N-Delta dialogue: Buhari in search of genuine Niger Delta leaders— Presidency

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The Presidency may have discarded the various Niger Delta fora that have shown readiness to represent the militants in a dialogue with the Federal Government as it has commenced a fresh search for Niger Delta leaders, with control over militants, just as it yesterday, charged supporters of former President Goodluck Jonathan to move on, saying that the Jonathan government was gone and gone forever.   On the allegations raised against Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the Presidency also said that President Muhammadu Buhari would take a decision on it irrespective of whose ox is gored. PANDEF This came as a top executive of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, the umbrella body of traditional rulers, leaders and stakeholders of the coastal states of Niger Delta, Prof Lucky Akaruese, yesterday, said the allocation of a colossal N29 billion by the Buhari administration allegedly for military warfare in the Niger Delta, was a sign that he was hypocritical on his call for dialogue. Akaruese, a member of the Central Working Committee of PANDEF, in a statement, said: “If the President is truly sincere on dialogue as the surest way towards peace and progress in the Niger Delta, why is it that in another breathe, he is budgeting a whopping N29 billion to deploy military warfare in the region when the funds in question would go a long way in addressing the root causes of insurgency.” Ijaw youths call for negotiating team Also, Ijaw youths have called on President Buhari to show sincerity in addressing the Niger Delta crisis by peronally constituting the Federal Government negotiating team.   The youths, under the aegis of the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, worldwide, bemoaned the Federal Government’s delay to set up its negotiating team despite the preparedness of Niger Delta leaders and stakeholders to commence the negotiation process.   Special Adviser to the President on Media, Mr. Femi Adesina, spoke in an interview monitored on AIT, while responding to insinuations of a disconnect between the President and the Niger Delta. He expressed concern that repeated efforts by the Presidency to engage leaders of the region were yet to bear fruit, adding that two days after the last meeting between the President and regional leaders, a pipeline was destroyed. He said: “The President told the Niger Delta elders that visited him that it was important we get these militants under one umbrella because after you might have talked to this group, another group will come up. With this kind of arrangement, you won’t get to know the real people. This is why the President has given an assignment to certain people to determine how many these groups exist. They should speak with the leadership and ascertain what they want and how government can meet with them. The President has given out that assignment. “Do not forget that there was a major meeting with Niger Delta elders and leaders, traditional rulers and the second day after that meeting, there was sabotage of pipeline. Now, if the leaders had a meeting with Mr. President today and pipeline was sabotaged the following day, it shows something is wrong. And that is why Mr. President said everybody needs to come together under one umbrella and it is very critical and very important that they come under one umbrella so as to move these issues forward.”   Adesina also dismissed insinuations that the President was averse to visiting the South-South and South East regions, saying that the President would visit in due season. Expressing concern that several persons were still engrossed in the pre-2015 political mould, he said, “My personal opinion is that people need to realize that the elections had been won and the past government is gone. It is unfortunate that some people are still living in the memory of the past government.”   Promising a consideration of the report on the EFCC boss, he said: “The president will always do what is right and proper anytime, when the investigation report on Magu comes to him, he is going to look at it passionately and take a decision on it.”   Prof Akaruese of PANDEF, continuing, said “The root causes of the crisis in the Niger Delta, we all know are under development, neglect and marginalization, which have been copiously articulated in the 16-point dialogue issues submitted to Mr. President by PANDEF on November 1. “In fact, stakeholders in the Niger Delta region are in unison that the immediate take-off NMU, Okerenkoko remains a strong point to measure the readiness of government for the dialogue process, as against military option in the region.”   Ijaw youths through their Spokesman, Eric Omare in a statement in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, dismissed the recent call by President Buhari on Niger Delta agitators to come to the negotiation table as Christmas day rhetoric. The statement reads, “The call by Buhari on Niger Delta agitators to come to negotiation table is a subterfuge to deceive Nigerians and the world to create the false impression that the Federal Government was ready for dialogue whereas it is not. “The Buhari administration is the one frustrating attempts at negotiation and not Niger Delta agitators. The Niger Delta leaders and stakeholders have done everything possible to start the negotiation process which has been frustrated by the Federal Government. “We call on Buhari to demonstrate sincerity towards negotiating with the Niger Delta people by constituting the government negotiation team rather than Christmas day rhetoric.”
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