- More militants quit N’Delta creeks, list conditions for peace
- New group: We are not part of cessation of hostilities
Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa and Sylvester Idowu in Warri
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) monday said though it welcomed the recent decision by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) to ceasefire and dialogue with the federal government, it would effectively pull out of the peace process if elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, agrees to lead negotiations.
The group said instead, its Aaron Team 2 Dialogue team led by ex-minister, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, should spearhead the talks with the government, and advised Clark to “respect” himself.
Describing the NDA as criminals, MEND in a statement by its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, stated that accepting the offer by the NDA would give the impression that the Niger Delta is polarised.
According to the group, if Clark bows to pressure to accept to lead the Niger Delta negotiating team, it would confirm insinuations that he (Clark), has always been the mastermind behind the NDA.
“The NDA’s decision to name a separate dialogue team headed by Clark was hasty, premature and capable of sending wrong signals to the federal government that the Niger Delta region is polarised and therefore incapable of speaking with a single voice under a single umbrella body.
“We reasonably believe that the NDA, Clark, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and others who attended the August 19, 2016, Niger, Delta Coastal States’ stakeholders’ meeting jointly convened by Clark and Okowa, knew well that the MEND AaronTeam 2 Dialogue, Peace and Development Initiative headed by Ajumogobia was inaugurated by MEND on June 12, 2016.
“We also reasonably believe that these earlier-mentioned persons and stakeholders are aware that the federal government has been engaged in preliminary talks with MEND with a view to resolving the current Niger Delta crisis, as duly confirmed by no less a person than President Muhammadu Buhari.
“As a matter of fact, MEND has so far been able to secure some very critical concessions from the federal government in the ongoing talks.
“The final phase of the talks shall, however, be concluded by the MEND Aaron Team led by Ajumogobia.
“In the light of these developments, we want to believe that Clark shall respect himself as an elder statesman by refraining from accepting to lead a so-called “NDA delegation” to non-existent talks with the federal government,” the ex-militants group stated.
It added: “If Clark accepted such an appointment, then Nigerians and the international community shall be left with no other option than to believe that truly, he was the mastermind and evil genius of the spate of NDA attacks on oil installations which have greatly contributed to destabilise the current administration, blighted Nigeria’s oil production capacity and thereby, caused economic hardship on innocent Nigerians.
“It is imperative to emphasise that the Federal Government of Nigeria must not set a precedent of dialogue with criminals. If, on the contrary, the federal government chooses to hold a separate dialogue with the NDA team led by Clark, MEND shall immediately disband the AaronTeam 2 and pull out of the ongoing talks.
“We insist that the NDA, their patrons, sponsors, supporters and sympathizers are criminals and haters of the current administration (as revealed by the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers – RNDA) who must publicly renounce all forms of hostility against Nigeria. Once this is done, MEND shall embrace the NDA and their co-travellers.
“At almost 90 years of age, we believe that Clark cannot reasonably stand the rigours associated with dialogue and negotiation of the Niger Delta question.
“Clark must not head every civil society initiative in the Niger Delta. Following his appointment by NDA (assuming he decided to accept it), we expected Clark to lead his team to pledge allegiance to the MEND Aaron Team which is patiently waiting on the sidelines to meet President Buhari in the next couple of days to chart a course for the beleaguered region”
Meanwhile, militants in the region continued to embrace peace monday, following the lead by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), which for over seven months held the nation hostage with the destruction of oil and gas infrastructure in the oil-rich region.
Aside the NDA which in deference to some leaders of the region led by Clark, accepted a ceasefire last Saturday, the Reformed Egbesu Fraternities comprising Egbesu Boys of the Niger Delta, Egbesu Red Water Lions and Egbesu Mightier Fraternity have also announced a 60-day armistice.
Joining the horde yesterday, another group of fighters, the Iduwini Volunteer Force (IVF), which operates from Bayelsa State, noted that it was quitting the creeks temporarily to give the federal government a chance to meet the demands made by the militants.
“The leadership of the Iduwini Volunteer Force (IVF), rose from a crucial stakeholders meeting with all its unit commanders and zonal commanders to review the security situation in the Niger Delta vis-a-vis the attacks on oil and gas installations in the oil-rich region of the Niger Delta.
“The meeting which started early on August 21, 2016, lasted till the early hours of August 22, 2016 in one of our creek locations.
“And we deliberated extensively on the current security situation in the Niger Delta, the efforts of notable leaders to seek peace and dialogue in resolving the crisis,” the group led by Commander Johnson Biboye noted.
While commending the role played by the elders in the region, the group warned that any attempt to politicise or derail the peace process would be met with stiff resistance.
The group added that it also discussed very elaborately, the federal government’s desire to ensure that peace prevails in the Niger Delta region and have decided to key into the process.
While lamenting the neglect of oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta region, the group said the Iduwini Kingdom of Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, remains one of the greatest oil/gas bearing kingdoms in Nigeria.
However, sign that there is no end in sight to the resolution of the Niger Delta crisis emerged yesterday when a new militant group, the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate (NDGJM), said it was not part of the cessation of hostilities as announced by the NDA.
The group in a statement signed by its spokesman, Aldo Agbalaja, said it would continue to carry out more deadly attacks until the right thing is done.
It berated Clark, noting that he was part of the rot plaguing the Niger Delta region, as they described last Friday’s stakeholders meeting organised by him as a charade.
NDGJM, which is also an emerging destructive group, said it was still carrying on with its campaign against Nigeria’s oil and gas interest until the federal government does the right thing for the people of the region.
On last Friday’s stakeholders meeting convened by Clark, the militant group maintained that he never had the mandate to hold the meeting or speak on behalf of the region but only for his ethnic group.
“He does not have the mandate to convene a meeting or speak on behalf of the Niger Delta, the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate is not in support of that so-called stakeholders’ meeting, which by the way was populated by the same gang of breast-pocket politicians who in the six to seven years of Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency, ruled with him, looted the nation and raped the Niger Delta.
“We see that meeting in Warri last Friday as an attempt by this same gang led by Clark, to creep back into national relevance and continue with the looting spree that supposedly ended with Jonathan’s regime,” it added.
The militant group further said: “We are neither moved by the stage-playing in name of the call for ceasefire by the Warri gang last Friday nor by the acting up that followed in the supposed ceasefire declaration by the NDA.
“As a matter of fact, the people who called for truce were the same set of people who put the Avengers together in the first place, therefore the hypocrisy of these people is becoming glaring to the world by the day.
“We also know that the charade called ceasefire is in the bid to collect more money from both the federal government and oil companies to be shared between the founders and the boys of the Avengers.
“We hereby serve a notice that the so-called truce called by Clark and others is not recognised by NDGJM as we do not see Clark as the leader of all Niger Delta, but of only the Ijaw nation.”
It maintained that it would still continue its attack on Nigeria’s oil and gas facilities until the federal government does the right thing for the people of the region, insisting that only a credibly convened meeting will make it stop hostilities against oil facilities.
“We are serving a notice that NDGJM is still carrying on with this campaign against Nigeria’s oil and gas interest until the federal government does right by our people.
“Like we said in our previous message, only a credibly convened conference of Niger Delta stakeholders, made up of real, grassroots representative from the six core Niger Delta states, not breast-pocket rogues, who are merely looking for more avenues to sleaze and looting, can dialogue on behalf of the region and get a real deal out for our people, and those are the kind of representatives that the Niger Delta people can trust with their mandate.
“Therefore, President Muhammadu Buhari should take note, stop wasting your time with these people, they are not serving the interest of the Niger Delta and they cannot stop the current campaign. They can only withdraw their boys, the Avengers, from action, but not the genuine campaigners for a better Niger Delta,” it added.
NDGJM said it was aware of a group (NDDCG), led by the Amanyanabo of Twon Brass, Alfred Diete-Spiff, which has the involvement of some international agencies, and advised the federal government to build on that group for peace to reign and not that of the Clark group.
“Enough of these buccaneers in the name of leaders of the region, our people from both the upland and the creeks deserve a better deal, not the Avengers kind of deal.