Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
A new group in the South-south region, the New Niger Delta Emancipation Front (NNDEF), has called on militants operating in the region to end hostility and embrace peace even as it hailed the deployment of the military under the ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ to restore sanity to the area.
The group, in a statement issued in Abuja wednesday, noted that the presence of the military in the Niger Delta was crucial to protect the region’s larger population that has become human pawns to a vocal minority made of the militants and their sponsors.
The statement which was signed by the group Director of Public Enlightenment and Awareness, Lucky Humphrey, urged Nigerians of South-south origin to develop the courage to speak out against the atrocities being committed against them by militants whom it accused of imposing their decisions on the entire area without consulting with the wider public.
It said things could have gone worse had the federal government succumbed to the blackmail of those resisting military presence in the Niger Delta under the pretext of calling for negotiation while what they were actually doing was “buying time for their boys (militants) to mobilise and gather more weapons.”
The group explained that “the militants who are not unaware of the global economic meltdown would have resorted to their old ways of kidnap for ransom but for the vigilance of the military. Had this happened, only the celebrity kidnap victims would get reported and attract security intervention while the poorer families would become prey to the small ransom kidnap syndicates that would operate freely.
“This is why, contrary to the position of militants’ sponsors who could afford the media hype to counter claims, we salute President Muhammadu Buhari for deploying military to the region. “It is in the same vein we advise our people who have been misled into taking up arms to discard such idea and structure their intervention for the Niger Delta within the framework of the legitimate platforms for expressing dissatisfaction by law abiding Nigerians.
“Unrepentant militants should note that the rest of the Niger Delta would move forward without them in the event that they suffer the consequences of refusing to disarm. We know from recent experiences that the arms they bear against the government are not for the general wellbeing of the Niger Delta people but for some narrow interest for which they are prepared to commit crimes.”