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Crack in MEND over Rochas Okorocha

* N-Delta elders meet Boyloaf in the creek

By EMMA AMAIZE

Warri – A TOP member of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND), “General” Boyloaf, yesterday, disagreed with group’s spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, over the disowning, weekend, of the national president of the Nigerian Red Cross Society and politician, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, as a mediator for MEND.

But the contact group set up by Niger-Delta elders at the end of its meeting, July 4, in Warri, Delta State to liaise with militant groups and government with a view to building trust between the two sides commenced work, weekend, with a visit to one of the militant camps in Bayelsa State.

An Ijaw leader and former commissioner in Delta State, Wing Commander P. Biakpara, led the team comprising, among others, the former provost marshal of the Nigeria Army and chairman of the South-South Peoples Assembly (SSPA) in Edo State, Brigadier-General Idada Ikponmwen, and chairman of the Niger-Delta Technical Committee (NTDC), Mr. Ledum Mitee. They were at “General” Boyloaf’s camp, Friday.

Minister of defence, Major-General Godwin Abbe (rtd.) had, while fielding questions from newsmen at the end of the Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, last Wednesday, stirred the hornet’s nest when he queried, “Who has appointed Rochas Okorocha?”, adding, “ If he declares himself a militant, yes, we will start dealing with him”.

Jomo Gbomo,  in an  electronic mail response to an inquiry by Sunday Vanguard on the status of Okorocha as go-between for the group, also said, “MEND categorically denies ever presenting the politician, Rochas Okorocha as a mediator. We have only heard about him but have never had any contact whatsoever. Certain persons may have impersonated the group to champion a cheap political point”.

But “General” Boyloaf, fuming with anger when he spoke to Sunday Vanguard on phone, yesterday, said it was wrong for Jomo Gbomo to disclaim Okorocha because he (Boyloaf) contacted and brought him in, as the national president of the Nigerian Red Cross Society and international peace negotiator to use his wealth of experience to represent MEND in discussions concerning amnesty, disarmament and peace with government.

A source close to Okorocha said he was  furious that his name was being mentioned in such a scandalous manner in a matter that a senior operator of MEND and others contacted and frantically requested him to take up the role.

It was gathered that because of Okorocha’s international connection and pedigree as a mediator, some people sold the idea of his usefulness to “General” Boyloaf.

Boyloaf corroborated our findings when he told Sunday Vanguard it was wrong for anybody to say that MEND did not make any contact whatsoever with Okorocha, pointing out, “I approached him in my capacity as one of the leaders of MEND to play the role he was already playing for the group at a time Henry Okah was still in detention.”

His words, “Nobody will say he does not know Owelle  Rochas Okorocha, I called him to come in, he did not request for the role, and we were the ones that requested him to do something for us, so we should not deny him.” He said he was entitled to his views in MEND just as any other person, saying if the Presidential Committee on Amnesty failed in its bid to handle the issue of amnesty, Okorocha should not be blamed for its failure.

N-Delta elders meet with Boyloaf: Some Niger-Delta elders have visited Boyloaf’s camp to inform the militants to accept the amnesty offered by the Federal Government and also get their reactions to the offer.

The contact group plans to meet with militant leaders in the region, collate their positions before requesting for a meeting with President Umaru Yar’Adua to brief him on the way forward.

Boyloaf who listened to the elders told them at the end of their presentation on the purpose of the visit that what the militants want was development of the Niger-Delta, implementation of the Ledum Mitee–led committee report and other things.


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