An elder statesman and convener of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Chief Edwin Clark, has accused the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration of taking the patience and patriotism of the people of the region for granted over his alleged failure to implement the 16-point demand submitted to him since 2016.
Clark, who decried the continued underdevelopment of the region, however, challenged the Federal Government to disclose the share of the region in the N510bn it claimed to have invested particularly in infrastructural development in the last three years in the country.
Speaking on Wednesday at a press conference in his Kiagbodo country home, Delta State, the PANDEF leader also alleged that jobs opening in the nation’s oil industry had been skewed in favour of the North as unemployed youths including graduates of the amnesty programme were denied such opportunities.
The briefing, which was attended by a former Minister of Police Affairs, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, Chief Emmanuel Okumagba, an erstwhile chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in Delta State, Dr Pius Sinebe and other prominent leaders in the region, also had representatives of the youths.
Clark, who described as appalling the attention of the Federal Government to the plight of the region, warned that the patience of the people of the region especially the youths was waning.
He, therefore, urged President Buhari to urgently take a proactive step to halt a fresh crisis in the region.
Clark said, “I want to remind you all, that our (PANDEF) intervention in the direction of peace and security has continued to help the national economy and contributed substantially to its exit out of recession. From a drop in oil production to 800,000 barrels per day in 2016, today NNPC is producing over 2.3 million barrels a day, a fourfold increase.
“The 16-point agenda which we submitted to Mr President has yet to be properly addressed. The only tangible item that has been attended to is the take-off of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State. Our other requests such as the setting up of a Joint Negotiating Team for sustainable peace, relocation of oil companies back to the region…are all totally neglected or being addressed with unfulfilled promises.”
While also debunking the Nigerian military claims that their presence in the region had led to a sharp increase in the nation’s oil production and halted attacks by suspected Niger Delta militants, the former minister stressed that the current peace in the region was a result of the intervention of PANDEF.
Clark added, “Let me note that the total federal budget in the last three years has been as follows: 2016(N6.07tn); 2017 (N7.44tn); now N9.1tn has been appropriated for 2018. Similarly, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo announced a few days ago that the Federal Government had so far invested N510bn on infrastructural development in the last three years. Let me also recall a recent statement by the Minister of Finance that the 2017 budget was overspent by a large sum of N1.6tn.
“Can the Federal Government in truth and good conscience tell us how much of this mammoth sum came to fund projects in the Niger Delta? Is this fair, just and equitable? Is this how people who contribute so much to sustain national economy should be treated?
“We want to call on the Federal Government, once more to retrace its steps regarding the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg. We continue to enjoin our people to be law- abiding and peaceful, but the total non-action and disregard are eroding the trust which our people place in our ability to continue to interface on their behalf.
“We are not second-class citizens in this country and demand to be treated with respect and dignity. Our young people and communities must not always be provoked to adopting unorthodox means to pursue their legitimate and unalienable rights as Nigerians and particularly as communities from where the wealth of the country is coming.”
While calling on President Buhari to, without delay, redirect a correction of the various imbalances against the region, he warned that “the patience of the youths and other critical stakeholders in the region is waning.