Following the alarm raised by Edwin Clark over a letter expressing unease and impatience with the Federal Government’s stated delay in facilitating engagement, NIGER DELTA Revolutionary Crusaders (NDRC), one of the militant groups that wrote the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) led by Clark, has announced that it will commence fresh attacks on oil facilities across the Niger Delta on “September 31 (sic), 2017”.
This development is coming at a time when the intense debate over restructuring is enveloping the country, with groups from the different regions engaged in heated exchanges especially around the issue of fiscal autonomy.
It is also emerging against the backdrop of a fierce agitation for secession, championed by Biafra-supporting groups like Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) led by the divisive Nnamdi Kanu, but which is now gaining traction in other parts of the country, as pan-Yoruba groups have also recently called for the establishment of Oduduwa Republic, while a Southern Kaduna group has pitched tent with IPOB.
This cloud of uncertainty and anxiety was further darkened, many argue, by the National Assembly, as it failed to address restructuring in the just-concluded constitution review process.
Political watchers and some long-term advocates for restructuring had expressed the view that the National Assembly had a unique and historic opportunity to rescue the country from its internal strains, failure of which will only likely heighten agitations.
Some observers even specifically claimed that without a real effort at addressing the restructuring issue, which has been the thrust of the Niger Delta agitation for years, the likelihood of a return to militancy was high.
The NDRC, as well as the Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators comprising different groups, expressed disappointment in the leadership of PANDEF, saying it had not advanced the interests of the region in the its engagement with the federal government.
They also flayed the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for failing to effect substantial change in the region.
They accused the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru Usani, of being insensitive to the plight of the people.
In its own statement, NDRC, through its spokesperson, W O I Izon Ebi, said: “We have resolved and are more determined to use all necessary means to take back our heritage by stopping all oil and gas exploration and exportation in Niger Delta come September 31 (sic), 2017. And when that time comes, heaven will not fall.
“We have resolved that resource control, fiscal federalism and devolution of powers are the only panacea. Anything short of that will not be acceptable to NDRC and the 21st century agitators of the Niger Delta.
“Our elders and distinguished personalities of PANDEF have tried in their advocacy. We realize that the balancing act of being elder statesmen and resource control advocates can be a very touchy act. That is why our goal is in consonance with the vision of Niger Delta’s emerging youth leaders in the clamour for resource control.
“The Nigerian nation should be grateful to PANDEF and most especially the acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who was so sincere in trying to do things in line with the best global practices of this 21st century, but the Nigerian elite and state, who feed fat on the resources of the Niger Delta do not care about the plight of the Niger Delta people.”
Claiming that NDRC was speaking on behalf of the present agitators, who jointly signed the agreement with the Federal Government to observe the ceasefire in return for a holistic solution for the problem facing the region, Izon Ebi said: “Our grievance with government is that after the consolatory statement of the government by Prof. Osinbajo, nothing is on ground to show sincerity by government.
“Our grievance is borne out of the insincerity of Nigeria’s past and current leaders who after using out wealth and resources to build both Lagos and Abuja and even stealing for themselves and their unborn children, decided to bequeath a degraded environment to us and our children.”
In similar vein, the coalition issued a scathing statement. Representing their different groups were, General John Duku (Niger Delta Watchdogs) and convener Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators, General Ekpo Ekpo (Niger Delta Volunteers), General Osarolor Nedam (Niger Delta Warriors), Major-Gen. Henry Etete (Niger Delta Peoples Fighters), Major-Gen. Asukwo Henshaw (Bakassi Freedom Fighters), Major-Gen. Ibinabo Horsfall (Niger Delta Movement for Justice), Major-Gen. Duke Emmanson (Niger Delta Fighters Network), Major-Gen. Inibeghe Adams for Niger Delta Freedom Mandate and Major-Gen. Abiye Tariah for Niger Delta Development Network.
They said, “While the other zones in the South are following the political trend in the country and responding proportionately, PANDEF has stuck itself to a request for the appointment of a dialogue team that will not bring any development to the people of the Niger Delta as it will be based on the letters of the skewed constitution. PANDEF leadership unfortunately, does not see the hand writing on the wall; that the Government of Nigeria is not prepared to set up a dialogue team. Therefore, we cannot continue to follow a leadership that has remained myopic.
“It is, therefore, our belief that the direction of PANDEF leadership, the activities of NDDC and the Minister of Niger Delta are retrogressive, not proactive, lack dynamism, and can no longer be acceptable to us.
“Consequently, we in the Coalition of the Niger Delta Agitators have resolved as follows: We are withdrawing our support, recognition and our alignment with the activities of PANDEF under the current leadership.
“We are going to chart a new path that will reflect the current level of agitation in line with other zones and go for Niger Delta Sovereignty rather than the lousy clamour for the obsolete 16 – Point Agenda and the call for a dialogue team.
“We know that with the resources in our territory under our control, the Niger Delta will do better than 16-point-agenda PANDEF is clamouring for. We use this opportunity to call on other agitators across the Niger Delta to jettison the direction of the current leadership of PANDEF and and let us align to take our destiny in our hands.
Recall that after Clark’s alarm, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo had gone to the Niger Delta to hold talks and assure of the government’s commitment to meaningful engagement.
The Nigerian government will be worried about this threat as it will disrupt economic recovery plans should it materialize. At a time when the country is battling to bring the economy back from recession, any significant disruption of oil production will deal a major damage.