Ijaw youth leader and immediate past President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, Mr. Udengs Eradiri, Wednesday, said the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) led by Chief Edwin Clark had lost focus.
Speaking in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Eradiri said though the forum was able to set the pace and part of the Niger Delta agenda, it derailed and lost the confidence of the people of the region.
He insisted that the group became an embarrassment and a disgrace to region adding that President Muhammadu Buhari did not need the PANDEF to develop the Niger Delta.
Eradiri said: ”We have lost confidence in PANDEF. We no longer believe in them. I was part of those that brought up the idea when the government said they did not know whom to talk to in the region.
”We agreed to come together as one, hence we established PANDEF. But unfortunately, PANDEF has now lost focus. They are now talking about constitution and leadership. They have women’s wing, youths’ wing and others.
”At every point that we strive to make progress, we are the same persons to scatter it. Everyone is seeking audience. Let those elders go and rest, particularly Clark. We have no elders to report to; they want to be the rulers, owning the power.
“They seek to overthrow the IYC and all others. They want to be the leaders all because of the selfish gains they want to derive. PANDEF has lost its usefulness. The group is becoming an embarrassment and a disgrace to the Niger Delta.”
Eradiri also declared that some external forces were behind the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and its recent threat to resume hostilities in the region.
He noted that the Federal Government was aware of the entire scheme, which he said was orchestrated by agents of destruction with the desire to make money from the system.
He knocked the government for its approach in handling the agitations of the militant group and explained that violent agitations were a product of long years of underdevelopment, neglect, lack of equity, insincerity other challenges facing the Niger Delta.
The former IYC boss said that he never believed in violent agitation, but the government had made it the only language it understands in the country.
To stop further agitation, he said the government needed to demonstrate more commitment and seriousness in addressing the causes of agitations.
Eradiri said: ”The government is not serious. All they want to do is blackmail some persons politically and dent people’s images. I am from this area and I know how it works. All I want is for everything to hear better.
”I believe and I know that these Avengers’ stuff and threats are external. They are fueled by external forces; people who just want to disrupt things are behind it. Their thinking is that money will come out it through negotiation. Even the government knows about it. It is all about destabilising things and stealing money from system.
”My advice to the youth is that they should continue to agitate. Yes, the only language that they understand is constant agitation. If they did not agitate, the Amnesty budget, you remember I was shouting, it was N20bn down from N56bn.
”When the youth started agitation, it was moved to N35bn and now it is over N50bn, with they (Amnesty operators) now have money to pay school fees and all of that. They were also shouting about the Niger Delta Ministry budget, now the government has increased it.
“When agitation started, we shouted about the Maritime University, they said they were going to kick off, now I am hearing President Muhammadu Buhari has approved N5bn in the new budget. So, if there is no agitation, will they do all these? So, let the youth agitate. Government, wake up to your responsibility.”
Speaking on the Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF), Eradiri said PANDEF had lost focus and outlived its usefulness.
He insisted that the Federal Government did not need the organisation to address the Niger Delta question.