The Chief Edwin Clark-led Pan Niger Delta Forum has condemned the N29 billion earmarked in the 2017 Budget by the federal government to fight militants’ disturbances in the Niger Delta region, accusing it ofdeliberately frustrating proposed dialogue with leaders of the region.
PANDEF, an umbrella body of comprising monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of the various Ethnic Nationalities of the Coastal States of the Niger Delta Region, said two months after it met with President Muhammadu Buhari and presented a 16-point demands to usher in peace in the region, the federal government was still foot-dragging on who to dialogue with.
In a statement signed by Dr. Alfred Mulade, Member, Central Working Committee, PANDEF, on behalf of the group, expressed grave concerns that budgeting N29 billion to fight militancy when peace was gradually returning to the region to pave way for concrete dialogue with the people of the region, means that the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government was not interested in dialogue.
It read, “To make matters worse, the government is reported to have earmarked a whooping N29Billion of oil revenue to fight Militancy in the Niger Delta region. This, of course, will further exacerbate the crises in the region, where PANDEF has been working assiduously to ensure permanent peace.
“How on earth would government begin to think this kind of huge expenditure following the dwindling economic conditions just to fight militancy, when the causative factors, sufficiently articulated and presented to Mr. President, by PANDEF, remain ignored?
“In the meeting with Mr. President, and at other responsible fora, PANDEF has consistently advocated for the need for Dialogue, and the urgent setting up of a Dialogue Team by the Federal Government to demonstrate credible commitment in resolving the crisis in the region, for dialogue with PANDEF which bear clear mandate from all stakeholders and agitating groups in the region.”
It particularly frowned at a statement credited to the Senior Special Adviser to President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, where he said the Presidency was yet to have credible leaders from the Niger Delta region to dialogue with despite the President’s meeting with leaders of PANDEF on November 1.