By Okiemute Okpomor A former Federal Information Commissioner and Ijaw nation leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, has said any planned or ongoing dialogue between the federal government and militants amounts to a nullity without involvement of Ijaw leaders and elders just as they said No to Niger Delta Republic.
Clark spoke on Saturday at an Ijaw leaders’ consultative council meeting in Warri attended by Hon, Seriake Dickson, Governor of Bayelsa State and Barr. Kingslry Otuaro, Deputy Governor, Delta State to reach a common ground on the renewed militancy and its impact in the Niger Delta and Nigeria.
In his opening remarks before the meeting went into closed door session he said, “This is not the first
time this kind of crisis is happening. In 2008 and 2009 similar incidents happened and Gbaramatu was affected. We elders and leaders intervened and we got Amnesty.”
Clark said that there are rumours making the rounds that the federal government is already negotiating with some of the militant groups without recourse to leaders and elders in Ijaw nation, adding, “today we hear that federal government is planning, already talking or negotiating with militants and nobody has consulted us.
“That will not work. These children are our children and we cannot fold our hands when they are being attacked and pretend not to notice. We must be involved in what government wants to do”
At the end of the closed door deliberations, the consultative forum of Ijaw leaders came up with a communiqué where they also ruled out calls for a republic and also called Ijaw militants who had vowed to declare a Niger Delta Republic to discard such, stressing that the Ijaw nation supports and wants restructuring instead.
According to the communiqué, “the Elders and Leaders of thoughts of the Ijaw nation call for the immediate restructuring of the Nigerian nation along the lines of peaceful federalism, and noticed that this is the panacea for the sustainable development of Nigeria. As a demonstration of sincerity of commitment to dialogue, Federal Government should immediately withdraw the military from all occupied Ijaw communities, particularly Gbaramatu kingdom. The meeting also calls on the FG to immediately release the 10 innocent students of Gbaramatu kingdom.”
On the leadership of Ijaw National Congress and the Nigerian Maritime University, they have this to say, “the meeting passed a vote of confidence on the Chief Boma Obuoforibo led leadership of the Ijaw National Congress. We condemn the move to scrap the Nigerian Maritime University approved by the preceding Federal Government with temporary site at Kurutie and call for the immediate takeoff of the university.”
The leaders and elders noted with dismay the impact of various activities of militant groups of the Niger Delta on the national economy and called on all of them to cease further attacks on crude oil and gas facilities and embrace the offer of dialogue offered by the federal government
Speaking on their perceived non-inclusion in the current administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari, they have this to say, “the non-inclusive policies of the present administration which has led to the alienation of some components of the federation particularly the Ijaw nation from the main stream of national development is not good, we are using this opportunity to call on Mr. President to redress this ugly state of affairs.”
They also added their voice to the prevailing trend of Executives/ Legislature face-off that is according to them, negatively impacting on governance and called on both arms of government to work in harmony in the interest of the nation.
In his comments Governor Seriake Dickson said that he has been vindicated as he had earlier on in a private meeting with President Buhari called for the inclusion of elders and leaders of Ijaw nation
in any dialogue with the various militant groups to have a sustained peaceful atmosphere in the Niger Delta region.
According to Governor Dickson, “I have said there is no need for more wars in the Niger Delta, certainly not in Ijaw land as the matter is not for war-war but jaw-jaw. I am delighted that our leaders are thinking in that same direction. This meeting is like a prelude to a larger, more comprehensive Ijaw meeting of all our leaders that the government of Bayelsa state would host in no distant time. Today, am here to associate myself fully with this initiative that our leaders, fathers and royal majesties of the Ijaw nation are gathered for to show to Nigeria and the world that we indeed have leaders, people who
can reason, organise our people and lead them on burning issues of the moment.”