The leader of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) and top Ijaw nationalist, Chief Edwin Clark, has dismissed President Muhammadu Buhari’s claim that his administration has brought peace to the Niger Delta, claiming instead that it was the result of the effort of the people of the area.
In an open letter to the president made available to the media in Abuja on Thursday, the veteran noted that Buhari’s rise to power has seen an upsurge in insecurity in the Niger Delta, pushing the region’s leaders to to act.
He recalled that what the administration did was set up a military operation named “Crocodile Smile”, which he says failed to solve the problem.
Clark said: “Your Excellency was specifically quoted for saying that your government has succeeded in improving peace in the North East and South South, thanks to what you have inherited.
“Your Excellency, please disagree with you somewhat on the general state of insecurity in the country, which is currently in a state of near collapse. What concerns me most are your claims concerning the Niger delta or the south-south zone.
“Without a doubt, a good dose of peace has arrived in the Niger Delta in recent years. However, your claim to have been the main architect who brought about peace does not accurately reflect what happened.
“If you recall, Your Excellency, before the arrival of your government, the insecurity which had reduced considerably during the mandate of your predecessor, resumed at 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 fell to around 800,000 barrels per day. Your government took a military approach to quell the unrest, deploying the so-called “Operation Crocodile Smile” in August 2016, which did nothing to solve the problem.
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“I remember meeting the former Army Chief of Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, rtd, at the airport in Benin, back in Abuja, after launching the operation in Sapele, Delta State. I knew from that moment, that the operation would not succeed, because it would be the second time that the army led the attack in the creeks of the Niger delta.
“In order to pragmatically resolve the issue, I have convened a meeting of Niger Delta leaders and elders at the boardroom of the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Effurun, Delta State on Friday 16 August 2016, to seek peaceful solutions to restore peace in the region where the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) was born, as the umbrella body of the Niger Delta region, comprising all the leaders of the different peoples of the South-South geopolitical zone. We have arrived at peaceful methods of problem solving.
The former Federal Information Commissioner alleged that the Buhari administration took a cold stance towards the Niger Delta and began persecuting people who served in President Goodluck Jonathan’s government.
He added, “Afterwards, we held a series of meetings at my house in Abuja. In our interactions during this period, one of the main complaints of the population was the fear that Your Excellency’s government had adopted a cold attitude towards the problems affecting the Niger Delta region, after the departure of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as president of the country, continuing those from the region who served in his government.
“I fell victim to such prosecution when my residence in Abuja was invaded on September 4, 2018 by security guards from the Tactical Squad, a surveillance team from 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 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., the attitude of Your Excellency, I am sure, would have been different.
“The reason given by the Nigerian police was that they had information that a hilux van loaded with weapons from the Niger Delta region was being unloaded at my residence.
“The invasion elicited several reactions from various parts of the country. “
Clark reminded the president that he had written to him describing the marginalization in the region summarized in a 16-point program, which had called on the administration to work to ensure the region’s inclusion in the programs and activities of the Buhari government.
He also recalled the series of meetings that followed with President and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo where they assured that the issues would be resolved.
However, Clark maintained: “During the two meetings with you and the Vice President mentioned above, we have been reassured that serious and prompt action will be taken to address our concerns, which you yourself have agreed with us. , are genuine, mentioning the sacrifices we continue to make and the sufferings we continue to bear as the goose that lays the golden eggs in this country.
“As a follow-up to our visit, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, as Acting President, embarked on a tour of the Niger Delta region, to see things for himself.
“Unfortunately, with sadness and disappointment, the promises made by Your Excellency and the Vice President, as Acting President, are far from being reviewed, let alone reviewed and executed.”
He detailed the issues that are still troubling the region, saying, “For example, the East-West road project, the main road linking the region to other regions, remains unfinished, almost 20 years after the start, despite the fact that a substantial part of the country’s revenue revenue, which funds the nation’s budget in the trillions of naira, comes from this region.
“Today, another environmental pollution threatens the life of the inhabitants of the region, and it is the soot, which would be emitted by the activities of the illegal refineries. This is what could have been avoided if the federal government’s continued promises to build modular refineries had not remained a mirage, a pipe dream, an empty promise.
“In the various capitals and cities of the state Professor Osinbajo visited during his tour, he promised that modular refineries would be built to replace the local refining that people are doing. Although we do not support these young people, but they must survive, since nothing has been done, almost after five years, the young people must survive and have therefore continued artisanal refining despite its danger to their health and that of others.
“Linked to the broken promise above, there is also the broken promise of the relocation of the operational headquarters of the oil companies to the Niger Delta.
“Again, it is the failed or nonchalant attitude of the federal government at a snail’s pace with no substantial work being done regarding the cleanup of the Ogoni.
“What about oil pollution, which still takes place every day and which is poorly regulated? The recent Santa Barbara oil spill case in Nembe, Bayelsa State, which continued unabated for 38 days, with over 100,000 (one hundred thousand) barrels of crude released into the environment is still fresh in our memories.
The eldest statesman noted that it is evident that the administration is treating the people of the Niger Delta badly.
He said, “But it is all obvious that the people of the Niger Delta region are being treated very badly and badly.”
According to him, the previous warnings went unheeded, until the crisis erupted and all kinds of unrest surfaced.
Clark reiterated that the Niger Delta is sitting on a barrel of gunpowder that can explode if left unchecked.
He told Buhari in the letter: “Mr. President, can I tell you very clearly that the region is sitting on a barrel of gunpowder, and any attempt to abandon the amnesty program may have unpleasant consequences. for everyone.
“Our people are very aware of the developments that your government is carrying out in other parts of the country with funds coming from oil exploration in their region.
“We repeat our agitation against the use of the money looted from our region by the late General Sani Abacha, which was recovered in the United States of America, exclusively for the construction of the so-called megaprojects by the federal government, and the illegal confiscation of £2.4million from the British government as loot recovered from former Delta State Governor Chief James Ibori under the flimsy excuse of Federation Attorney General 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 was to be used for federal projects. is not true.
“During this time, the federal roads in the Niger Delta region have mostly collapsed and the application of these funds to rehabilitate these collapsed roads would have gone a long way in solving some of our problems.
“Please, Mr. President, I would respectfully state that your assertion of bringing peace to the South-South geopolitical zone is untenable, false and baseless.
“Deliberate South-South negligence can lead to the explosion of the gunpowder barrel we are sitting on in the Niger Delta.
“I will soon be 95 years old and I am about to leave. God might give me my delayed boarding pass soon, but the Niger coastal delta will forever remain part of Nigeria.
“I strongly advise you to listen and consider the various open letters I have written to you.”