Elder statesman and leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) Chief Edwin Clark, yesterday said the security situation has put the country in a state of near collapse.
Clark stated this in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari while reacting to the president comments that his government has succeeded in improving upon peace in the North East and South-South, from what he inherited.
The South South leader in the letter addressed to Buhari and titled, My Disagreement With Your Claims on the Niger Delta Region, said, as much as some peace has come to the region in the past few years, it had little to do with the president’s intervention.
He said, “I am writing to bring to recollection, Your Excellency’s recent statements regarding peace and security in the Niger Delta, amongst other parts of the country. Your Excellency was specifically quoted to have said that your government has succeeded in improving upon peace in the North East and South-South, from what you inherited.
“Your Excellency, I beg to, somewhat, disagree with you on the general state of insecurity in the country, which is presently, in a state of near collapse. Of more concern to me is your claims with respect to the Niger Delta or the South-South zone.
“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. If you will recall, Your Excellency, before your government came on board, insecurity which had reduced substantially during the tenure of your predecessor, resumed in 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.
“I recall meeting the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, rtd, at the Benin Airport, returning to Abuja, after he had launched the operation in Sapele, Delta State. I knew from that moment, that the operation will not succeed, as it will be the second time the Army was carrying out attack in the creeks of the Niger Delta.
“In order to solve the problem in a pragmatic way, I convened a meeting of leaders and elders of the Niger Delta at the Conference Hall of the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Effurun, Delta State on Friday, 16thAugust, 2016, to seek for peaceful solutions to restore peace to the region where the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) was birthed, as the umbrella body of the Niger Delta region, comprising all leaders of the various people of the South-South geo-political zone. We arrived at peaceful methods of resolving the issues. Thereafter, we held series of meetings at my house in Abuja.
“In our interactions during that period, one main complain of the people was the fear that Your Excellency’s government had adopted a cold attitude towards issues affecting the Niger Delta region, after the exit of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as President of the country, prosecuting those from the region who served in his government I am a victim of such prosecution when my residence in Abuja was invaded on 4th September, 2018, by security men from the Tactical Squad, a Monitoring Team in the Office of the Inspector General of Police, who came in two vans, fully armed, to search my house with a Search Warrant obtained from a Magistrate Court in Abuja. The operation lasted for about two hours.
” I wrote to Your Excellency, through my lawyer, Dr. Kayode Ajulo, Esq. But Your Excellency never replied. Then, I was 91 years old. If this had happened to any of my contemporaries in the North, from Kano State, KatsinaState, Sokoto State, Kaduna State, etc, Your Excellency’s attitude, I am sure, would have been different. The reason given by the Nigeria Police Force was that it had information that a hilux van loaded with arms from the Niger Delta region, was being off-loaded into my residence.
“The invasion attracted several reactions from various quarters in the country. Several persons and groups solidarised with me; some of them include former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, former Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, rtd., former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, a seven-man delegation from the Akwa Ibom State Government which comprised serving and past members of National Assembly and other dignitaries.
“The Ijaw youths reacted in Port Harcourt, Yenagoa and Warri, demonstrated and protested the invasion. Their action, was instrumental to my quick acceptance of the apology tendered by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), through a delegation he sent to me led by Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Habila Joshak. Others were two Assistant Inspectors General of Police (AIG), and one Commissioner of Police.
“Also, apart from the persecutions, there were also grave concerns about marginalisations and abandonment of ongoing projects in the region. Arising from these, the PANDEF, developed a 16-Point Agenda, to ensure inclusiveness of the region in the programmes and activities of your government. We also began to engage various agencies of the Federal Government.
“Ultimately, on 1st November, 2016, the leadership of the people of the Niger Delta led by me, paid you a visit at the Presidential Villa. The visit was facilitated by the then Minister of State, Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachichukwu, included all the federal leaders, high office holders, key traditional leaders, religious, women and youth leaders.
He further told the President that the area is sitting on a keg of gunpowder, adding that any attempt to scrap the amnesty program may produce unpleasant consequences to all.
He added that people from the region 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 solve 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 will soon be 95 years old, and I am on my way out. God may soon give me my delayed boarding pass, but the coastal Niger Delta will remain forever as part of Nigeria.
“I strongly advise you to listen and heed to the various open letters I have written to you,” he said.