By Ebi Perekeme
Barring any last minute intervention, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), a non-political organisation of the Niger Delta people, has warned that it would not hesitate to drag the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the United Nations (UN) over what it described as “an affront to national character.”
PANDEF said that the Buhari government has made history as the only administration that does not respect the principle of true federalism in terms of equality and fairness in appointments and distribution of national wealth.
The Forum said that having exhausted all known democratic avenues to extract a commitment from the federal government to consider the wellbeing of the Niger Delta region which produces about 96% of crude that is the nation’s economic mainstay, “we will have no option than to take this government to the International Court of Justice and the United Nations where we are sure of justice.”
Speaking in an exclusive telephone interview in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Saturday, the National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, said that since 2016, the Forum has been making entreaties to the Buhari government to consider the Niger Delta an important region in terms of its huge economic contribution, but to no avail.
Robinson recalled that on November 1, 2016, PANDEF visited the President with a 16-point agenda out of which only two; the Ogoni cleanup project and the establishment of the Maritime University at Okerenkoko, Delta State, were granted by the government.
He regretted the injustice in the appointments into the top management positions of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), in which only one slot out of nine was allotted to the Niger Delta region.
“Top management positions of the NNPC and its subsidiaries, departments and ventures are held by people from the north, a region that does not produce an ounce of oil.
“We are going to the ICJ because we do not have confidence in Nigeria’s jurisprudence. We will seek justice from the International Court. We may be tempted to approach the United Nations. We want them to tell us if this is the way to treat a region that produces 96 percent of crude that a nation feeds on.
“We must end this injustice. When we exhaust every available democratic means of resolving our problems and there is no remedy, the Niger Delta people may take the law into their hands. Not by violence, but by following every international protocol,” he lamented.
The PANDEF spokesman said that if the Buhari government does not take an urgent step to correct this malady in the NNPC, “things will not be the same again in the Niger Delta and Nigeria generally,” adding that “the region cannot continue to feed the nation while it dies in penury and in the midst of plenty.”
According to him, Nigeria is a federation by name and not by practice.
“This is why we have been calling for restructuring and true federalism. Until there is restructuring and true federalism, the Niger Delta will continue to grapple in the thick darkness of poverty and deliberate neglect.
“The vexatious composition of the NNPC board in 2016 and the lopsided management re-organization of the Corporation in 2017, left the Niger Delta region out without any consideration. This is enough to make anybody angry and seek justice anywhere he can get it,” he said.
It will be recalled that only last week, the leadership of PANDEF wrote another open letter to President Buhari listing the lopsided appointments in the NNPC and its subsidiaries to the chagrin of the Niger Delta people.
PANDEF, in the letter signed by Robinson, rejected the deliberate and calculated sidelining of Niger Delta indigenes in appointments and redeployments in the NNPC and its subsidiaries.
The group said the region’s marginalisation at the national oil corporation became even more pronounced in the March 2020 promotions and reorganisation, which further isolated the Niger Delta from its mainstream management structure.
PANDEF stated, “Today, under Mr. President’s watch, the paradoxical and dismal reality is that in the management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), through which the federal government regulates and participates in the country’s petroleum industry that operates in our backyards, virtually all top management positions of the corporation and its subsidiaries, departments, and ventures are held by persons from the northern zones of the country that do not produce an ounce of oil, to the exclusion of indigenes of oil-producing communities of Niger Delta region.”
PANDEF listed 20 management positions held by northerners in NNPC to include Group Managing Director (GMD), Mele Kyari; Chief Finance Officer, Finance and Accounts, Umar Ajiya; Chief Operating Officer, Gas and Power, Yusuf Usman; Chief Operating Officer, Corporate Services, Farouk Garba Sa’id; Chief Operating Officer, Refining and Petrochemicals, Mustapha Yakubu; Corporate Secretary/Legal Adviser to the Corporation, Hadiza Coomassie; GGM, International Energy Relations, IER, Omar Ibrahim; GGM, Renewable Energy, Kallamu Abdullahi; GGM, Governance Risk and Compliance, Ibrahim Birma; and GGM, NAPIMS, Bala Wunti.
Others are MD, NNPC Shipping, Inuwa Waya; MD, Pipelines and Product Marketing, PPMC, Musa Lawan; MD, Nigeria Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, Mansur Sambo; MD, Duke Oil/ NNPC Trading Company, Lawal Sade; MD, Port Harcourt Refining Company, Malami Shehu; MD, Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company, Muhammed Abah; MD, Nigeria Gas Marketing Company, Abdulkadir Ahmed; MD, Nigeria Gas and Power Investment Company Limited, Salihu Jamari; MD, NNPC Medical Services, Mohammed Zango; and Director, Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, Sarki Auwalu.
PANDEF stated that the entire southern Nigeria was allotted only three top management positions in the NNPC.
However, a high ranking government official who does not want his name in print told Sunday Independent that the federal government would not like to join issues with PANDEF on the issue.
“When you talk of lopsidedness, you have to take a holistic view of the whole appointments from the Permanent Secretary to the Directors. You might not get the whole appointments until you get a comprehensive list of all the appointments. But like I said, we don’t want to join.