According to reports, the Federal Government has been compelled to postpone a two-day stakeholders’ Summit on Niger Delta following strong protest by key figures in the region.
The Summit being organised by the Presidency was originally scheduled to hold on Monday 26 and Tuesday 27 September in Abuja but has now been postponed indefinitely.
A statement on Friday by a presidential aide who is the Secretary of the Planning Committee, Donald B. Wokoma, said “the Summit, which was expected to bring participants carefully drawn from across various groups of critical stakeholders together, will now hold at a later date.”
Curiously, no reason was given for the sudden postponement, but Wokoma, assured that “the intention of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration of providing an enduring political blueprint geared towards a more lasting peace and sustainable development in the Niger Delta region remains unwavering.”
Earlier in the day, key figures including elders like a former Federal Commissioner, Edwin Clark, have dissociated themselves from the Summit, stating that serious issue like Niger Delta should not be trivialised into “some academic exercise.”
Those who signed the statement include: Edwin K. Clark, Senator Roland Owie, Air Cdr. Idongisit Nkanga, Ledum Mitee, Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw, Alaowei Broderich Bozimo, Timi Alaibe, Tony Uranta among others.
They noted that holding of such Summit at this time is clearly contrary to the expectations of all right-thinking persons worldwide.
The leaders particularly frowned at the lacklustre attitude of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, noting that for over six weeks, since cessation of hostilities as a result of the intervention by the Traditional Rulers, Elders and Leaders of the Niger Delta, he has not deemed it fit to respond to the demands of the peoples of the Niger Delta for a credible and proper dialogue process.
“The attention of the Leadership of the Pan-Niger Delta Coastal States Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum has been drawn to the circulation of Invitation Letters to some Niger Delta indigenes and others to a Niger Delta Stakeholders’ Summit slated for the 26th – 27th September, 2016, at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja.
“Whilst we do not begrudge the right of any authority or persons to convene any talk shop, we feel concerned that serious issue of the Niger Delta should not be trivialized into some academic exercise.
“Rather than doing the needful, the Region has however, been over militarized of its creeks and other spaces, which have resulted in claims of rapes, brutalisation, incidental deaths and undue harassments suffered by our innocent sons and daughters during this period of the ceasefire. Internally displaced people are now littered all over the place.
“However, a significant achievement of the cease fire is the increase in the quantum of oil production of 1.7 mbpd, according to the Hon. Minister of States, Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu.
“We wish to state that almost a month has elapsed since militant groups in the region agreed to a 60-Day cessation of hostilities without the Federal Government constituting a negotiation team. Rather, the Office of the Vice President is organizing a Summit of stakeholders purportedly for the Niger Delta.
“It is our considered opinion that for the Federal Government to contemplate a Summit of this nature, rather than proper dialogue and negotiations with leaders of the region is to trivialize the gravity of the issues and opt for a cosmetic approach.
“Any reasonable person looking at the title and composition of attendees, officials, subjects and speeches at this so-called Summit, will discern that it is possible to replace the term Niger Delta with any other area of the country and it will not look odd.
“There is no Niger-Deltan of any level of representation there. Worse still, the Speakers at the Summit are mainly government officials, who should at best of times be listening to the people, instead of talking down to the people. In such a gathering, there are definitely no spaces for any meaningful discussions.
“The point to note is that the Niger Delta crisis predates the present administration. In all the previous administrations, we never engaged in futile and cosmetic academic exercise as this Summit, to proffer solutions to the Niger Delta agitations.
“We wish to state in unambiguous terms that the issues confronting the Niger Delta do not require an academic exercise of this nature, masquerading as a Summit to proffer solutions to the Niger Delta issues.
“Rather, a credible dialogue process between the Federal Government, the oil companies and the accredited and authorized representatives of the region.
“As a people we are, still, committed to the vision of a peaceful, prosperous, united and restructured Nigeria where no one is oppressed,” the statement reads in part.