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N/Delta leaders meet Buhari, demand oil blocks

President Muhammadu Bu­hari on Tuesday hosted Niger Delta stakeholders at the Aso Rock Villa, listened to their 16-point demand and promised to study them and co­operate with the leaders in ending the environmental and eco­nomic sabotage in the region.
However, leaders of the var­ious militant groups which have been blowing up oil infrastruc­ture in the area were absent at the meeting, which was put to­gether by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu.
The demands of the stakeholders, which was presented to the President by King Alfred Diette-Spiff, included that Niger Delta indigenes be allotted lucrative oil blocs by the Presi­dent to grant them inclusive par­ticipation in the oil industry.
The others are sustenance and proper funding of the Presidential Amnesty Programme; cessation of the military opera­tions against the communities; addressing pending law and justice issues as some aggrieved groups and individuals are yet to be resolved and resettlement of internally displaced persons in the region.
There are also expansion of the Ogoni clean-up and envi­ronmental remediation to other parts of the region; a resolution of the controversial Maritime University; provision of key re­gional critical infrastructure; se­curity surveillance and protec­tion of oil and gas infrastructure; relocation of administrative and operational headquarters of IOCs to the Niger Delta.
The leaders also asked for the provision of adequate pow­er supply; restructuring and bet­ter funding of the Niger Del­ta Development Commission (NDDC); strengthening the Ni­ger Delta Ministry; proper reset­tlement of displaced Bakassi in­digenes; economic development and economic empowerment; and implementation of fiscal federalism for the country.
Kachikwu, who addressed the press after the closed-door parley with the President, ex­plained that the militants’ lead­ers were not invited because Buhari wanted to first hear from the elders – who came on the platform of the Pan Niger Delta Forum.
He described the meeting, at which the International Oil Companies (IOCs) were also absent, as being a frank conver­sation, the beginning of a pro­cess during which there were exchange of enough thoughts with which stakeholders can go back and begin the further process of negotiation.
Kachikwu said “the Presi­dent was very happy the meet­ing took place. He was very quick to point out that he did not want a quick solution- he needed to go to the roots of why this problem has persist­ed through all the various gov­ernments”.
One of the prominent stakeholders, Chief Edwin Clark, told journalists that they had the blessing of the militant groups, including the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) to rep­resent their interests, which is why the elders formed a Cen­tral Working Committee with Spiff and Obong Victor Attah, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, as co-chairmen.
He reiterated that Buhari, who did not read his own pre­pared text but spoke straight from the heart, was happy with the meeting and that he prom­ised to study the list of demands carefully and provide detailed responses as he would not want hasty quick-win fixes that would not be durable.
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