BENINâ€”THE Niger Delta Elders and Leaders Forum, has stressed the need to de-militarize the Niger Delta, saying the people of the region are still skeptical about the sincerity of the Federal Government in the peace process with the presence of members of the Joint Task Force (JTF).
Meanwhile, oil bearing communities in Edo State, want the Federal Government to provide amphibious vehicles for oil communities in the Niger Delta, so as to cushion the transportation problem being experienced by oil producing communities in the region.
However, a member of the Peace and Contact Committee in the Niger Delta and former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, Brig.General Idada Ikponmwen, who noted that the Federal Government had been able to meet some of the demands of the elders of the region, which included the release of the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Mr. Henry Okah, said, however, that the presence of the military was still a big threat to the peace process.
While commending the idea of setting up the Contact Committee by the elders of the region in order to ensure the success of the amnesty granted to the militants, Idada described their discussions so far with militant leaders as â€œvery encouragingâ€, but feared, however, that the peace move may be jeopardized if the JTF was not withdrawn as we are still uncomfortable with the presence of the military in the region.
According to him, â€œthis crisis is a big impediment to the progress of this country and I believe that by the time our group moves round and have an effective interaction with the militants as we have started, we will be able to proffer tangible working solutions that will lead to the achievement of peace. But one of the conditions the elders gave to the Federal Government for the amnesty to succeed is to withdraw the JTF from the region.
â€œWhat is happening now is that we believe that this whole process ought to be properly negotiated, that is why the Leaders’ Forum stipulated certain conditions for peace. We must think of proper measures to re-integrate the militants into the society in a gainful manner not necessarily monetary incentives”.
The JTF that is all over the place is not good, this issue of disarmament must be done from both sides because it will be difficult to be talking peace in the face of military force menacingly hovering around the placeâ€ he stated.