the same with the Niger Delta Avengers.”
We are not satisfied – IYC president
In an interview with Journalists, the president of Ijaw Youth Congress, IYC, Udese Iradiri said that he was not satisfied with the outcome of the meeting
“I won’t tell you a lie. We are not satisfied. Personally, I am not satisfied because there were no specifics to say these are the steps that we are going to take. But as the president said, he’s gonna study the report that was presented and so, let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that when he comes back with government position, they will be things to pick out from. The presentation was done properly by our people. All the issues were captured and like I said let’s us hope.
“The discontent you see in the face of those who came out is the same discontent you see in my face. But like I said, let’s keep our fingers crossed believing that when the president studies the report, he will come back to us”, he said.
Buhari to Niger Delta militants: You can leave Nigeria if you ‘ve another country
President Muhamadu Buhari, however, stated that anyone who had another country apart from Nigeria was free to leave the country.
He expressed the determination of his administration to stay focused on its key campaign promises of securing the country, fighting corruption and creating jobs through the improvement of the economy.
A statement by his spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu stated that the president listed peace, security, investment and prosperity as close linked together, adding that “if we give peace a chance, investors will come here to invest. Nobody will invest in an insecure environment.
“We are determined to make life comfortable and affordable to all Nigerians. If anybody has a country to go to, let him go, we will stay here and salvage our country.”
In welcoming the 16-point request presented for negotiation by the Niger Delta leaders, President Buhari said he was still expecting reports from officials he had instructed to review the implementation of the Amnesty programme to determine where government fell short so that amends can be made.
The President said the service chiefs were putting together their assessment of the militancy situation, saying “when I have these reports, including this one (just presented), we will revisit the situation (in the region) to ensure that we succeed this time.”
He however cautioned the leaders of the Niger Delta that they had more to do than anyone else to bring peace to the region, given the influence they have on militant groups.
The President who delivered his report card on the war against corruption and the efforts to secure the country repeated his call to the Niger Delta leaders to join the administration in bringing peace to the troubled region.
“Please Your Excellencies, Your Majesties, Distinguished ladies and gentlemen; we all have our individual constituencies. Let us try to pacify our constituencies. Let us first recover our country, secure the country and let us invite people who will invest. Let us create jobs for our people and let us be accountable to our people where we are sitting on treasuries, whether it is local government, state or the center…”
We should ensure that we rebuild this country. Nobody wants to fail. So, the only way out is, if people understand and believe that we are doing our best at all levels, then we will have some peace. But it they have reason to doubt our performance and sincerity, then we will have problem”, he said.
1. Ownership of oil blocs
2. Review of Amnesty Programme
3. Relocation of headquarters of IOCs to
areas of operation
4. Approval of Maritime University
5. Strengthening Niger Delta Ministry
6.Revival of key critical infrastructure
7. Resettlement of Bakassi indigenes
8. Restructuring, funding of NDDC
9. Introduction of fiscal federalism
10. Economic development, empowerment
of N-Delta people
11. Improved power supply
12. Security surveillance
13. Protection of oil, gas infrastructure
14. Meeting immediate needs of IDPs
15. Addressing effects of increased military presence in N-Delta
16. Ogoni clean-up; Environmental remediation
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