- Niger Delta Avengers breaks silence again, insist region wants control of its resources
By Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoaand Sylvester Idowu in Warri
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) yesterday accused the federal government of reneging on its promise to release those it called ‘political prisoners’ as part of a deal to bring peace to the Niger Delta.
Among those the ex-militant group recently said they had concessions from the government for their release were: Messrs Charles and Henry Okah, Nnamdi Kalu and “soldiers” who said supported the Niger Delta struggle in 2008.
However, the group noted that though it was still waiting for the government to start the implementation of the agreement, it fully endorsed the meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief Edwin Clark-led peace committee scheduled for October 31.
MEND maintained that as part of its commitment to peace in the region, it had dissolved its own negotiating team into the Clark-headed Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) aimed at finding solutions to the current Niger Delta crisis.
In a statement by its spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo, the ex-agitators explained that it was as a result of the agreement with the federal government that made it deploy its “vast contacts” in bringing about the relative peace which has seen crude oil exports soar considerably.
“The federal government, Nigerians and the international community would certainly agree that as part of these concerted patriotic efforts by MEND within the preceding six months of this year, relative peace has since returned to the Niger Delta region.
“The country’s oil and gas production capacity has also increased tremendously. However, in spite of MEND efforts, the federal government is yet to keep to the terms of the agreement reached with the group,” the ex-warlords said.
However, the group added: “The forthcoming meeting vindicates MEND and federal government’s continued insistence and belief ab initio that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari meant well for the sustainable peace and development of the hitherto neglected Niger Delta region.
“MEND reiterates that we were the first and only militant group in the Niger Delta region that was meaningfully and constructively engaged in talks with the federal government with a view to resolving the Niger Delta crisis.
“And this was duly confirmed by no less a person than President Buhari sometime in July 2016 in his farewell remarks to the outgoing German Ambassador, Mr. Michael Zinner.
“His Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, later confirmed our claim when he informed the media that the presidency was ‘waiting to receive the final agreement.”
Meanwhile, militant group, Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), yesterday broke its silence, warning that only a genuine resolution of the crisis with the region controlling its resources in a true federalism will guarantee peace in the area.
It therefore warned that no amount of military action and surge would “Stop us from halting the flow of the oil from our land to sustain Nigeria. This is our land that we are the masters of its battlefields.”
NDA in a statement signed by its spokesman, Mudoch Agbinibo, said it had warned earlier that it wants the “Peace with honour, no more peace of our time,” adding any meeting with the government should be seen as driving a combustible vehicle laden with fire to safety; it must be driven with carefulness, apparently referring to the proposed meeting between Clark led Pan Niger Delta Stakeholders and President Muhammadu Buhari.
It maintained that agitations were the rights of component units in a federalism, noting that it owed no authority, tribe or political group any apology.
“It is the responsibility of the central government to cooperatively manage them rather than overheating the system by thinking of fierce responses (decisive military action),” it added.
The militant group said it was disgusting for President Buhari to equate the revenue priorities of the Niger Delta region with regional comparisons of development in Nigeria.
“For crying out loud, since 1914 our resources have being the essence of this union called Nigeria before crude oil was discovered.
“The amalgamation of southern and northern Nigeria was for administrative convenience because the north was not viable economically. The idea of bundling through bills like North-east and Nort-eest Development Commission is fraud, hypocrisy and bigotry by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“President Buhari should think like a leader with the advantage of his age to see the genuine and legitimate agitation with the right attitude to pacify our people. We have been raped for too long, Buhari should face the reality of the Niger Delta question.
“He can stop listening to ideas and advice of the agitation as political system support structure that his tribal warlords and conflict merchants have hypnotised him to believe as the face of the Niger Delta struggle,” the group said.
Maintaining that Niger Delta was part of Nigeria federation that he governs, NDA said since he is the president, he will always need the cooperation of the Niger Delta people to share or allocate their resources to other component units.
“To engage in discussion with our people on October or any date he likes, the issues are not new. We want to control our resources and pay appropriate taxation to the central government that is fiscal federalism in practice and in principles.
“The government, representatives of the Multinational Oil Corporations, neutral international observers and elders as well as stakeholders should guide themselves with the following documents: the Sir Henry Willinks Commission Report of 1958, The Ogoni Bill of Rights, The Kaiama Declaration document of the Ijaw Youth Council, the General Alexander Ogomudia Committee Report, Niger Delta Technical Committee Report which contains the Pre- amnesty issues and agreement with the government of Nigeria in 2009. Then, the framework can be drawn for achieving the short, medium and long term objectives towards the restoration of our land and reparation for the people that have been raped and colonised since 1914,” it concluded.