â€¢ Splinter group warns FG against meeting Tompoloâ€™s men
Sylvester Idowu in Warri and Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Ex-militant leader and Commander of defunct Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), Chief Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo, on Thursday stated that the federal government cannot continue to harass and intimidate the people of the region with military might.
He maintained that what the Niger Delta requires now is development and that monies used in the deployment of military and wares to the region should be used for that purpose.
Â However, the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA), a group which describes itself as a coalition of nine militant groups in the region, yesterday warned the federal government to stay away from an alleged proposed meeting with representatives of Tompolo.
Â In a statement issued on his behalf by his Media Consultant, Paul Bebenimibo, Tompolo advised President Muhammadu Buhari administration to fund numerous projects, earmarked and ongoing, in the Niger Delta with money used in deploying military for one exercise or the other in the region
Â According to the statement, â€œOur client, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, the Ibe-Ebidouwei of Ijaw Nation, has advised the President Buhari administration to fund numerous developmental projects earmarked and ongoing in the Niger Delta region, particularly the coastal area which is a very difficult terrain with money used to deploy military men and wares as well as carry out military exercises such as operation Crocodile Smile and Octopus Grip by the army and navy respectively.
Â â€œThe continuous military deployment to the region will not solve the problem of the age-long criminal neglect of the region by government.â€
Ekpemupolo noted that mere acknowledgement of underdevelopment of the area by the federal government without strong political will to reverse the tide will not solve the problems of the area.
Â He further said: â€œIt must be pointed out that mere acknowledgement of the fast deteriorating condition of the Niger Delta region by government is not enough to solve the problems there, rather, the federal government needs to put up a strong political will to address the issue of lack of development in the region.â€
On the presence of military in the region, Ekpemupolo said there were over 20 military houseboats in the creeks of Gbaramatu kingdom alone, adding that so much is provided by the government in taking care of the military men and wares in that region without achieving the purpose they are being drafted to the area as the agitation for development of the region continues on daily bases.
â€œGovernment cannot continue to harass and intimidate the people of the region with military might. What the region needs is simply development. And that is what the previous administration meant when it established the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko,â€ he added.
Meanwhile, The Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) which listed some key government functionaries currently facilitating the alleged meeting with Tompolo group in Abuja, stressed that the â€œfraudulent arranged meetingâ€ would incur their wrath.
Led by John-Mark Ezonebi, the militants said they should not be held responsible for any upheaval that would happen thereafter.
The group said it arrived at the decision after arisingÂ from a â€œcritical meetingâ€ along the Benin River in Delta State, alleging that some self-acclaimed Abuja-based youth leaders had turned the Niger Delta problem into a business venture.
The militants therefore Â urged President Buhari to work with the leadership of the Pan Niger Delta People Congress (PNDPC), which they said has the mandate to negotiate with the federal government on their behalf.