Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has urged the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) not to dabble in partisan politics but to remain focused on protecting the collective interest of the Niger Delta region.
Senator Diri stated this when the PANDEF executive led by its chairman, Senator Emmanuel Ibok-Essien, visited him at the Government House in Yenagoa on Sunday.
He praised the efforts of leaders and other stakeholders of PANDEF, particularly Elder Statesman Edwin Clark for showing leadership over the years on issues concerning the region, acknowledging that PANDEF had made a commendable effort towards the growth and development of the region.
He said: “PANDEF is an apolitical body. I advise that it remains so in order for its integrity to be intact.
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“PANDEF is a voice in the Niger Delta and in Nigeria and it is contributing to the growth and development of our region. We appreciate the leaders because of the role they play in stabilising the Niger Delta and the Nigerian state.
“We also appreciate our elder statesman, Pa Edwin Clark, who has given leadership to PANDEF. Our leaders have been at the forefront of our struggles and agitations, raising the issues from time to time. So far, we have not achieved our desired goals but we must continue to agitate for what rightly belongs to us.
“The Niger Delta should have a voice working for us at the national level. The forum needs to have synergy with governors. We used to have the BRACED (Bayelsa Rivers Akwa Ibom Cross River Edo and Delta) Commission, which is comatose but God willing we will bring it back on stream.”
Earlier, the PANDEF national chairman, Senator Emmanuel Ibok-Essien, commended Senator Diri on his administration’s impactful infrastructural development strides and for supporting Bayelsans, particularly during the floods.
Senator Ibok-Essien, who said a 16-point agenda was presented to President Muhammadu Buhari, also highlighted a number of issues bedevilling the Niger Delta region.
They include the plight of internally displaced persons, the National Water Bill, true federalism, oil pollution among others.