By Daniel Idonor
ABUJAâ€”THE FederalÂ Government yesterday reacted to the Tuesday 60 day ceasefire declaration by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) when it applauded the move, saying that it would provide an ample opportunity for ongoing negotiation between the government and the militants.
The new Minister of Defence, General Godwin Abbe (rtd) who spoke to State House Correspondents at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) declared, however, that though the government is delighted by the ceasefire, it must be without any condition.
Specifically, the government warned that the said appointment of maverick politician, Rochas Okorocha, by MEND as its mediator, between it and the Federal Government is a serious matter, as Chief Okorocha must first repent and drop his arms in his capacity as a militant, before government can relate with him in this regard.
Gen. Abbe declared that unless Okorocha comes out to tell Nigerians that he is one of the militants troubling the flesh and blood of Nigerians and the soul of the Niger-Delta in the recent past years, government cannot do business of negotiation with him on behalf of MEND, saying â€œIf he (Okorocha) declares himself a militant, yes we will start dealing with himâ€.
The militant group had demanded the withdrawal of soldiers from some parts of the Niger Delta as parts of the conditions for the ceasefire, â€œa compulsory prelude to talks is the withdrawal of the military Joint Task Force from the Gbaramatu communities and the return of all the displaced persons back to their various homes,â€ its spokeperson, Jomo Gbomo had said.
â€œThese are good signs. We expect that following from this cease fire, all aggrieved Nigerians in the Niger Delta should embrace the offer of amnesty in good faith and totally. Government is willing to talk with anybody. Government will be willing to relate to anybody that can bring peace to this country. They canâ€™t give condition to government. They canâ€™t.â€