- Disbands Ajumogobia’s Aaron team
By Emmanuel Addeh
Citing the need for the Niger Delta to forge a common front in the proposed peace talks between the Federal Government and militants in the region, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) on Monday pledged its allegiance to the Edwin Clark negotiation team and immediately disbanded its Odein Ajumogobia Committee.
But the MEND, which had earlier threatened to pull out of the negotiations aimed at putting an end to the current crisis in the area which has led to a significant loss in the country’s oil revenue vowed to closely monitor the Clark’s group in the next few months.
The group which also nominated Mr Ledum Mitee, an environmental activist, Ibanga Isine, a journalist and Timipa Okponipere, a lawyer, to represent it in the elder statesman’s committee, insisted that the new group must take into cognisance the progress MEND has made in the talks with the government.
Specifically, the movement maintained that the concessions it had succeeded in extracting from the government, including the release of those it described as “political prisoners”
In a statement signed by MEND’s spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, the group said it reserved the rights to recall the nominees in Clark’s group within six months if it noticed anything untoward during the negotiations.
MEND had earlier rejected the Clark’s group , although the Niger Delta Avengers, the most violent of all the groups in the Niger Delta region, had during its ceasefire, picked the Ijaw leader’s group as its only recognised platform for any peace talks.
The group formerly led by the Okah brothers, Henry and Charles, and later Mr Government Ekpemupolo, popularly called Tompolo, had insisted that the team headed by Ajumogobia, former minister of foreign affairs, should spearhead the proposed dialogue.
“The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) hereby announces the immediate disbandment of the AaronTeam 2 dialogue and peace initiative headed by Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, SAN which was inaugurated on June 12, 2016.
“Thereby affecting the take-off of ‘Operation Moses’ which is also hereby suspended. We sincerely thank all the patriots who honoured our invitation to serve and wish them well in their respective endeavours.
“The disbandment became necessary following MEND’s decision to recognise and work with Ijaw national leader Chief (Dr) Edwin Kiagbodo Clark as the leader of a pan-Niger Delta dialogue and peace initiative.
“We have always advocated that the Niger Delta region must speak with a single voice under a single umbrella body; otherwise the much-sought-after peace and development shall elude the region, again.
“Therefore, under the new collaborative arrangement, MEND has nominated Messrs Ledum Mitee, Ibanga Isine and Timipa Jenkins Okponipere, Esq., to work alongside Chief (Dr) Clark and other stakeholders.
“MEND shall continue to monitor the pace of progress of the Chief Edwin Clark-led team and reserves the right to recall its nominees after 6 months.”
“Nevertheless, MEND is compelled to categorically warn that, it is not yet uhuru. The Chief Edwin Clark-led new initiative should realise that MEND was already in preliminary talks with the federal government as confirmed by President Muhammadu Buhari himself,” the group stressed.