NIGERIA – Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, has described the failure of the federal government delegation to attend the meeting scheduled with key stakeholders of the South South geopolitical zone in Porth-Harcourt, Rivers State, as clear demonstration of contempt and disdain on the zone.
The FG had scheduled a meeting with stakeholders from the region on Tuesday in Rivers State to discuss critical national issues but failed to show up after traditional rulers, governors, Clergymen, elders, leaders, women and youths had gathered at the venue.
The presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu in a statement on Wednesday said President Muhammadu Buhari summoned an emergency security meeting which prevented the top government officials from making it to the meeting.
But the National Chairman of PANDEF and former military administrator, Akwa Ibom, State, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanang (rtd) said the reason given by the presidency was ‘untenable and unacceptable.’
In a press statement tagged “One Insult too many” made available on Wednesday, Nkanang demanded for a public apology saying, Mr. President wouldn’t treat a district head in his area the way he treated the traditional rulers, governors and elders who attended the meeting.
He added that it’s either the presidency apologized publicly or forgot any further thought of rescheduling the meeting.
According to him, “How else can anyone explain what happened if not a disrespect, disregard, and contempt to the entire South-south zone. They went to the north, south-west and south-east, met with the people, no emergency security meeting was summoned to stop them from attending those meetings. But when it was for the south-south zone, an emergency arose to scuttle the meeting. We have cross-checked and are yet to ascertain that there was any national security threatening situation to warrant their staying away.
“What they have told us, in essence, is that we do not matter but the truth is that We Do Matter. It is awful and preposterous for anyone to delude that we do not matter. That they can treat the region that has sustained the country for decades, in this way and manner, only speaks to the kind “upside-down thinking that kept the country in this way.”
The PANDEF Chairman, however, expressed reservations that the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, a seasoned diplomat of global repute, could involve in this act and wondered why the Ministers and other top government officials from the south south geopolitical zone were not present for the meeting, querying if they were also part of the emergency security meeting at the presidential villa or had foreknowledge of the plan to botch the meeting.
He said they were not surprised at the occurrences due to persistent inconsistencies, discrimination and injustice against the Niger Delta region by this administration for the past five years.
The statement added, “Recall that on 1st November 2016, we visited President and presented the 16-Point Agenda, which encapsulates critical concerns and interests of the People of the entire Niger Delta Region, to the Federal Government. Four years after, the 16-Point Demand has remained unattended to by the Buhari administration except the establishment of the Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State and the launch of Ogoni Clean-up whose status is unclear to us.
“That is why Zamfara gold is for Zamfara people while Niger Delta crude oil is for the whole of Nigeria. And why they have not added an inch of construction to the critical East-West road in the over five years of the administration.
“Let it be known to them that whether they desire to meet with us or not, the people of the South-South Geopolitical Zone have taken a firm stand on the issue of restructuring of Nigeria. We are the biggest victims of Nigeria’s flawed federal system. All we want is true federalism!”