By Emma Amaize
WARRI – JUST about 12 hours after it announced a 60-day ceasefire, effective 00.00 hours Wednesday, July 15, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) said, today, the armistice was under threat by the Joint Task Force (JTF), which allegedly dispatched seven gun boats with heavily armed troops from Warri, ostensibly to one of its camps located along the borders of Delta and Ondo states.
â€œIf this information from a very reliable source within the JTF happens to be true, the ceasefire will be called off with immediate effectâ€, spokesman of MEND, Jomo Gbomo said in an online statement.
His words, â€œWe are monitoring the armada and sincerely hope that the planned attack will be converted to a war exerciseâ€.
But the an Ijaw group, the Warri-Ijaw Peace Monitoring Group (WIPMG) in a statement by its chairman, Chief Patrick Bigha commended MEND â€œfor declaring cease-fire in the troubled Niger Delta regionâ€, saying, â€œIt is a welcome development as the Federal Government has signified its intention to engage the youths in dialogueâ€.
â€œIt must be pointed out that there cannot be a meaningful development in an atmosphere of rancour. We believe that the Federal Government has learnt its lessons that the age-long neglect by successive governments of the Niger- Delta region cannot be resolved by military invasion of communities. Dialogue and sincere negotiation is the key to resolving the crisis in the region. Government must be proactive in dealing with the situation in the Niger Deltaâ€, he asserted.
â€œDemilitarization of the Niger Delta region is very important to the peace process as the presence of the JTF is a source of intimidation to the peopleâ€, the group added.
â€œThe Gbaramatu people should be allowed to go back to their communities to participate freely in the peace process. The Federal Government, should as a matter of urgency, rebuild the communities destroyed by the JTF and pay adequate compensation to the people for the hardship they have passed through in recent times.
â€œOnce again we want to thank MEND for the cease-fire and urge all fighters in the region to avail themselves with the opportunity of the Federal Government’s amnesty offer so that the real issues, such as political imbalance, creation of states, economic opportunities-full participation in the oil and gas industry and infrastructural development-provision of health, education, water and housing facilities will be tackledâ€, he said.