A new group of Niger Delta elders, with the mandate to relate well with the Muhammadu Buhari administration, has been formed.
It is led by a former National Chairman of the Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals Producing Communities of Nigeria (TROMPCON) and paramount ruler of the Seimbiri Kingdom in Delta State, His Royal Majesty Charles Ayemi-Botu.
The new group, named Pan Niger Delta Peoples Congress (PNDPC), is opposed to the seeming combative approach to the Buhari government by the Pan Niger Delta Peoples Forum (PANDEF), led by former Federal Commissioner for Information Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark.
The PNDPC plans to meet with President Buhari in the next one month, to present a new template for lasting peace in the region.
The new group disassociates itself from every activity of the Edwin Clark-led PANDEF.
The PNDPC says it has mandated a coalition of Niger Delta agitators, youths and some persons in the region to speak with the Federal Government on behalf of the region.
The new group met on Monday at the palace of the Ibedaowei of Opokuma Kingdom, King Okpoitari Diongoli, in Opokuma, Bayelsa State.
HRM Ayemi-Botu, said the new body would fight for the people of the region through dialogue with the Presidency.
He declared: ”This is an all-encompassing body of Niger Delta people, who are in consonance with our sons and daughters, agitating in the creeks, coming together to see how we can provide a lasting solution to the age-long marginalisation and problems of the region.”
He stated further: “This body is independent of any other body. We have set up a strategic planning committee and after a month, we are now ready with our own vision and mission. We have just gone through it, circulated it among our members and in our subsequent meeting, we are going to adopt it and the world we know what we stand for.
“So, our being here is to show that we are a different set of people from the region that has the interest of the people of the region at heart. And we will in this October meet with the Presidency to discuss and come out with what and what we are going to do to better the lot of the people of the region.
“We know the problems of the region and we are going to present these problems to the Presidency. We want to make the Niger Delta region like ‘Dubai of Nigeria’ because nature in its infinite mercy has bestowed on us the ‘black gold’ which is the economic live-wire of the country.
“Over 98 per cent of the gross domestic product is coming from oil; but because we have bad leadership, people who are self-centred, people who only feel to better themselves and leaving the rest to suffer, that is how we are where we are. But it is no longer going to be business as usual”.
He said the group was not partisan, and comprises traditional rulers, religious leaders, eminent persons, technocrats, among others.
He said their intervention had brought about the relative peace enjoyed in the region currently as the agitators in the region sheathed their swords and allowed peace to reign.
Ayemi-Botu stated: ”You see, last year when the agitators or freedom fighters went to the creeks and started destroying the economy. That added to the recession but when we came and asked for peace, they sheathed their swords and allowed peace to reign.
“The production that was up to 2.2 million barrels went down to 700,000 barrels, but as at August when we met them and they embraced peace and ceasefire, you can see that our economy has jacked up to 2 million barrels per day and the recession is gone.
“We pray that given the time and understanding of the Federal Government, the peaceful situation in the country and the upsurge in the production of oil in the country will continue and Nigeria and Niger Delta will not remain the same again.”
In his remarks, the National Coordinator of the new body, Chief Mike Loyibo, said they were not out to fight any group but to advance the peace, security and development of the region.
Loyibo said: ”Our mission is to see how we can advance the fulcrum of the Niger Delta people.
“We are not a political party, we have activists, clergy men, opinion leaders and we came together when we realised that there was a problem about leadership”.