Niger Delta leaders, under the auspices of the Pan Niger Delta Peoples Congress, have planned a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in order to present to the Presidency a new template for lasting peace and security in the region.
The new body, which said it had been mandated by the coalition of the Niger Delta agitators to negotiate for the region, expressed optimism that the meeting with Buhari would hold in October this year.
The group of elders emerged a few weeks ago after the coalition of Niger Delta militants passed a vote of no confidence in the Chief Edwin Clark-led Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF).
The National Chairman, PNDPC, His Royal Majesty Charles Ayemi-Botu, said the new body was put in place to selflessly fight for the development of the region through dialogue with the Presidency.
Ayemi-Botu, a former National Chairman of Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals Producing Communities of Nigeria (TROMPCON) and paramount ruler of Seimbiri Kingdom, said the body was formed to change the negative narratives of the region.
He said: ”This is an all-encompassing Niger Delta people, who in consonance with our sons and daughters, agitating in the creeks, come together to see how we can provide a lasting solution to the age-long marginalisation and problems of the region.
”This body is independent of any other body. We have set up a strategic planning committee and after a month, we are now ready with our own vision and mission. We have just gone through it, circulated it among our members and in our subsequent meeting, we are going to adopt it and the world we know what we stand for.
”So, our being here is to show that we are a different set of people from the region that has the interest of the people of the region at heart. And we will in this October meet with the Presidency to discuss and come out with what and what we are going to do to better the lots of the people of the region.
”We know the problems of the region and we are going to present these problems to the Presidency. We want to make the Niger Delta region like ‘Dubai of Nigeria’ because nature in its infinite mercy has bestowed on us the ‘black gold’ which is the economic livewire of the country.
”Over 98 per cent of the gross domestic product is coming from oil; but because we have bad leadership, people who are self-centred, people who only feel to better themselves and leaving the rest to suffer, that is how we are where we are. But it is no longer going to be business as usual.”
He insisted that the group was not partisan adding that members comprised traditional rulers, religious leaders, eminent persons, technocrats, among others.
He said the activities of the group since its formation were the reason for the relative peace enjoyed in the region following commitment by militants to ensure ceasefire.
Ayemi-Botu said: ”You see last year when the agitators or freedom fighters went to the creeks and started destroying the economy. That added to the recession but when we came and asked for peace, they sheathed their swords and allowed peace to reign.
”The production that was up to 2.2million barrels went down to 700,000 barrels, but as at August when we met them and they embraced peace and ceasefire, you can see that our economy has jerked up to 2million barrels per day and the recession is gone.
”We pray that given the time and understanding of the Federal Government, the peaceful situation in the country and the upsurge in the production of oil in the country will continue and Nigeria and Niger Delta will not remain the same again.”
Also speaking, the National Coordinator, PNDPC, Chief Mike Loyibo, said the body was not formed to fight any group but to advance the peace, security and development of the region.
”Our mission is to see how we can advance the fulcrum of the Niger Delta people. We are not a political party, we have activists, clergy men, opinion leaders and we came together when we realised that there was a problem about leadership,” he said.