Heavily armed police officers and men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS in the early morning of Thursday, October 26, 2017 barricaded Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, where the Edwin Clark-led Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF is expected to hold its fourth meeting.
According to witnesses in Port Harcourt, the policemen parked Hilux buses at the entrance of the hotel, thereby preventing vehicles from GRA to gain access to Aba Road, just as they prevented vehicles from moving into the expansive hotel from the back gate.
The meeting, which was supposed to commence at 10 a.m. could not hold, as some of the delegates who had arrived were turned back, and told that the meeting cannot hold “because of national interest.”
The Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government has struggled with relations with the people of the South South, the home of the Niger Delta, the owners of the oil and gas resources in the country.
President Buhari cast the tone for his relationship with the troubled oil region when a few weeks after his inauguration on May 29, 2015 he said that areas that gave him 5% votes (the South East and the South South), should not expected to be treated the same as areas that gave him 97% of the votes (North East and North West).
He has followed through his policy of marginalisation by attacking leaders – political, business, and traditional – from the Niger Delta. One of his early presidential orders was that the stipends to former Niger Delta militants who were under the Amnesty Programme be stopped.
The first president of Nigeria from the Niger Delta, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has been unfairly attacked by the Buhari regime in several forms under the guise of “anti-corruption” war. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has illegally clamped down on the bank accounts of former first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, and those of leading businessmen and women from the region.
Because of the president’s anti-Niger Delta posture and policies, there has been a renewed restiveness in the region. The leading militant group in the region, the Niger Delta Avengers, successfully cut the oil production in the country from 2.2 million barrels a day to less than 600,000 barrels a day following a chain of attacks on oil installations.