Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja and Sylvester Idowu in Warri
Paramount ruler of Siembiri Kingdom in Delta State, HRM Pere Charles Ayemi-Botu, has appealed to President Mohammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency, withdraw the military from the Niger Delta region.
Also, a major stakeholder and leader of the beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme, Timi Ogoriba has cautioned against military offensive in the region in the face of a ceasefire by the Niger Delta Avengers.
According to the Ijaw monarch, attacking the region with military might at this moment when the militants had announced ceasefire would be counter-productive.
The Pere of Siembiri kingdom in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State in a statement, likened the action of the Federal Government to “shooting oneself on the foot or throwing away the baby with the bath water.”
He said, “Sequel to the acceptance of Cease Fire, courtesy of Monarchs and the Leaders of the Niger Delta, 10 days ago by the Niger Delta Avengers and other Militant groups, one would have expected President Buhari to announce his dialogue team as he did in early June, 2016 when he declared two weeks ceasefire, preceding his medical trip to the UK.”
The Ijaw monarch wondered why President Buhari, instead of announcing his dialogue team, ordered the mobilisation of troops to the Niger Delta Region under the pretext of military exercise, code named ” Operation Crocodile Smile.”
He stressed that by this action, he was thus sending negative signals to all Nigerians, the International Community and the whole World that the stage was now set to crush the militants at a time they had accepted cease fire.
“We have been making frantic and passionate appeals in conjunction with the United States Consul General, Mr. John Braye, calling on both the Federal Government and the Militants to sheathe their swords and embrace dialogue in order to proffer lasting solutions to the Niger Delta quagmire.
“Both the United States and the European Union have expressed their determination to partner with the Federal Government in this onerous task now that the situation has availed itself.
“I implore President Buhari to withdraw the troops he has deployed to the region and follow the path of honour to set the machinery in motion without further delay to commence the dialogue so as to achieve the desired peaceful resolution.
“Wise counselling suffices but if unheeded and the military authorities go ahead to unleash their arsenal on the goose that lays the golden egg and all the strategic and volatile oil installations are affected, invariably the resultant conflagration will certainly overwhelm the entire region nay Nigeria will be comatose economically. It is like throwing the baby with bath water or shooting himself on the foot!
“Nigerians have been bracing up with the Boko Haram insurgency for the past five years, with its dreaded affiliates , ISIS, AL QUEDA, El – Shabab, Islamic Al Maghreb, suffice to say that it is not yet uhuru and to further compound the crisis-prone nature we find ourselves is the senseless and barbaric killings, raping and wanton destruction of farms perpetrated by the Fulani Herdsmen throughout the country; should be a bane of concern that ought to be abated before it engulfs the entire country.
“Finally, it’s pertinent to remind ourselves again that in 2005, the American Diplomat to Nigeria, Mr. John Campbell bemusingly and ill-fatedly predicted that Nigeria was going to break in 2015 and in the same vein in 2010 , it was late Libyan strong man Col. Muhammad Ghaddafi who opined that Nigeria was too big to remain as one country and should be split into four states i.e Arewa Republic, Oduduwa Republic, Biafra Republic and Ijaw Republic and the then Senate President, Senator David Mark described him as a mad man.
“Nonetheless all these are not prophets of doom but it portends negative signals and our rulers should see the handwriting on the wall, due to the complex and volatile nature of our country that could spark off anytime if not carefully handled.
“I presume former President Jonathan knew and took cognisance of 2015 and never wanted any division in his tenure hence he quickly avoided it by raising the olive branch and I hope Buhari too would follow suit by listening to the voice of wisdom and wise counselling by reputable Nigerians in order not to be hijacked,” the Ijaw monarch stated further.
Briefing journalists after a meeting with leaders of various beneficiaries of the amnesty programme for ex-agitators, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Brig-Gen Paul Boroh (rtd) said a multi-pronged approach was being adopted where all stakeholders are involved in the resolution of the crisis.
The arrangement, he said, was to involve everybody because of the need to have adequate information in resolving the crisis. Boroh said yesterday’s meeting with leaders of the beneficiaries of the
Amnesty Programme was at his instance, adding that it was routine.
“We want to focus on issues that have to do with the programme and the region, with emphasis on the upsurge of militancy in the region, emergence of new groups, the effect of their activities on the region.
These are competing issues.
“Fundamentally, the Amnesty Programme is in the real integration phase. Attention is now given to the need to reintegrate the ex-agitators. Amnesty has ended and we are in the reintegration phase.
Nobody exited the programme before I took over, professionally, I came up with a strategy of exit for them,” Boroh said.
In an interview with journalists, a Niger Delta and leader of the delegation for the meeting, Timi Ogoriba, said the visit was necessitated by the recent happenings in the Niger Delta.
He added that there was also the need to show solidarity with Boroh “because he has been doing marvelously well.” Ogoriba said 30,000 people were captured in the programme, with 17,000 already trained, while the remaining will be trained in due course.
“We have to make sure that within the resources available, we train everybody. It is a routine thing that we regularly have to be meeting, because we have field workers and have to find out what is happening in the field and then come back to tell him what we found out.
“I see an end to the militancy in the Niger Delta. Definitely, there is nothing that starts that does not end. Right now, there is a ceasefire because of the interfacing by some of us with the people”, he said. that are involved.
“Government on its part has to show commitment by trying to put up a dialogue team, doing some of the things the young men had asked for, which they are very much aware of.
“I believe that since the elders have decided to come together from different ethnicity within the region, certainly, we are going to have an end to the problem. We are mediators, between the Amnesty Office
and the people that are captured within the programme, because we interfaced until Amnesty was put together,” he stated.
He noted that for those, who authored the programme, “we must make sure that the programme comes to a successful end and the beneficiaries of the programme from the region are made part of the
developmental strides of the region.”
Ogoriba noted that it was the interface with people involved with the agitators that brought about the meeting in Warri, Delta State recently, adding that when the elders saw the reasons and commitment
in “what we are doing, they decided to come together for us to meet.”
On the ceasefire declared by the militants, he said the next step should be a determination to ensure that meaningful dialogue begins even as he expressed apprehension on the huge military presence in the region, and possible action
Ogoriba noted that military authorities had explained that the high deployment of military hardware and presence in the Niger Delta was routine.
He, however faulted the timing , adding:.” If at this time the agitators have pronounced a ceasefire, it may appear provocative, it may be misconstrued. So, we have been making several appeals to ensure that they withdraw.
“And if they think it is a routine thing that they are doing, let them not carry out actions that might provoke others that will bring about a combat, which we do not want now.
We would not know when the dialogue will commence, we have asked the government to put up a team for the dialogue. The moment the government put up a team, within the next one or two days, the moment federal government put up a team, the other side will also put up theirs, which we are trying to take care of.
“Dialoguing is a process. So long as it begins, and we are sincere in our approach, everybody will lay down their arms,” he said.