Niger Delta Leaders presented 16-point request before President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday asking, among other things, for the restoration of peace in the region.
Chief Alfred Diete-Spiff, the Chairman of Bayelsa State Traditional Council, confirmed this development to State House correspondents in Abuja after a meeting between President Buhari and Niger Delta Leaders.
According to Diete-Spiff, some of the other demands bordered on the need to fast-track interventions on some of the indicative regional infrastructure, the Presidential Amnesty Programme, law and Justice as well as the need to reconsider the planned deployment of more armed forces to the Niger Delta.
He said the plight of Internally Displaced Persons, the Ogoni Clean-up and Environmental Remediation, the issue of Maritime University, Okerenkoko and security surveillance as well as protection of oil and gas infrastructure, were part of the demands.
Diete-Spiff said the Niger Delta Leaders also presented the issues of the relocation of administrative and operational headquarters of oil companies to the region, power supply, inclusive participation in oil industry and ownership.
“The 16-point included, generally, infrastructure development, manpower and human resources and of course, you have the welfare of the people.
“These are the main things. The locations of the oil companies, is one of the points that we pointed out.
“These IOCs (international oil companies) have their headquarters somewhere in Lekki or Abuja and even their operational headquarters are not within the area of their operations.
“This is not right because even the `pay as you earn tax’ is not coming to the region.
“The workers, nobody is engaged locally there; they just come and harvest and go away.
“The presence of the military, of course, you know, has been agitating the boys and that too we said it should be reversed.’’
Diete-Spiff assured that the people of the Niger Delta region remained committed to achieving peace and progress of the country.
He stated that the region had resolved to help the President Buhari-led administration to succeed.
He said, “our position, we hasten to add, takes full cognizance of the current parlous state of our economy”.
“We would also like to assure you that we the people of the Niger Delta, as patriotic and law-abiding citizens, remain committed to the unity, peace and progress of this great country.
“Our resolve as Niger Delta Leaders is to do all, within our power, to help this administration to succeed.
“In particular, is the urgent need for us to pull the national economy out of recession through a speedy solution to the spate of militant agitation.
“We are therefore, totally committed to creating the right environment, in our communities to ensure that the wealth, which God has placed in our own part of the country, continues to be available to the benefit of all.’’
The Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, who also spoke at the event, said the Niger Delta stakeholders also asked for the review of the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme and proper funding of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
He said the stakeholders also asked for business opportunities especially allocation of oil blocs to indigenes, and also some level of support for those who were displaced as a result of the activities of the militants in the region.
Kachikwu expressed delight that the involvement of traditional and community leaders had started yielding fruitful results.
He revealed that about 2.1million daily production of barrel of crude oil was achieved as of Oct. 31.
Chief Edwin Clarke, an elder statesman, dismissed the insinuation that there had been rifts between President Buhari-led administration and the people of the Niger Delta region.
Clarke, who also spoke on president Buhari’s reaction at the meeting, said the president was impressed and happy with the deliberation.
Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, who also briefed the correspondents on the outcome of the meeting, said the ongoing negotiations were largely about the future of the Niger Delta region.
He, however, condemned the criminality and destruction of valuable national assets by some militants in the region.
According to the governor, the people of the region were not agitating for withdrawal of security agencies safeguarding valuable installations and infrastructure in the region, as being insinuated in some quarters.
“It’s good that we understand the issue of military presence in the Niger Delta as separate from military occupation of communities.
“I don’t think that our elders are asking for the military to be withdrawn from the Niger Delta.
“That will create chaos. What they are requesting is that military presence or military occupation of communities should not be.
“But, the military presence will have to be there to ensure that we are able to attend to all forms of criminality and I think that there has been a lot of response from the Federal Government in that regard”, he said.
The Niger Delta region has been witnessing social unrest, occasioned by the activities of militant groups, leading to cut in Nigeria’s oil output.
The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Alhaji Maikanti Baru, was quoted as saying that “Nigeria lost over $7bn (around N2 trillion) to militancy and pipeline vandalism since the beginning of the year’’.
According to him, the supply disruptions have significantly affected the country’s oil exports. (NAN)