*Accuses FG of masterminding siege
By Davies Iheamnachor
PORT HARCOURT – Operatives of the Nigerian Police Force yesterday took over the Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, venue for the planned Chief Edwin Clerk’s led Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum’s, PANDEF, fourth quarter general meeting.
The meeting which was proposed to hold (Thursday) was greeted with heavily armed, fierce looking policemen, who barricaded the entrance to the venue, chasing way visitors from accessing the hotel.
The source and cause of the development could not be ascertained, but it has been gathered that the leader of the group, Clerk and other executives who are lodged in the facility are stocked in the five star hotel.
Also, Dr. Osasu Ekpen Isibor, National Rep Host Communities of Nigeria Producing oil and gas (HOSTCOM) said: “We all came to Hotel Presidential this morning for the meeting only to see everywhere taken over by the police.
“This is not proper. We do not know what may have led to this development. The police officer told us to go that the meeting has been cancelled.”
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Police Command said the police took over the hotel to forestall breakdown of law and order.
The Public Relations Officer of the Command, DSP Nnamdi Omoni, noted that the police got hint that there would likely be clash between members of PANDEF, adding that there was an order that delegates should not be allowed to access the venue to avoid clash among members of PANDEF.
But the members of PANDEF defiled the heavily security siege around the facilty and held the 4th general assembly.
In a communiqué signed by the leader of the body, Chief Edwin Clerk, at the end of the meeting, PANDEF said the general assembly considered the action of the Federal Government to forcefully stop such high level gathering of leaders of the Niger Delta as unacceptable and disturbing.
PANDEF noted that the general assembly held as planned, adding that the meeting had in attendance over 200 delegates comprising of key traditional rulers, leaders of thoughts, Academia, youth groups, women groups, and other critical stakeholders from all the states of the region.
The communique disclosed that PANDEF received and ratified the draft constitution of the body which was earlier approved by the General House at a special meeting held in Abuja on Friday.
The paper noted that the General Assembly also constituted a 12-man committee on zoning of offices and a 6-man Electoral committee for elections into positions within the organization ahead of its forthcoming elections.
It expressed concerns over the disruption of the meeting, including the cordoning-off of Hotel Presidential by an unprecedented deployment of security personnel from the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigerian Police Force, adding other consistent issues of PANDEF could not be discussed.
The communique read in part: “This is more disturbing when it is known that meetings of this nature by leaders of other Geo-political zones such as AREWA Consultative forum, Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo and the likes have never in the history of the Country been subjected to such humiliation and show of high-handedness.
“The General Assembly considers the action of the FG insensitive. When it is considered that at the height of resumed militancy in the Niger Delta in 2016, and its negative impact on the national economy which saw the fall in oil production to an unprecedented low of 800,000bopd.”
“It was the timely intervention of PANDEF that ensured the return to peace and stability. This brought about a surge in production of oil to the present level of 2.35million bpd and free flow of gas to our power plants and industries. This at present price brings in over USD115 million (about 36 billion Naira) daily.”
PANDEF however, called on the FG to offer explanation on the show of hostility against the elders and leaders of the region.