Ethnic leaders and influential groups from Nigeria's unruly Niger Delta
have rejected a government nominee to head talks on the unrest in the
oil-rich region. The main armed group in the delta says it will not
attend the conference. From Abuja, Gilbert da Costa reports many
analysts are now skeptical the long-awaited summit will achieve much.
administration of President Umaru YarAdua has repeatedly assured that a
political solution to the Niger Delta crisis is a priority. Mr.
YarAdua moved swiftly, after taking office, to engage the delta
militants, promising to address their grievances and pledging formal
The government-sponsored summit has been touted as a
major breakthrough in efforts to ease tensions and threats to Nigeria's
The government says the appointment of former U.N.
envoy Ibrahim Gambari as a mediator gives the Niger Delta issue a
But several of the delta region's leaders
are not impressed with the choice of Gambari, a Muslim from northern
Nigeria. Militant leader Tom Pullo spoke to VOA by telephone.
"We do not want an Hausa man to come and discuss Niger Delta matter," he said. "We shall resolve our matter."
main armed group in the Niger Delta - the Movement for the Emancipation
of the Delta - has said it will not participate in the summit unless
its presumed leader, who is standing trial on treason charges, is
Critics say five decades of oil extraction from the
delta by foreign companies have polluted its land and water, leaving
villages impoverished while corrupt politicians and criminal gangs
enrich themselves with lucrative trade in stolen crude.
says the government must take concrete measures to boost development in
the Niger Delta if it is to prevent attacks that have cut Nigeria's oil
production by a quarter since early 2006.
"There is no equal
rights and justice, as far as we are concerned," he said. "You cannot,
for example, set up a Niger Delta Development Commission to empower
them with money and you are not giving them the money to develop the
It is not clear if Gambari will be replaced as
chair before the summit, which is expected to get underway later this