At last, President Muhammadu Buhari has invited the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PNDF, established by Niger Delta leaders, penultimate Friday, to a meeting, next week Saturday, October 29, in Abuja for talks before commencing an acceptable dialogue with the stakeholders and representatives of militant groups.
It is learnt that President’s Buhari’s invitation to the meeting was conveyed to the PNDF, by former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, at the weekend.
It was also gathered that because of the importance of the inaugural meeting of PNDF with Buhari, Chief Clark, might likely head the team. Former governor of Akwa Ibom state, Obong Victor Attah and former military governor of the defunct Rivers state, His Royal Majesty, King Alfred Diette-Spiff, chairman of the former Niger Delta Contact and Dialogue Group, NDCDG, which merged with the Pan Niger-Delta Coastal States Consultative Forum, October 7, Abuja, are co-chairmen of the Central Working Committee, CWC of PNDF.
Members of the coalition recently convened by the Minister of Transport, Hon Rotimi Amaechi, Traditional Rulers of Oil Producing Communities of Nigeria, TROMPCON, and other groups, who merged together form PNDF are also part of the October 29 delegation to Abuja.
Secretary of PNDF, Mr. Ledum Mitee, confirmed that he was aware of the invitation by President Buhari to meet with PNDF on October 29.
It was not clear if it was the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, that notified PNDF of the meeting, but a source said: “It could be him because he has been working behind the scene with the leaders to ensure that the Niger Delta quagmire is resolved.”
It is learnt that a 35-man, including members of the CWC was likely to make the delegation to be selected from all ethnic nationalities that make up the Niger Delta coastal states.
Members of the CWC include the former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, Brig. General Don Idada Ikponmwen (retd); former Special Adviser to the President of Niger Delta, Chief Timi Alaibe; Professor G.G. Darah; Professor Lucky Akaruese; Nella Ewan, SAN; and Dr. Alfred Mulade.
Also in the CWC are ex-military governor of Akwa Ibom state, Air- Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, Engr. Don Ben; T.K. Ogoriba; Ken Robinson; former Permanent Secretary, Amb. Godknows Igali; Tony Uranta; Amb Nkoyo Toyo; former national president of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Dr Chris Ekiyor.
South -South leaders had stressed before the Abuja merger the need for them to meet with President Buhari and brief him on the actual problem of the region and how he could resolve it. They do not believe that militarization of the region would solve the problem, but they also deplored bombing of oil pipelines by militants from the region. The leaders also want President Buhari to head the negotiation team and know that Niger-Delta was not a conquered territory and would want to remain as a part of the country despite the threat by militants, if treated fairly.
The main militant group in the region, the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, had since August, surrendered its power of attorney to Niger Delta leaders, led by Chief Clark, which the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger-Delta, MEND, which initially claimed to be discussing with the federal government, had also bowed to the leaders.