Edwin Clark, the convener of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, on Friday, January 28, 2022, warned against plans by the Federal Government of Nigeria to scrap the Presidential Amnesty Programme put in place to curb youth restiveness in the oil rich region.
The former Federal Commissioner for Information also raised the alarm that the Niger Delta region was currently sitting on a ‘keg of gunpowder’ over the continued neglect of the region by the government at the centre.
The elder statesman gave the warning in an open letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, in response to his recent claim that his administration has succeeded in restoring peace to the once troubled oil-rich region. Clark said the continued failure of government to meet the developmental needs of the people of the region, despite producing substantial portion of the nation’s revenue, could “lead to the explosion of the keg of gunpowder.”
He disclosed that the relative peace currently being enjoyed in the region was the effort and handwork of leaders of PANDEF from the various ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta.
The letter reads in parts: “I am writing to bring to recollection, Your Excellency’s recent statements regarding peace and security in the Niger Delta, amongst other parts of the country. Your Excellency was specifically quoted to have said that your government has succeeded in improving upon peace in the North East and South-South, from what you inherited.
“Your Excellency, I beg to, somewhat, disagree with you on the general state of insecurity in the country, which is presently, in a state of near collapse. Of more concern to me is your claims with respect to the Niger Delta or the South-South zone.
“No doubt, a good amount of peace has come to the Niger Delta in the past few years. However, your claim as having been the main architect that brought the peace, does not properly convey what transpired.
“If you will recall, Your Excellency, before your gov-ernment came on board, insecurity which had reduced substantially during the tenure of your predecessor, resumed in a very alarming rate. The period saw the emergence of a new group, the Niger Delta Avengers, which virtually held your government hostage, oil production went down to as low as about 800,000 barrels per day.
“Your government adopted a military approach to quell the agitations, by deploying the so-called ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ in August, 2016, which did not in any way solve the problem. “Mr. President, may I make it very clear to you that the area is sitting on a keg of gunpowder, and any attempt to scrap the amnesty program may produce unpleasant consequences to all.
“Our people are very conscious of the developments that your government is carrying out in other areas of the country with monies derived from oil exploration in their area.” Clark, also a former senator, faulted the decision of the Federal Government to use the recently repatriated loot of former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, for developmental projects outside the state, describing it as unacceptable.
“We repeat, our agitation against the use of money looted from our area by the late Gen. Sani Abacha, which was recovered from the United States of America, exclusively for the construction of the so-called mega projects by the Federal Government, and the illegal confiscation of 2.4 million pounds from the British government as loot recovered from the former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, under the flimsy excuse by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), that it was the Federal Government, which as a nation, negotiated with the British government. And that it was an agreement between the two governments that the money should be used for federal projects. This is not true.
“Meanwhile, federal roads in the Niger Delta region have mostly collapsed, and applying these funds to rehabilitate these collapsed roads, would have gone a long way to solve some of our problems,” the letter read.