By Ismaila Chafe.
Chief Alfred Diete-Spiff, the Chairman of Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers’ Council, confirmed this development to State House correspondents in Abuja after the meeting between Buhari and stakeholders from the Niger Delta region.
According to him, the demands include the need to fast-track interventions on some of the regional infrastructure, Presidential Amnesty programme, law and justice issues and the effect of increased military presence in the Niger Delta.
He said that the plight of Internally Displaced Persons, the Ogoni Clean-up and Environmental Remediation, the issue of Maritime University, Okerenkoko, and security surveillance and protection of oil and gas infrastructure were part of the demands.
Diete-Spiff said the stakeholders also presented the issues of the relocation of administrative and operational headquarters of oil companies to the region, power supply, inclusive participation in oil industry and ownership.
“Of course, you have the welfare of the people. These are the main things.
“Relocation of the oil companies is one of the points that we pointed out. These (oil Companies) IOCs have their headquarters somewhere in Lekki or Abuja and even their operational headquarters are not within the area of their operations.
“This is not right because even the `pay as you earn tax’ is not coming to the region; they will just come and harvest and go away.
“The presence of the military of course, you know, has been agitating the boys and that too we said it should be reversed. We don’t want to see the region being militarised.
“We really need to engage the youths who have been trained by the Amnesty Programme.
“In addition, the Ogoni situation for instance, is one of many. So, while they have been (cleaning) doing the Ogoni, the exercise should be extended to other parts of the Niger Delta.
“Water supply is very essential,’’
Diete-Spiff gave an assurance that the people of the Niger Delta region remained committed to achieving peace and progress of the country.
He stated that the region had resolved to help the Buhari-led administration to succeed.
“Our position, we hasten to add, takes full cognizance of the current parlous state of our economy.
“We would also like to assure you that we the people of the Niger Delta, as patriotic and law-abiding citizens, remain committed to the unity, peace and progress of this great country.
“Our resolve as leaders of the region, is to do all within our power, to help this administration to succeed.
“In particular, is the urgent need for us to pull the national economy out of recession through a speedy solution to the spate of militant agitation.
“We are therefore, totally committeed to creating the right environment in our communities, to ensure that the wealth, which God has placed in our own part of the country, continues to be available to the benefit of all.’’
The Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, who also spoke at the event, said the Niger Delta stakeholders also asked for the review of the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme and proper funding of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
He said the stakeholders also asked for business opportunities,especially allocation of oil blocs to indigenes and also some level of support for those who were displaced as a result of the activities of the militants in the region.
Kachikwu expressed delight that the involvement of traditional and community leaders had started yielding fruitful results.
He revealed that nearly 2.1million daily production of barrel of crude oil was achieved as of Oct. 31.
Chief Edwin Clarke, an elder statesman, dismissed the insinuation that there had been rifts between the Buhari-led administration and the people of the Niger Delta region.
Clarke, who also spoke on Buhari’s reaction at the meeting, said that the president was impressed and happy with the deliberation.
Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, who also briefed the correspondents on the outcome of the meeting, said the ongoing negotiations were largely about the future of the Niger Delta region
He, however, condemned the criminality and destruction of valuable national assets by some militants in the region.
He said that the people of the region were not agitating for withdrawal of security agencies safeguarding valuable installations and infrastructure in the region.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) observed that the meeting between the President and Niger Delta stakeholders did not include oil companies and representatives of the militant groups as earlier speculated by the social media.
The Niger Delta region has been witnessing social unrest occasioned by the activities of militant groups, leading to cut in Nigeria’s oil output.
Meanwhile, NNPC Group Managing Director, Alhaji Maikanti Baru, was quoted as saying that Nigeria had lost over seven billion dollars (about N2 trillion) to militancy and pipeline vandalism since the beginning of the year.
According to him, the supply disruptions have significantly affected the country’s oil exports.