The Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, yesterday evening in Warri, Delta State, asked the leaders of the Niger Delta region to tame the militants and ensure permanent peace if meaningful development was to come to the region.
Kachikwu, who was the guest of Ijaw National Leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark and other leaders of pan-Niger Delta Peace stakeholders said, “my belief is that the Niger Delta solution doesn’t lie in militancy. For Niger Delta to develop there must be short and long-term plan. People must be brought together first, then on the long term, bring development to the region. If we don’t have genuine peace we can’t make this happen.”
The minister said that if the coastal states were still underdeveloped with all the resources at their disposal, something was terribly wrong in the region. He reiterated that over $40 billion dollars had accrued to the region in the last 10 years, wondering what had been done with such huge fund in the region.
The minister promised to set up a dialogue process as soon as the structures are ready, saying he would not take the ceasefire by the militants.
Earlier, Clark said he was not happy that a team led by Chief Wellington Okrika led a hasty delegation of some traditional rulers to visit the Minister-of-State for Petroleum Affairs thereby causing acrimony within the nationalities in the region.
The Ijaw leader said he personally called the Minister-of-State for Niger Delta Affairs, to register his disagreement that he hosted a non-inclusive meeting of some leaders from the region even when discussions and harmonization of ideas were still in progress, saying that his protest culminated in the minister agreeing to visit him.
Also, the Aaron-2 team of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) met with Clark for several hours yesterday on how both parties can work together towards setting up a credible dialogue structure with the federal government.
MEND, which initially opposed the Clark’s pan Niger Delta peace initiative, made a U-turn yesterday, agreeing to work with the Clark team which was given mandate last Friday at the meeting of the Niger Delta coastal states comprising Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Edo and Cross River states to set up a roadmap for peace in the region.
Dr. Ibe Kachikwu is expected to meet with Clark and Niger Delta leaders to firm up plans on the peace dialogue.
The MEND Aaron-Team 2 led Mr. Timipa Jenkins Okponipene, listed conditions for the setting up of what they termed a pan-Niger Delta Peace and Development team.
Okponipene said the Aaron Team 2 was ready to work with Clark as the leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Peace team.
He said the Niger Delta Peace and Development Group should coordinate all dialogues and only the team can dialogue on behalf of the region, adding that the group should comprise six persons of impeccable character with Clark as leader of the group.
He also said MEND shall nominate the Secretary of the group and Ledun Mitee should be a member.
MEND also said there should be a slot for women and others deemed necessary.The MEND secretary said the Aaron-2 Team would be dismantled when the Niger Delta Peace and Development Group is rightly constituted.
Okponipene said: “Let me correct an impression, MEND is not opposed to E. K. Clark. People go in different directions to achieve a goal but they have a common heritage, which is the Niger Delta. Yes, there have been grievances but that is meant to make us strong.
“Some time this year MEND constituted the Aaron team – that team has been working in the background, but we felt that a team discussing peace in the Niger Delta without E. K. Clark has not started. I have come to pledge loyalty to our elders and to say the MEND team is ready to work with you.”
Reacting, Clark commended MEND for accepting the outcome of the meeting of Niger Delta monarchs, leaders and stakeholders had last Friday in Warri.
However, he and other leaders who were with him during the visit of the Aaron Team delegation, dissociated themselves from a meeting some Ijaw stalwarts had last Thursday with the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu.