Elders, stakeholders and a coalition of socio-political and professional groups in the Niger Delta have begun moves to sensitise and galvanise electorates in the region on the choice of a presidential candidate for the 2023 election.
This followed a series of consultations at various levels across the South-south, leading to a resolution that the Niger Delta had been bleeding since the inception of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and was in dire straits.
The elders, stakeholders and professionals had coalesced into Alliance for Rescue of the Niger Delta Region, ARNDR, with the objective of safeguarding and promoting the interest of the region in the February 2023 presidential polls.
In a statement issued on Tuesday and signed by a spokesperson for the coalition, Chief James Komobila, the group explained that its stance against the All Progressive Congress, APC, and the presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, resulted from the brazen acts of disdain and deprivation perpetrated against the Niger Delta people in the over seven years of the party’s administration at the national level.
It noted that while landmark interventions for peace and development in the region such as the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, NCDMB and the 1999 constitutional provision of 13 per cent derivation from natural resources were all initiated, established and implemented when the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was in power at the centre, the APC under President Buhari had deliberately taken steps to undermine them.
Part of the statement reads:
“The Niger Delta people cannot be blinded to the realities on ground; they cannot be used and dumped at will. A wind of reawakening is blowing across the region and the 2023 presidential election will be a defining moment. The 1999 constitutional provision of 13 per cent derivation principle was implemented by President Olusegun Obasanjo who also established the NDDC in 2000 in response to agitations by the people.
“In June 2009, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua set up the Presidential Amnesty Programme in response to youth restiveness over marginalization of the region and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board was established in 2010, all by the PDP. Only recently, the Presidential Amnesty Programme was almost terminated by President Buhari but for the stiff opposition from various quarters. What has the APC done for the pauperized people of the oil-rich Niger Delta to deserve our vote at the centre?
“Rather than improving on the efforts of previous administrations, the President Buhari-led APC government has been muzzling and suffocating the NDDC by not appointing a substantive Board to enable it operate seamlessly since 2015 till date, stalling development and heightening poverty in the region. As a result of its financial strangulation and milking, the NDDC could not rescue inhabitants of Niger Delta communities from the catastrophe of the recent massive floods.
“Behind the appointment of serial interim managements for the NDDC was a bogus forensic audit which lasted for about two years; a futile exercise on which humongous funds were expended and no substantive Board had yet to be constituted several months after despite presidential and ministerial promises to this effect.
“On October 27, the media was awash with reports that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Umana Okon Umana had confirmed in Port Harcout, River State, that President Buhari had transmitted names of members of a substantive Board for the NDDC to the Senate for confirmation. We are however discomforted by contrary reports indicating it was all a ruse as power-brokers in and out of Government were not ready to let go their firm grip on the Agency until after the 2023 elections.
“The inexplicable delay in constituting a Board for the NDDC has no doubt given credence to information at our disposal that the interventionist Agency is bled by some influential government officials and top politicians to line their pockets and ahead of the 2023 election, bruising the psyche of the poor oil bearing communities without qualms.
“Engaging in sleazy deals perpetrated in flagrant disregard for statutory regulations is not in tandem with the change mantra of President Buhari’s administration, particularly, its anti-corruption crusade and we hold the APC accountable for the bleeding of the Niger Delta.
“In the circumstances, the Niger Delta people are bereft of dividends of democracy from the current APC administration to canvas support for its presidential candidate. The party’s supporters in our fold mostly face this dilemma.
“However, while we review the situation towards charting a new political path that will rekindle hope for our people and guarantee us development, an immediate constitution of a substantive Board for the NDDC may assuage our fears.”
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