Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu in Abuja
Elder Statesman and Leader of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clark, has accused former President Olusegun Obasanjo of growing the disdain and insincerity for the people of Niger Delta.
Obasanjo, had at a recent event organised by the Global Peace Foundation in collaboration with Vision Africa, made utterances that were viewed to be against the Niger Delta region as regards resource control.
The former president had in his comments at the interactive session said oil found in the Niger Delta region does not belong to the people of the Niger Delta.
Clark in a personal letter to Obasanjo yesterday while expressing his disappointment, said the former president’s comment represent his unending arrogant stance and disposition against the Niger Delta Region.
While commending Obasanjo for finding time to visit him recently in his Abuja residence to check on his wellbeing and state of health, the former Federal Commissioner for Information assured him that the people of the Niger Delta will always rise to defend themselves and their region.
The elder statesman also said that henceforth, together with other groups with whom they are working, the Afenifere of South West, the Middle Belt Forum, and the Ohaneze of the South-east, they will take a critical look at any ‘hypocritical’ dialogue Obasanjo wants to invite them to, or co-chaired by him, until their rights under the Constitution, according to him, are recognised and respected.
He further said the ‘open letter’ also serves as notice that they have withdrawn from the communique issued by Obasanjo at the end of the two days’ meeting.
The letter entitled, ‘My disappointment over your unprovoked outburst against the People of the Niger Delta region,’ read in part: “This is in spite of the environmental damages the region is suffering. Your Excellency did not deem it fit to empathise with the people of Nembe, Bayelsa State, in the recent pipeline explosion which has inflicted untold hardship on the people of the area and caused humungous damage to the area; the aquatic life is destroyed.”
The people can no longer engage in their major source of livelihood, fishing, can no longer be practiced. There is hunger; starvation is staring at the faces of people, including infants. The soot in Rivers State has assumed an alarming dimension with no hope of abating in the near future. The only thing people like Your Excellency, are thinking of, is how much a barrel of oil cost, how much revenue is continuously accruing to the country from the despoiled and ravaged Niger Delta region. A region where there is not even water to drink. To Your Excellency, the oil belongs to the country, while the sufferings belong to the people of the region.
“I am not surprised because your open hostility for the Niger Delta region was equally displayed when derivation went down as low as 0 per cent during your period as Military Head of State. Even the current 13 per cent, which happened reluctantly under your government later, came about after a sustained legal action to force you to implement what was provided for by the 1999 Constitution. The 2005 Political reform Conference recommended 18 per cent. But the South-South delegates to the conference led by me, were against it. As we demanded nothing less than 25 per cent for a start. When we saw the hostility against us, we staged a walk-out.
The 2014 National Conference recommended 18 per cent. Your Excellency’s disdain and insincerity for the Niger Delta region has not in any way reduced. We still remember the fact that as President of the country, in 1999, you drafted the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) bill as one of your first Bills, but later refused to sign it into Law. You also decided not to pay the full entitlement to the Commission until you left office. You tried to kill the Brass Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), by bringing your proxy, Engr. Funso Kupolokun from retirement to be the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to pursue the failed Olukola Liquified Natural Gas project; as a result, Chevron withdrew its shares from the Brass LNG company.”