The Supreme Consultative Council (SCC) of the Eastern and Central Divisions of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) yesterday re-affirmed its appointment of seven eminent Nigerians to represent their interest at the proposed dialogue with the Federal Government on the restoration of peace to the Niger Delta.
The group, comprising agitators operating in Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states as well as splinters from other states, said it remained committed to total ceasefire and using dialogue to achieve peace in the volatile region.
The group had, last Saturday, unveiled a team of seven eminent personalities who have been mandated to hold talks with the Federal Government and explore avenues to end the hostilities in the oil-rich region.
Top on the list of the team is a former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu and Professor Wole Soyinka, who was designated as the Adviser to the seven-man panel. Others on the panel included Professor Steve Odi- Owei, Etibom (Dr.) Anthony A. Ani, Nalaguo Chris Alagoa, Chief (Mrs.) Alice Mobolaji Osomo and Mr. Inienimi Ballantyne Agiri who has been the spokesman of the group. In a telephone chat with New Telegraph yesterday, Agiri expressed confidence in the capacity of the dialogue team to entrench sustainable peace by prevailing on government to address the grievances of the oil bearing communities in the Niger Delta.
“We trust and believe in the quality and pedigree of members of this committee. We believe this committee shall accommodate inputs from personalities of oil producing communities within the region as well as outside the shores of this nation.
“The Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, who is from the South-West is also a member of the approved team as advisor. “We are only fighting against the demonic powers of oppression, slavery, injustice, extra-judicial killings, total neglect and impoverishment of the oil-rich region. Over two months ago, we partially and now have heed the clarion call to a total ceasefire to dialogue on peace and development with government.
“We truly and sincerely hope that with the agenda for discussion, lasting peace and tranquility will return if the people and government of Nigeria will be sincere, considerate with the spirit of love and justice to the people of the region that have sacrificed and given all for the past 60 years to keep Nigeria alive and united,” he said
Meanwhile, a pressure group known as the Urhobo Youth Assembly has disowned a prominent Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, over his alleged claim to being “the overlord and clearing house” on the current moves to restore peace in the Niger Delta.
The group, in a letter mailed to New Telegraph, warned Clark not to parade himself as the only person that holds the key to peace in the troubled region as he does not have their mandate to enter into any negotiation with the Federal Government on behalf of the Urhobo ethnic group in respect of the ongoing efforts to restore peace in the Niger Delta.
Clark, a former Federal Commissioner for Information during the General Yakubu Gowon’s military regime, recently fell out of favour with some Niger Delta leaders following his alleged claim to be the sole authority on the proposed dialogue and negotiations between the central government and the militant groups in the Niger Delta.
Clark reportedly queried a group of traditional rulers for going to Abuja without his consent and holding a meeting with the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, on the peace process.
In a petition dated August 29 and addressed to President Muhamnadu Buhari, the group decried the action of the elder statesman, describing it as provocative and the height of insult.
The petition, which was endorsed by the president of the group, Comrade Jude Akpore and two others, condemned what the group described as the self-appointed leadership position which Clark has arrogated to himself, warning that it could generate a new crisis in the region, if not checked immediately. “It is most disheartening and unbelievable that the said Chief Clark will arrogate to himself such power that does not rest in chiefs like him except recognised royal institutions in kingdoms and clans in the Niger Delta.
“Chief Clark, no matter his age and attainment in life, remains a subject to these royal fathers and cannot assume a self-styled leadership position over and above royal fathers in the Niger Delta,” they said.