David Amusa,Port Harcourt
Anger over botched PANDEF meeting on restructuring… We’ll not be intimidated – Clark… It’s slap on face of Niger Delta People – Delegates …We stopped it to avert casualties – Police
There has been anger over the disruption of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) meeting on restructuring in Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers state.
It would be recalled that armed policemen blocked all entrances to Hotel Presidential, venue for the scheduled PANDEF meeting.
Global Patriot Newspapers, GPN, Correspondent, who covered the event shares the opinions and reactions of some of the delegates, invitees and Police concerning the cancelled programme .
The President-General of Okere-Urhobo Union and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, leader in Warri, Chief Sir Emmanuel Ono Okumagbe(JP) said he came on the mandate of his people to discuss critical issues affecting the people of the Niger Delta in the Nigerian political structure but was disappointed that the meeting involving prominent persons in the Niger Delta region could not hold while other regions had had an opportunity to discuss similar matters affecting their regions.
He said the disruption of the meeting was a slap on the face of Niger Delta people.
He, however, said he was told that the organizers never properly informed the governor of Rivers state, Barrister Nyesom Wike.
“I was invited to the meeting with a view to discuss a lot of issues affecting the Niger Delta as a people and its resources. I left Warri early in the morning and got to Port Harcourt at exactly 15 minutes to 10. I was booked to stay in the hotel. But since I got here, no proper communication from those who ought to be on ground to brief us or keep us in the picture of what is happening. But from feelers, we were told that the governor of Rivers state,Chief Nyesom Wike was not formally informed about this meeting”.
The PDP leader, however, said that even though the governor was not informed earlier that he ought to have been magnanimous to allow the meeting hold considering its importance to the people of the Niger Delta.
“I would have expected the governor to be magnanimous giving the number of persons who were hanging around, like us. He should have showed magnanimity by allowing things to go so that his anger will not be misinterpreted. He should be magnanimous in future if he does not show it now because Rivers state cannot be ignored on matters of PANDEF and the Niger Delta “.
When our correspondent spoke to another invitee, Hon. Elder Herbert Awortu, the Chairman of Host Communities of Nigeria Producing oil and gas (HOSTCOM),Rivers state, he proferred another reason why the meeting could not hold.
He said that there was this issue of bomb scare.
Awortu revealed that on arrival, one of the aide to Chief Edwin Clark told them about security threat and for that reason the meeting was cancelled.
“HOSTCOM was invited by PANDEF to come for the conference. At first, it was scheduled to hold on Tuesday at Government House, Port Harcourt and for strange reasons, which we cannot really explain, it was shifted to Thursday at Atlantic hall of Hotel Presidential. When we came we saw a very serious security not allowing us to enter the hotel. But all the same, Chief Edwin Clark who is the National Chairman of PANDEF sent his PA to come and see us outside. He said there was a security threat. HOSTCOM is driving towards getting over 13 percent derivation fund and for government to recognize us and give us RIVSOPADEC, which Delta State has gotten their own. Also, the gas flaring money of N98 billion, which has been hanging in the Senate”.
Another invitee Apostle Kelvin Ovuro Kelvin, facilitator for Izon National Female Congress World-wide, who felt frustrated attributed the cancellation of the meeting to the government who he accused of not wanting Niger Delta people to take a stand particularly on resource control’
“I came all the way from Yenagoa in Bayelsa state for the meeting which they call the 4th assembly of Pan Niger Delta Forum and I think it is a forum of eminent Niger Deltans who have converged here and from the lists of people who came are present and past governors, senators, House of Reps and Assembly members, opinion leaders, traditional leaders, youths organzations and women groups and the agenda has to do with the state of the nation. One thing you should know about the state of the nation is that it is talking about restructuring. I believe that what happened has to do with the state of the nation”.
On his own part, a member of PANDEF, Chief Anab Sar-igbe said security personnel came to block the hotel for no reason.
“It is the government, SSS and police that came to block the hotel for no reason. Well, they have done their worse. I don’t know who they are working for. I don’t know whether they are working for the peace of the Niger Delta or problem in the Niger Delta. Whatever trouble they are looking for, as Niger Delta leaders, we are not interested in whatever is their desire”, he stated
Also, on his own part, the National Chairman of PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clark said leaders of Niger Delta would not be intimidated by threats of the federal government to stop it from demanding justice for the people of the Niger Delta.
“No government can stop us and I want to apologize to all of you that were not able to come to the hotel for the meeting”.
Meanwhile PANDEF has condemned in strong terms the attitude of the federal government towards elders of the Niger Delta describing the disruption of the meeting as insensitivity and capable of causing the resumption of hostilities by militants in the Niger Delta region.
A statement issued in Port Harcourt and signed by Alfred Molade, the Coordinating Secretary, said the body considers the attempt by the agencies of the federal government to forcefully stop such a high level gathering of leaders of the region as totally unacceptable and a very disturbing precedence in our democratic evolution.
“ Leaders of other geo-political groups such as Arewa, Afenefere, Ohaneze and the like have never in the history of this country been subjected to such humiliation and show of high handedness”.
Meanwhile, the Rivers state Police command has stated that it blocked the hotel owing to security threats.
The Public Relations Officer of the Command, DSP. Nnamdi Omoni,said intelligence report revealed that a splinter group had planned to create crisis at the meeting.
He explained: “ We got security report that that meeting was going to cause breach of peace. So to that extent, we deployed our men massively to forestall any break down of law and order. Well, we perceived that there is a splinter group in that association that intended to go and cause some kind of crisis. If the police did not go there on time to stop that meeting, there would have been a lot of casualties”, he stated.