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As US Advises FG Against Military Option... Jonathan, Oil State Govs Parley over N’Delta Summit

All political office holders from the nine oil producing states in the country yesterday in Abuja agreed to support the proposed Niger Delta Summit which they believe will be governed by the due regards for rule of law and due process which are cardinal objectives of the Yar'Adua administration.
However, the United States of America has advised the Federal Government not to yield to the temptation of opting for military solution to the lingering crisis in the Niger Delta region of the country.
The Abuja meeting of Niger Delta political office holders convened by Vice President Goodluck Jonathan was attended by governors of Ondo, Imo Abia, Edo, Delta, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, deputy governors of Rivers and Bayelsa States, the Speakers of their state assemblies, senators from the nine states and their House of Representatives counterparts as well as ministers from the states.
It was part of the broad stakeholders’ engagement in the build up to the proposed Niger Delta Summit and would form the final level of consultations before the summit proper.
Sources close to the meeting told THISDAY that the Niger Delta political office holders resolved that though their people are suspicious of conferences which had failed to resolve the lingering crises in their area, they would be willing to give the Federal Government another chance.
The present position, they said, is based on the commitment the Yar'Adua administration has shown to the law and due process and they believe that he would bring these qualities to bear with regards to the resolutions of the summit.
They also noted that the people of the Niger Delta area are duty bound to support Jonathan who is saddled by the Yar'Adua administration with the responsibility to fashion out a road map out of the Niger Delta crisis.
The meeting, was however said to fail to reach an agreement on the competence of Professor Ibrahim Gambari as chairman of the steering committee for the proposed summit. “There are strong arguments for and against Gambari's candidacy," a source told THISDAY.
The meeting then resolved to refer the issue to Gambari's involvement in the summit to a larger stakeholder's meeting holding today.
Today's meeting also to be chaired by the Vice-President will be attended by the nine state governors with 10 political/opinion leaders each from the states.
Yesterday's meeting commenced with Jonathan giving a historical background on past attempts to discuss the Niger Delta crisis and the summary of the many position papers and recommendations made on the issue in the past.
He said the common thread running through these past attempts was that the Federal Government never gave firm commitment to the recommendations. The VP noted that not once did the Federal Government come out with a white paper endorsing the earlier recommendations and codifying them into law.
This, he explained, is why the proposed summit would not be business as usual. He explained that this summit would carry along the FG’s stamp of authority, and its recommendations would form part of the authorising instruments that would guide the Federal strategy on the Niger Delta henceforth.
He maintained that President Umaru Musa Yar’adua is committed to resolving the Niger Delta issue once and for all, and thus asked the participants to take advantage of the President’s commitment, and mobilise fully for the summit.
He also asked for the understanding over the choice of Prof. Ibrahim Gambari as chair of the conference steering committee, pointing out that this choice was guided by his international exposure, his work with the UN, and his considerable experience in international conflict resolution. 
Also yesterday in Abuja, Jonathan said the Steering Committee that would pilot the Niger Delta Summit, will be inaugurated early next month. The committee, amongst other things, is expected to harmonise logistics and reach out to all ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta region towards a date for the planned Summit .
Jonathan stated this at the State House, when he received a delegation of Six US Congressmen led by Representative Howard Berman, Chairman , US House Committee on Foreign Relations.
Jonathan acknowledged the genuine grievances of the people of the Niger Delta spanning over a long period. He, however, noted that some criminals have however seized the opportunities of these genuine agitations to continually perpetuate criminal acts. He therefore called on the International community to assist the country “in stopping the illegal acts of gunrunning and oil bunkering in the Niger Delta.
But the US position on the Niger Delta crisis was conveyed during a visit of United States Congressmen to the House of Representa-tives in Abuja at the weekend.
At the meeting which also had in attendance, the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms Robin Sanders, and the Chairman of the US Congressional Committee on International Affairs, Howard Boerman, the visiting congressmen were said to have expressed serious worry over the crises in the Niger Delta which has affected the price of crude oil in the international market.
They are afraid that if the present administration allows the problem to snowball into a heavy crisis, it will affect the socio-economic life not only in Nigeria and the West African sub-region, but the entire continent and in turn, the international oil market.
The Congressmen who urged the House to intervene in the crisis so that the problem could be tackled for normal life to return to the oil producing area also assured Nigeria that the establishment of AFRICOM is not aimed at undermining the sovereign existence of the country or the regions but to foster better relations within the region.
Although journalists were barred from the meeting, the US House of Representatives Sub Committee Chairman on Africa, Rep Donald Payne, later confirmed that the visiting American Congressmen had made a strong case for a peaceful resolution of the impasse on Niger-Delta region in the overall interest of members of the international community
The meeting, which held behind closed, was chaired by the Chief Whip of the House, Honourable Emeka Ihedioha.
The House of Representatives leadership whose membership visited the United States early this month is, however, requesting that since Nigeria’s National Assembly is modelled after the American Presidential System of Government, it should be assisted to build capacity so that other African countries could benefit from it.
The lawmakers including the Chairman of the House committee on International Affairs, Honourable Gbenga Oduwaiye also urged the American Congress men to ensure that Nigeria is included in the Democratic Assistance Bill which has 12 countries including Liberia and Rwanda on the list.
The House argued that though the American Congress expressed interest in helping Nigeria to build capacity, it should help in organising the House library and the General Accounts office so that the job of the Nigerian lawmakers could be made easier.
The Americans are expected to tour some Southern African countries to have a first hand understanding of the problems they face before returning to Washington.
Honourable Emeka Ihedioha, who refused to explain in detail the outcome of the meeting, however, told THISDAY that the meeting between the two parliaments was in continuation of discussions and a follow up to the earlier visit to Washington, by the Nigerians, where several requests were tabled before the United States Congress.