Niger-Delta: Sitting On A Keg Of Gunpowder

Niger-Delta: Sitting On A Keg Of Gunpowder

Buhari and Clark

·       Clark Rips Into Buhari, Says Insecurity Resumed At An “Alarming Rate” Under Him

·       How Obasanjo Comment is Triggering Fresh Unrest

The relative peace enjoyed in the Niger-Delta region is fast dissipating while insecurity is resuming at an “alarming rate” Elder Statesman, Edwin Clark has lamented.

The Ijaw leader faulted claims by President Muhammadu Buhari that he had restored peace to the south-south geo-political zone, a claim he described as “untenable, untrue and without foundation”.

Rather, in an open letter addressed to the president on Thursday, Clark said although there has been significant peace in the Niger Delta, it cannot be attributed to the current administration.

He added that insecurity in the region reduced during the tenure of Goodluck Jonathan, but resumed at an “alarming rate” after the Buhari administration came to power while warning that the country is sitting on a keg of gunpowder.

“No doubt, a good amount of peace has come to the Niger Delta in the past few years. However, your claim as having been the main architect that brought the peace does not properly convey what transpired,” the Ijaw leader said.

If you will recall, your excellency, before your government came on board, insecurity which had reduced substantially during the tenure of your predecessor, resumed at a very alarming rate.

The period saw the emergence of a new group, the Niger Delta Avengers, which virtually held your government hostage, oil production went down to as low as about 800,000 barrels per day.

Your government adopted a military approach to quell the agitations, by deploying the so-called ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ in August 2016, which did not in any way solve the problem” he wrote.

He accused Buhari of marginalizing the region, abandoning several projects and persecuting leaders from the region who served under Jonathan’s administration — citing the invasion of his home in September 2018.

He also said the president and vice-president failed to deliver on different promises, including building modular refineries to replace the local refining carried out by youths, relocation of the operational headquarters of the oil companies to the Niger Delta, and the Ogoni clean-up.

“Mr. President, may I make it very clear to you that the area is sitting on a keg of gunpowder, and any attempt to scrap the amnesty programme may produce unpleasant consequences to all,” Clark wrote.

“Our people are very conscious of the developments that your government is carrying out in other areas of the country with monies derived from oil exploration in their area.

“We repeat, our agitation against the use of money looted from our area by the late Gen. Sani Abacha, which was recovered from the United States of America, exclusively for the construction of the so-called mega projects by the federal government, and the illegal confiscation of 2.4 million pounds from the British government as loot recovered from the former governor of Delta state, Chief James Ibori, under the flimsy excuse by the attorney-general of the federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, that it was the federal government, which as a nation, negotiated with the British government, and that it was an agreement between the two governments that the money should be used for federal projects; this is not true.

“Meanwhile, federal roads in the Niger Delta region have mostly collapsed and applying these funds to rehabilitate these collapsed roads, would have gone a long way to solving some of our problems.

“Please Mr. President, I respectfully wish to state that your claim of bringing peace to the South-South geo-political zone, is untenable, untrue and without foundation. The deliberate neglect of the south-south, can lead to the explosion of the keg of gunpowder upon which we are sitting in the Niger Delta.

“I strongly advise you to listen and heed to the various open letters I have written to you” he warned.

Another issue that has thrown the area into a frenzy is claims made by ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo that the resources in the Niger Delta oil belt belong to Nigeria and not to the region.

Many stakeholders and well-meaning Nigerians have described the comment as inflammatory and injurious to the feelings of the people in the region, who bear the brunt of oil production.

According to a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Albert Akpomudje, while agreeing that according to the constitution, the former president is right but such a statement is inflammatory given the sentiments of the Niger-Delta people.

“It is a very inflammatory statement, considering the sentiments of the people of Niger Delta. But, if you go strictly by the constitution, that is what it is.

“Even the government itself realizes that those on whose land the oil is should benefit more than others. We agree we are in a country and need each other, but we also know that the people producing the wealth of the nation suffer degradation.

“That’s why people are advocating resource control as it was in the time of Obafemi Awolowo and the rest when we were depending on agriculture, through resource control.

“Those are not good statements. Some northerners are even arguing that because God puts the oil there, it doesn’t belong to anybody” he stated.

Another strong condemnation to the former president’s comment came from the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF).

The National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, in Port Harcourt, said it was wrong for the former president who should be a statesman to make such a provocative statement.

Robinson stressed that God has placed within the lands of Niger Delta these resources to ameliorate the sufferings of the people to make life easier for them, noting that unfortunately, Nigeria has exploited and plundered these resources with little or no attention to the Niger Delta people.

“Former President Obasanjo should stop being mischievous. What he is doing is just playing to the gallery. He could talk about the Constitution and what it provides because he is a chief beneficiary of this flawed, lopsided, faulty military imposed Constitution.

“If Ogun State was producing oil, would Obasanjo make the comment he is making? Is it not provocative that Obasanjo will say that oil in Niger Delta belongs to the whole of Nigeria, while the gold in Zamfara and Osun belongs to the respective states?

“He could talk about 13 per cent and all of that because his state is not oil-producing. If Ogun was an oil-producing state, would he be happy that 13 per cent is all the people get from all that they give to Nigeria?

“When cocoa and groundnut were the mainstay of the nation’s economy, where they were talking about 13 per cent, was it not 50 per cent? Why the unfair treatment given to the Niger Delta people? He asked.

Perhaps the biggest criticism to the former president’s comments came from a leader of Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo. He described the comment attributed to Obasanjo as shocking and disappointing.

“I was shocked and highly disappointed that the General was quoting profusely from the military-imposed constitution on the country; a constitution that has been described as fraudulent and rejected since its introduction.

When General Obasanjo asserts that the Niger Delta resources is not owned by Niger Delta but Nigeria, is the General suggesting that God created the resources in Niger Delta when Nigeria came into existence in 1914, or it was there before the amalgamation?

It is the amalgamation and the decision of our founding fathers to live together under the conditions agreed to in the Independence Constitution that makes other parts of Nigeria to lay claim to the resources of Niger Delta. The question of the protection of Niger Delta resources against external forces by the federal government is not a big deal but a responsibility assigned to it under the federal system.

I will therefore passionately appeal to Obasanjo to join hands with the other patriots to bring pressure to bear on President Muhammad Buhari to ensure the change of the present fraudulent constitution by restructuring the present unitary constitution to the federal system agreed to by our founding fathers before the 2023 elections to enable the nation to move forward peacefully in unity and progress” he wrote in a response to Obasanjo.

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