The 7th Niger delta Dialogue with the theme: A Revival Dialogue for the Niger Delta, held at the Tinapa Resort, Calabar from June 29 to June 30, 2017
In attendance were the Obong of Calabar, His Eminence Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V; the Amanyanabo of Opobo and Chairman of Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers, King Dandeson Jaja of Opobo and other leading traditional rulers, elder statesmen and leaders of the region, Chairman NDDC, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba SAN; Head of the EU Delegation to Nigeria Ambassador Michel Arron and his team as well as representatives of EU, UK and the UNDP.
In this interview, His Highness Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, foundation member of the Niger Delta Dialogue, articulated a number of issues and expectations by the group.
Excerpts of the interview is hereby presented to our esteemed readers by Dianabasi Effiong
It was judicially named Niger Delta Contact and Dialogue Group until PANDEF was formed. This is the brain box of the Niger Delta struggle. This is where we articulate all the ideas. We brains storm, analysed and agreed before we take decisions regarding Niger.
Today we have come to re-assess our performance to the last one year. We started in Uyo sometime this period last year and in the heat of the militancy and this was the group that also initiated the seize fire before PANDEF came up and almost all the members here are members of PANDEF.
Today we have come here to look at all the issues, look at the 16-point agenda, and look at other issues that have affected the Niger Delta region.
What is the ministerial committee doing with the 16 point agenda as promised at the visit of Mr. Vice President, what is happening to the region? What is government doing? What are we supposed to do?
We have taken decisions here and look at issues of other areas that we can push the region forward. The region has suffered a lot because of restiveness and we have lost our place of pride and some other regions are benefitting from the crisis from our region, so we have come to brain storm to see that we cage statics so as to rebuild confidence in investors so that our region will develop. We have also come to look at other alternatives to the economy. Oil is a wasting asset so we are looking at Agriculture, we are looking at borrow is doing, the cluster farming of our youths. So we are looking at other in muse on how we can improve on agriculture and other areas.
We are looking at agro industries and how we can make the Niger Delta the industrial hob by building industrial pack. In addition to the 16 point agenda, how fame, how sincere is the government and what the way forward is. These are things we are discussing here and it has been very impressive.
As usual, sometimes, we disagree to agree and sincerely speaking, we quite appreciate some government officials also wash down some government officials who we think are the main problem of the region. Some of the governors are not interested in the economic development of Niger Delta, they are not thinking of how to come together and synergize and plan for the region.
Some of the political leaders we have are only interested in their selfish earns; they are not interested in the region. How do we look at all that and refocus the region toward development. These are some of the basic issues we have come here to brainstorm and they are things we have done well.
Sixteen-point agenda, 2 years down the line; will you say the benchmark has been impressive?
So far so good as the leader of Niger Delta, we are not happy with the way the government is going about the Niger Delta beginning with the budgeting system. If you recall what triggered the crisis last was the poor budgeting that was made. This year the situation has not changed. Like the ministry of Niger Delta which was set up by former President Yar’adua as a developmental agency was under funded this year and even last year.
The amnesty was maybe considered but even the averment that was given last year was not paid up to this year. Even the Basin Authorities in the Niger Delta areas are not doing well because they are not funded. And this is the engine room of the economy.
We expect that the government that is sensible, you most look at the engine room before you think of other aspect of the economy. You cannot shut down your engine room and think that you can go to production. Niger Delta is the hub. But as leaders we are begging to realize that by going the other way agitation through violence or criminal method is not helping the region to grow so we are not happy with the way the government is pushing us. Government should think deeply in their action and do what is positive to avert further crisis in the region.
We want our region to develop. We don’t want our region to be involved in restiveness any longer and the only way we can get there is for government to listen to us and fulfil their own part of the bargain but where they fail to, of course there will be win. …. In the WIND of the cage, so we don’t want any problem with the federal government. We want to develop Nigeria. We want to develop our region. Government should do what is needful. They should listen to the people and listen to themselves whether they are doing what is right or not.
The Vice President visited the Niger Delta, even though he did not visit the community he was supposed to visit but the discussion we had with the Vice President was, he was to visit the oil bearing communities to see things for himself which he did not do. He went to the cities; dine with the Governors and left. That notwithstanding, we have given him the peace and time is running. We have not seen actions. We need actions from government. Want to see what they can do, even the so call Modular refinery, up until now there is no guideline and we are not too happy.
We are not going to encourage our children because they have not done anything because we know that government is slow and we also appreciate the fact that Mr. President has not been well and so we will give them more time to do what is needful and we hope that they will understand the situation and implement their promises to avert other problems in the region.
Youths threatened to go back?
It is not a matter of the youths, I am telling you that we are not happy with the slow pace of things in the region. We expected by now that we would have seen the handwriting of government , we would have seen the sincerity of government in the Niger Delta region but we have not seen any but we are not going to say because they have not acted and then encourage the boys to go into violence anymore because violence cause a lot. Two wrongs cannot make a right that is why we are appealing to government because you don’t dare certain persons.
You cannot say your generator will not breakdown when you don’t use oil or you don’t use diesel / you must give diesel to your generator for it to work. If you don’t service your generator, it will collapse. We don’t want the economy to collapse. We are all Nigerians and we want to be Nigerians. For now their actions is not impressive to the people of Niger Delta. We are still patient, we are still hopeful but I think a word is enough the wise.
What do you mean by the Cage?
What we are saying is that, if government continues with this style, then they are inviting our youths to react. In as much as we can plead with them, we cannot hold anybody down but we want them to understand that beside restiveness or beside government we must start to plan for our region.
We must think of the alternative source because oil is a waste asset. We must think of how we can stand on our own. We must think of how we can compete with Lagos. Lagos is the fourth economy in Africa and the first in Nigeria yet they don’t have oil, gas or agriculture and yet they are the fourth economy in Africa. We that own oil, land for farming and we that can industrialise, where are we? Those are the questions we asked ourselves but that does not mean that we can be taken for granted, we cannot be taken for granted.