Why PANDEF Meeting was disrupted in Port Harcourt

Nobody can pull-down Chief E. K. Clark, says Comrade Joseph Evah On Thursday, October 26, 2017, the Nigeria Police in collaboration with the De

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  • Nobody can pull-down Chief E. K. Clark, says Comrade Joseph Evah

On Thursday, October 26, 2017, the Nigeria Police in collaboration with the Department of State Services DSS stopped the fourth General Assembly Meeting of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) that was scheduled to hold at the Atlantic Hall of Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt.

Chief E. K. Clark
National Leader of PANDEF

On that day, as early as 8am, security operatives took over the stretch of road leading to the hotel and motorists were diverted to alternative routes. Heavily armed and fierce looking policemen barricaded the entrances to the venue, stopping visitors from having easy access to the venue for the planned meeting of the apex organization of Niger Delta people.

The reason given by the police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in Rivers State, Omoni Nnamdi (DSP) was that the decision to seal-off the meeting venue was to forestall breakdown of law and order, as well as to avoid carnage. Omoni stated that the command deployed its men early enough to the venue following threats by a splinter group of PANDEF to disrupt the meeting.

The Nigerian Police

“We sealed off the place due to security threat. There was a splinter group of that same PANDEF that threatened to disrupt the meeting. So, in order to forestall any breakdown of law and order following threats to disrupt the meeting, our men went there early enough to block the place; to forestall any kind of carnage. Until when they are able to resolve their internal wrangling, internal differences and come together with one voice, then, they can hold the meeting.”

PANDEF’s ACCOUNT: The Meeting still held

In spite of the police action to abort the event, the PANDEF meeting held in an undisclosed location during which the body read its communiqué, adopted its Constitution, set up a 12-man committee to zone offices and also set up an electoral committee.

This much was disclosed by a prominent PANDEF leader, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe while addressing newsmen at a post-meeting dinner. The Kalabari High Chief accused the Rivers State Government and the Federal Government of attempting to stop the meeting from holding.

Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe
PANDEF Chieftain

“Today (Thursday, October 26, 2017) we were to have about one thousand delegates across the Niger Delta. As at yesterday night, over three hundred delegates had arrived and checked into various hotels”.

“Yesterday afternoon the Director of DSS invited us for a chat. I led the delegation to chat with the Director who told us that the Governor of Rivers State directed that we should not hold the meeting and that he wanted us to shift the date of the meeting”.

“We explained to the Director of DSS that since August, we have been making contacts with the state governor as we have always done in other states. In other states, the governors host us, provide accommodation and all that, but since August till date, the governor of Rivers State had not been forthcoming”.

“We are not a government organization; we are a pressure group from the Niger Delta, we are like the Arewa, Ohaneze Ndigbo or Afenifere and so if a governor is bluffing us, no problem, anytime he is ready to invite us, we don’t have any problem, but for now we want to go ahead with our meeting”.

“the Director DSS agreed with us and escorted us out and promised to provide security but raised the issue of threats from some boys and we told him that is why his office is here as a security agency and we wrote to him two weeks ago, we also wrote to the police and the police had agreed to give us six vans to protect the place”.

“Only for the hotel management to call us last night to say they were invited and given instructions not to allow us hold the meeting. So, a high-powered delegation was sent to the DSS again and a different picture emerged that he had orders from above that we should not hold the meeting”.

“Our Leader Chief E.K. Clark had to call the Deputy Director-General of DSS in Abuja, he also called the Minister of Internal Affairs and sent text messages to the Vice President, informing them of the situation that was about to happen”.

“Early in the morning, the Deputy Commissioner of Police came with the six vans as promised to protect us, but not quite 30minutes, another order came and the DSS came and directed the DCP to seal up the place and for what reason we do not know”.

Public Reactions

Senator Shehu Sani condemned the Police action

The police action against the leaders of the Niger Delta Region attracted condemnation nationwide. One person who came out strongly against the disruption of the 4th General Assembly of PANDEF was the Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Shehu Sani who took to his twitter handle to express his displeasure.

However, some observers agreed that the police action against PANDEF may actually be connected with the purported rejection of PANDEF by some militant groups in the region.

It would be recalled that twenty-four hours earlier, a coalition of militants had insisted on their rejection of PANDEF and its leadership. This was coming on the heels of renewed threat to truncate the relative peace in the Niger Delta, as the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) and coalition of nine other militant groups vowed to resume hostility in the oil region should the Federal Government continue talks with PANDEF on behalf of the people of the region.

The group in a statement released by the leader of the coalition of militant groups, self-styled Major General Johnmark Ezonbi, insisted that it had rejected PANDEF, adding that the Chief Edwin Clark led group no longer enjoyed support of stakeholders in the region and must not continue to speak for them. According to them, all negotiation for the region should be with Pan Niger Delta People’s Congress (PNDPC).

Nobody can pull-down Chief E. K. Clark

But the Coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group, IMG, Comrade Joseph Evah had pooh-poohed the insinuation of a splinter group as the reason for the police action against PANDEF. On the formation of the Niger Delta People’s Congress (PNDCP) he said:

Comrade Joseph Evah

“Anybody can form a group. There is freedom of association. President Muhammadu Buhari will laugh at any group in the North that says they formed a group to replace Arewa Consultative Forum. Sometimes, you have a group of people saying they have replaced Ohaneze Ndigbo or Afenifere. Such things are not new in Nigeria. The Nigerian people, the international community know groups that are led by people who have capacity to lead a region. There is a difference between a leadership that exists on the pages of newspapers and coordinated by blackmailers looking for relevance and leadership acknowledged by the ordinary people”.

“Even during the June 12 struggle, inconsequential people were abusing late Pa Adesanya, Chief Anthony Enaharo to replace their leadership in Afenifere and NADECO but the rubbish we saw at that time only ended on the pages of newspapers because no human being can pull down God-ordained leadership in any struggle. Some of the opponents of Chief Clark like the new group and former president of Ijaw National Congress, Prof Kimse Okoko, were saying that Chief Clark did not use his influence to get Jonathan to develop the Niger Delta These are childish excuses we expected from desperate people looking for relevance”.

“Those senseless excuses cannot pull-down Chief E.K. Clark from the glorious ladder of leadership. It is just petty jealousy. That is why Chief E.K. Clark is still leading the Niger Delta. Well, everything is designed by God. No human being can change it. Some funny elements in those days tried to destroy Chief Awolowo as a Yoruba leader. They tried but they failed. Everybody knows the capacity of people who can meet Arewa leadership, Ndigbo leadership or South-West leadership or even meet American president or British prime minister and they will respect their opinions”.

“We are talking of the symbol of Niger Delta that any president of America or any world leader will hear his name or see him physically and Niger Delta will be respected. If Any region in Nigeria is presenting their first-class personalities that can meet with world leaders, or Africa leaders, Niger Delta must be able to present her first 11”.

Comrade Joseph Evah rather blamed the action of the security agents against the leaders of the Niger Delta on the face-off between Governor Nyesom Wike and former Governor Rotimi Amaechi.

“It was very unfortunate, but the truth was that some top leaders of PANDEF fell into the trap of security agents. Some of them took things for granted. For example, why did they make Port Harcourt the venue? The whole world knows that Mr. Rotimi Amaechi and Governor Nyesom Wike are fighting and that fight will affect any meeting convened there. All other reasons anybody will give you is fake”.

Wike and Amaechi

“What happened to PANDEF is the bitterness in Amaechi and Wike’s political battle. The two lions wanted to show their power. One was saying I have federal might and this meeting would reduce my influence in the region, and since Wike will be the chief host, I will show them that the meeting would never happen”.

“But the security agents talked about insecurity. Where is the insecurity coming from? The whole world including Mr. President and all the security agents know that the insecurity in Rivers State is caused by PDP and APC”.

“It is the supremacy battle between the two leading parties. If that meeting venue was Calabar, Uyo, Benin, Asaba or Yenagoa, security people wouldn’t have tampered with the meeting. PANDEF has held several meetings before. The political hatred you see in Rivers State does not exist in any other state in our region especially between a former governor and his successor, and in a case where the former governor is very powerful and if you are in his shoes, you will never allow your successor to claim the glory to rubbish your political history”.

Comrade Joseph Evah was not alone in this line of thought, as some observers are suggesting that the Minister of Transportation is uncomfortable with the growing influence of PANDEF in the region and only used the Port Harcourt action to cut the wings of the apex body. Others are of the opinion that Governor Wike was behind the attempt to stop the PANDEF meeting because he wanted to please the militant groups as a way of soliciting their support for the 2019 elections.

 PANDEF LEADERS FLAY REASONS GIVEN BY POLICE

The reason by the police to truncate the PANDEF meeting in Port Harcourt did not go well with the leadership of the group. Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe spoke strongly against the attempted stoppage of the meeting by security forces.

PANDEF LEADERS

“Afenifere has been meeting, they have never taken such actions against them, Ohaneze Ndigbo and Arewa have also not been treated this way, all they are trying to do is to steer provocation but as leaders of Niger Delta, we promise ourselves that we will lead this region to prosperity, not to destruction and so whatever they have done, they have failed”.

On his part, the national leader of PANDEF and former Federal Commissioner for Information, Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, decried the disruption, cautioning that the country might drift into a crisis if the trend was not quickly checked. He likened it to happenings in the military era, a violation of the Constitution and a threat to security and democracy, insisting that the 1999 Constitution guarantees the right to free assembly, movement and opinion.

According to him, the delegates did not believe that the Department of State Service (DSS) and the Police would have any reason to prevent the meeting from holding.

He said: “This is because the federal, state and local governments have more reasons to support PANDEF than to destroy it, since the group arose from the ashes of the destruction of oil and gas facilities in 2016. The destruction led to a drastic economic suffocation, which made oil output to fall to about 800,000 bpd.

“It was the PANDEF’s interventionist appeal and action that rescued the national economy, which has since moved the production up, to well over 2million bpd and $120million earnings per day.”

To buttress the level of confidence by government, he said PANDEF had also collaborated with governments and met with President Muhammadu Buhari on November 1, 2016, and also facilitated the tour of the region by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in his capacity as the Acting President. This culminated in another parley with him on August 3, 2017.

He explained that the group also had an inter-ministerial meeting with Osinbajo as the chairman, adding that 10 PANDEF members and other stakeholders also participated at a meeting in Akure

Clark described PANDEF as a regional pressure group in the mold of the Afenifere, Arewa Consultative Forum, Ohaneze Ndigbo and the Middle Belt Forum. He queried the plot against PANDEF, which is the guardian of the country’s golden egg.

“PANDEF would employ every civilised legal and constitutional process to obtain an unreserved apology, with an undertaking that, never again, would any Nigerian or group be threatened with the usurpation of their universal and constitutional rights,” he added.

Below is the communiqué issued by PANDEF at the end of the meeting:

 

Communiqué Issued at the End of the 4th General Assembly of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) Held at Hotel Presidential Port-Harcourt 25 -26th Oct 2017

Leaders of the Niger Delta under the auspices of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), held its 4th General Assembly in Port Harcourt Rivers State 25th to 26th of October, 2017. The meeting had in attendance over 200 delegates comprising of key traditional rulers, leaders of thoughts, Academia, youth groups, women groups, and other critical stakeholders from all the states of the region.

  1. The meeting had in attendance Chief EK Clark, leader of PANDEF; HRM King Diete Spiff, Chairman of Bayelsa State Council of Traditional Rulers and Former Military Governor of Old Rivers State; HE Air Cdre. Idongesit Nkanga, former Military Governor of Akwa Ibom State; HE Col. Peter A.M. Ogar Rtd, former Military Administrator of Kwara State; HE AVM Frank Ajobena, first Military Administrator of Abia State; Representative of Edo State Governor; HRM King WSJ Igbugburu X, former Chairman old Rivers State/Bayelsa Council of Traditional Rulers; Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas, former Minister of Aviation; His Highness Anabs Sara –Igbe, amongst other dignitaries.
  2. The General Assembly received and ratified the draft constitution of PANDEF, which was earlier approved by the General House at a special meeting held in Abuja on Friday, 28th July 2017.
  3. The General Assembly also constituted a 12-man committee on zoning of offices and a 6-man Electoral committee for elections into positions within the organization ahead of its forthcoming elections.
  4. The General Assembly however, noted with concern the unwarranted disruption of the meeting, including the cordoning-off of Hotel Presidential by an unprecedented deployment of security personnel from the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigerian Police Force. Therefore, the meeting was unable to fully discuss other issues consistent with the PANDEF Mission which include amongst others: ‘Fostering peaceful coexistence, inter-ethnic harmony and understanding, as well as the use of lawful and nonviolent means for justice and equity for ourselves and our progeny and the struggle for fairness, justice, and, to promote good governance, development and welfare of our people’
  5. The General Assembly considers the attempts by agencies of the Federal Government to forcefully stop such a high level gathering of leaders of the Niger Delta region as totally unacceptable and a very disturbing precedent in our democratic evolution and flagrant denigration of our constitutional guarantees on the right of peaceful assembly and free movement.
  6. This is more disturbing when it is known that meetings of this nature by leaders of other Geo political zones such as Arewa Consultative forum, Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo and the likes have never in the history of the Country been subjected to such humiliation and show of high-handedness.
  7. Furthermore, the General Assembly considers the action of the FG insensitive. When it is considered that at the height of resumed militancy in the Niger Delta in 2016, and its negative impact on the national economy which saw the fall in oil production to an unprecedented low of 800,000bopd. It was the timely intervention of PANDEF that ensured the return to peace and stability. This brought about a surge in production of oil to the present level of 2.35million bpd and free flow of gas to our power plants and industries. This at present price brings in over USD115 million (about 36 billion Naira) daily.
  8. The General Assembly, however, calls on the people of the Niger Delta, in particular, the youth, to remain law abiding and maintain calm despite these acts of intimidation and provocation.
  9. The General Assembly further calls on the federal government to offer an explanation on this show of hostility mounted against the elders and leaders of the region, which PANDEF represents.
  10. The General Assembly noted with appreciation the information of the offer of the governor of rivers state, HE Barr. Nyesom Wike to host the 5th General Assembly of PANDEF at a date to be agreed.

Done in Port Harcourt this day, 26th October 2017.

Signed:

Chief Dr. E.K. Clark, OFR, CON

National Leader PANDEF

 

 

 

 

 

 

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