Elder statesman and former Federal Commissioner for Education, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, has alleged that Transport Minister, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, former Bayelsa State governor, Timipre Sylva, and Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari, were responsible for the stoppage of the General Assembly of the forum in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, last month.
He has, however, vowed that the group would go to any length within the ambit of the law to find out why the Federal Government decided to stop the meeting, since efforts to get answers from high-ranking government officials, including the Minister of Interior, General Abdurahman Dambazzau (rtd), and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, have not yielded fruits.
A source close to the Vice President claimed he did not receive the distress call Chief Clark sent.
In an interview, Clark while recalling the circumstances that led to the meeting being aborted said before the botched meeting, another chieftain of the group, Anabs Sara-Igbe informed him that an indigene of the area that is involved in oil company operations had approached him and indicated interest came to pay for Atlantic Hall, venue of the General Assembly at Hotel Presidential, and was also prepared to give the delegates lunch.
“These were the things that young man promised. We did not go to another oil company to solicit for help. It was PANDEF that asked NDDC for assistance in the area of accommodation during the meeting. As a result of this request, NDDC gave us N15m on the day we were to hold the meeting. They brought the N15m to pay for accommodation in various hotels in Port Harcourt. This money I did not see or touch. By the way, what is N15m to someone like me?
“Not only that, I was the one that wrote a personal letter to Governor Nyesom Wike to host us. The governor then called to inform me that he was going to America to pick up an award, and from there he would be going to Chatham House in London to give a lecture, and as such, he was not going to be available, so we should postpone the meeting. I told him it was too late to cancel the meeting, as delegates were beginning to arrive the venue of the meeting in Port Harcourt.
In a related development, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, and Clark met at the weekend to discuss critical issues affecting the Niger Delta region.
The meeting was part of efforts to douse renewed tension brought about by the suspended ceasefire by the Niger Delta Avengers.
Dickson, who spoke shortly after the meeting said deliberations focused on how steps could be taken to establish contacts with the Federal Government on the one hand, and the aggrieved youths on the other hand, in an attempt to prevent a major crisis in the area.
In a press statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media Relations, Fidelis Soriwei, the governor said that the meeting also condemned the disruption of the general meeting of PANDEF by security operatives in Port Harcourt.
“Chief Edwin Clark and I just had a meeting on issues affecting the Niger Delta region. In specific terms, the meeting dwelt on the breakdown of law and order, general security and the escalating tension in the Niger Delta. We explored how we can step up contacts with the Federal Government on the one hand and the agitators on the other,” the governor said.
He continued: “We condemned the security measures taken to stop the meeting of PANDEF in Port Harcourt on October 26, 2017, and demand that the action of the security agencies should be investigated and an apology tendered for what happened.
“We find the action of the security agencies unacceptable because PANDEF, like every other organisation has the right to meet as enshrined in the constitution.”
The meeting also discussed efforts being made towards repositioning and strengthening the umbrella Ijaw organizations, especially the Ijaw National Congress, and the Ijaw Youth Council.