Clark To Buhari: We Brought Peace To Niger Delta Region Not You

Leader of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) and foremost Ijaw nationalist, Chief Edwin Clark, has rejected President Muhammadu Buhari’s claim that his administration brought peace to the Niger Delta, saying instead, that it was a result of the effort of the people in the area.

In an open letter to the president made available to the media in Abuja, on Thursday, the elder statesman pointed out that the assumption of Buhari to power saw a resurgence in the insecurity in the Niger Delta, causing the leaders in the region to act.

He recalled what the administration did was to set up a military operation named “Crocodile Smile,” which he said failed to solve the problem.

Clark said: “Your Excellency was specifically quoted to have said that your government has succeeded in improving upon peace in the North East and South-South, from what you inherited.

“Your Excellency, I beg to, somewhat, disagree with you on the general state of insecurity in the country, which is presently, in a state of near collapse. Of more concern to me is your claims with respect to the Niger Delta or the South-South zone.

“No doubt, a good amount of peace has come to the Niger Delta in the past few years. However, your claim as having been the main architect that brought the peace does not properly convey what transpired.

“If you will recall, Your Excellency, before your government came on board, insecurity which had reduced substantially during the tenure of your predecessor, resumed in a very alarming rate.

“The period saw the emergence of a new group, the Niger Delta Avengers, which virtually held your government hostage, oil production went down to as low as about 800,000 barrels per day. Your government adopted a military approach to quell the agitations, by deploying the so-called ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ in August 2016, which did not in any way solve the problem.

“I recall meeting the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, rtd, at the Benin Airport, returning to Abuja, after he had launched the operation in Sapele, Delta State. I knew from that moment, that the operation will not succeed, as it will be the second time the Army was carrying out the attack in the creeks of the Niger Delta.

“In order to solve the problem in a pragmatic way, I convened a meeting of leaders and elders of the Niger Delta at the Conference Hall of the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Effurun, Delta State on Friday, August 16, 2016, to seek for peaceful solutions to restore peace to the region where the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) was birthed, as the umbrella body of the Niger Delta region, comprising all leaders of the various people of the South-South geo-political zone. We arrived at peaceful methods of resolving the issues.

The former federal commissioner of information alleged that the Buhari administration assumed a cold attitude toward the Niger Delta and started out persecuting the people who served in President Goodluck Jonathan’s government.

He added: “Thereafter, we held series of meetings at my house in Abuja. In our interactions during that period, one main complaint of the people was the fear that Your Excellency’s government had adopted a cold attitude towards issues affecting the Niger Delta region, after the exit of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as President of the country, prosecuting those from the region who served in his government.

“I am a victim of such prosecution when my residence in Abuja was invaded on  September 4, 2018, by security men from the Tactical Squad, a Monitoring Team in the Office of the Inspector General of Police, who came in two vans, fully armed, to search my house with a Search Warrant obtained from a Magistrate Court in Abuja. The operation lasted for about two hours.

“I wrote to Your Excellency, through my lawyer, Dr Kayode Ajulo, Esq. But Your Excellency never replied. Then, I was 91 years old.

“If this had happened to any of my contemporaries in the North, from Kano State, Katsina State, Sokoto State, Kaduna State, etc, Your Excellency’s attitude, I am sure, would have been different.

“The reason given by the Nigeria Police Force was that it had information that a hilux van loaded with arms from the Niger Delta region, was being off-loaded into my residence.

“The invasion attracted several reactions from various quarters in the country. “

Clark reminded the president that he had written to him to outline the marginalisation in the region encapsulated in a 16-point agenda, which had called on the administration to apply to ensure inclusiveness of the region in the programmes and activities of the Buhari’s government.

He also recalled the series of meetings that followed with both the President and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo where they had assured that the issues would be resolved.

However, Clark maintained: “At both meetings with you and the Vice President referred to above, we were reassured that serious and prompt actions will be taken to address our concerns, which you yourself agreed with us, are genuine, mentioning the sacrifices which we continue to make and the sufferings we continue to bear as the goose that lays the golden egg in this country.

“As a follow up to our visit, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, as Acting President, undertook a tour of the Niger Delta region, to see things for himself.

“Unfortunately, sadly and disappointedly, the promises Your Excellency and the Vice President, as Acting President, made, are far from being looked into, not to talk about considering and executing them.”

He itemized the issues still bothering the region, saying: “For example, the East-West Road project, the major road connecting the region with other regions, remains uncompleted, nearly 20 years since commencement, despite the fact that a substantial portion of the revenue of the country’s earnings, which finances the nation’s budget running into trillions of naira, is derived from this region.

“Today, another environmental pollution is threatening the life span of the people of the region, and that is the sooth, said to emit from the activities of illegal refineries. This is what could have been avoided if the Federal Government’s continuous promises of building modular refineries did not remain a mirage, a pipe dream, an empty promise.

“At the different State capitals and towns, Prof. Osinbajo visited during his tour, he promised that modular refineries will be built to replace the local refining the people are doing. While one is not in support of these youths, but they have to survive, since nothing has been done, almost after five years, the youths have to survive and so continued with the artisanal refining despite its health hazard to them and others.

“Related to the above-failed promise, is also the failed promise of relocation of the operational headquarters of the oil companies to the Niger Delta.

“Yet again, is the failed or lackadaisical attitude of the Federal Government at the snail pace with no substantial work done concerning the Ogoni clean-up.

“What about the oil pollutions, which still take place every day, and is being poorly regulated? The recent case of oil spillage at the Santa Barbara in Nembe, Bayelsa State, which went on without being stopped for 38 days, with more than 100,000 (one hundred thousand) barrels of crude released into the environment is still fresh in our memories.”

The elder statesman noted that it is obvious that the administration is treating the people of the Niger Delta shabbily.

He stated: “But they are all self-evident that the people of the Niger Delta region are being treated very badly and shabbily.”

According to him, previous warnings were not heeded, until the crisis erupted and all manners of agitations surfaced.

Clark restated that the Niger Delta is sitting on a keg of gun powder that may explode if something is not done.

He told Buhari in the letter: “Mr President, may I make it very clear to you that the area is sitting on a keg of gunpowder, and any attempt to scrap the amnesty program may produce unpleasant consequences to all.

“Our people are very conscious of the developments that your government is carrying out in other areas of the country with monies derived from oil exploration in their area.

“We repeat, our agitation against the use of money looted from our area by the late Gen. Sani Abacha, which was recovered from the United States of America, exclusively for the construction of the so-called mega projects by the Federal Government, and the illegal confiscation of 2.4 million pounds from the British government as loot recovered from the former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, under the flimsy excuse by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, that it was the Federal Government, which as a nation, negotiated with the British government. And that it was an agreement between the two governments that the money should be used for federal projects. This is not true.

“Meanwhile, federal roads in the Niger Delta region have mostly collapsed and applying these funds to rehabilitate these collapsed roads, would have gone a long way to solve some of our problems.

“Please Mr President, I respectfully wish to state that your claim of bringing peace to the South-South geo-political zone, is untenable, untrue and without foundation.

“The deliberate neglect of the South-South can lead to the explosion of the keg of gunpowder upon which we are sitting in the Niger Delta.

“I will soon be 95 years old, and I am on my way out. God may soon give me my delayed boarding pass, but the coastal Niger Delta will remain forever as part of Nigeria.

“I strongly advise you to listen and heed to the various open letters I have written to you.”

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