By Emma Amaize
WARRI â€” MOVEMENT for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) says it does not require the blessings of militant leaders in the region to constitute a negotiating team to present its demands to the Federal Government.
Spokesman of the group, Jomo Gbomo, in an exclusive e-mail response to Vanguard inquiry said, â€œwe do not need the total blessing and support of everyone to put together the â€˜Aaronâ€™ team once this is approved by Henry Okah when he comes out, every other personâ€™s opinion becomes irrelevantâ€.
A top officer of the group, â€œGeneralâ€ Boyloaf had in an interview with Vanguard said leaders of militant groups in the region have not mandated anybody to set up a negotiating team with the Presidency on their behalf.
He was reacting to a statement by Jomo Gbomo that the militant group would inaugurate its own team of negotiators to pass its demands and expectations to the President through the new Special Adviser to the President on Niger-Delta, Mr. Timi Alaibe.
But â€œGeneralâ€ Boyloaf insisted the opinion of principal militant leaders in the zone were not sought before the announcement was made.
According to him, â€œIt will not work. A similar thing was tried in the past and it failed. I am not part of those constituting a team of negotiators to discuss anything. I have also contacted other leaders like Ateke Tom and they are not in support of it.
â€œIf the government does not want to make a costly mistake, they should not accept any negotiating team until they speak with the key leaders to know if they are in support of itâ€, he said.
Ekiyor, Arerebo laud Alaibeâ€™s appointment
Meanwhile, President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Dr. Chris Ekiyor and a Niger-Delta peace activist, Mr. Cletus Arerebo have applauded the appointment of the former Managing Director of the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Timi Alaibe, as the Special Adviser to the President on Niger-Delta.
Dr. Ekiyor in an interview said, â€œAlaibe is one man President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua can bank on for sincere and pragmatic ideas on how to break the present logjam in the Niger-Delta because people will listen to himâ€.
Mr Arerebo asserted that bringing Alaibe on board was a deft move that would usher in a better platform for straightforward advice that will result in the resolution of the crisis â€œbecause he enjoys the respect of every genuine person involved in the Niger-Delta struggleâ€.
According to Ekiyor, â€œAs the president of the IYC, I have faced the challenge of working with many Ijaw leaders, both political and traditional, and Timi Alaibe is one of such leaders, I can assure you that Timi has an understanding of the problems of the Niger-Delta and he is the first responder to crisis.
I can tell you that if he was on ground, this crisis that we have now would not have escalated to this point because he would have acted appropriately and insisted on certain things to be done right.”
Arerebo corroborated Ekiyor saying, â€œAlaibe is somebody the militants themselves will listen to because they know that he knows the issues at stake and wants the matters resolved. My prayer is that the President should listen to his frank advice and not throw them awayâ€.
Delta Waterwaysâ€™ members want MEND to stop bombing oil facilities
Three members of the Delta Waterways Security Committee (DWSC), Warri in Delta State, the Reverend Duke Akpososo, Mr. Henry Ayanruoh and Ambassador Austin Oniyesan, weekend, called on the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta to stop bombing oil pipelines in the state because of its adverse economic effect on the government and the people.
They also urged militants to accept the amnesty proclamation by President Yarâ€™Adua, with Reverend Akpososo saying, â€œthe Amnesty offered by the Federal Government is a great once-in-a-lifetime political and judicial window of opportunity for the militants and our friends in the creeks to lay down their arms and come out of hiding to live a normal life.
â€œThey may never have this kind of opportunity again in their lifetime. They could now pursue their case through a normal internationally-accepted legal means and proceduresâ€, he added, calling on the JTF to halt further military operation in the creeks, it run counter to the amnesty offer.
Mr. Ayanruoh said the peace strategy initiated by Dr. Uduaghan, which was working well in the state before it was interrupted May 13 following a face-off between militants and JTF over the killing of some soldiers â€œis a winning formula and the governor should consolidate on it despite the hiccup caused by no fault of the state governmentâ€.
On his part, Mr. Oniyesan said â€œthere is increasing misery on our people as a result of MEND activities. Our people have been perpetually placed in economic deprivation; we are destroying our homes in the name of Niger-Delta struggle. I, therefore, appeal to MEND to rethink this present scenarioâ€.
Instead of the continued bombing of oil facilities, he said MEND should organise a 5 millionâ€“man march in Abuja to further press home the demands of the region.