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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.