By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Egufe Yafugborhi and Perez Brisibe
Amid the uncertainty surrounding the talks between the Federal Government and militants to resolve issues that led to renewed bombing of oil facilities in the Niger-Delta, some militant groups in the region, yesterday, rejected what they called the grandstanding of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) as their chief negotiator, even as they dismissed MEND’s selection of a group of persons, dubbed Aaron Team 2, to dialogue with government on militants’ behalf.
A militant group, Ultimate Warriors, which conveyed the stand of other militant groups in an exclusive electronic mail to Sunday Vanguard, also gave President Muhammadu Buhari three weeks to name a high-powered government Dialogue Team, comprising members of the international community with an unambiguous mandate to parley with militants and other stakeholders to stop pipeline bombings.
Another group, Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, NDRC, insisted that MEND was neither in the position to speak for Niger Deltans nor impose a negotiation team on the people because the group has taken sides with the Nigerian government against the Niger Delta.
This came as the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, the leading militant group in the region, alleged that government security agencies were collaborating with some saboteurs MEND to bomb oil pipelines, and thereafter, “apprehend innocent persons to impress their Commander-in-Chief and sabotage the genuine struggle”.
In addition, the Ijaw People Development Initiative said Buhari was nonchalantly surrendering the sovereignty of the country to multinational oil companies by affirming that they were dialoguing with militants on how to end the Niger Delta crisis.
The MEND Aaron Team 2 is led by Mr. Henry Odein Ajumogobia, SAN (Rivers – Team Leader) with HRH King Alfred Papapreye Diette-Spiff, Amayanabo of Twon-Brass (Bayelsa ) as Deputy Team Leader & representative of the Niger Delta Dialogue and Contact Group (NDDCG). Others are Senator Florence Ita-Giwa (Cross River), representing all aggrieved militant groups and communities from the Bakassi axis, and Mr. Ledum Mitee, Esq. (Rivers).
Senator Adolphus Wabara (Abia) represents the oil-bearing communities in Abia and Imo states, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo (Delta State), Mr. Ibanga Isine (Akwa Ibom) and Mr. Alfred Isename (Edo) , while Mr. Timipa Jenkins Okponipere, Esq. (Bayelsa ) is Secretary.
Buhari had, on Thursday, said government was already meeting with the militant groups to resolve the Niger Delta crisis through oil companies and security agencies, a claim the leading militant group in the oil-rich region immediately rejected.
The President spoke during a farewell visit to him at the Presidential Villa, Abuja by the outgoing German Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Michael Zinner.
Spokesperson for the so-called Ultimate Warriors of Niger Delta, Sibiru Taiowoh, in an email to Sunday Vanguard, said the tripartite of government, Niger Delta militants/stakeholders and international observers should put in place to resolve the crisis in the region.
Taiowoh, said: “We are by this statement, however, giving the Federal Government a three- week ultimatum to name its own dialogue team, comprising of renowned foreign observers and delegations from the European Union.”
“After the government had named its dialogue team, we and others, under the Supreme Council through the government of the Niger Delta states, will name our representatives.”
Divide and rule tactics
On the President’s claim of talks with militants, the group said: “Everything Buhari said is a load of shit. This government makes many careless and reckless statements that often times backfire against them. How can Mr. President tell such crude lies just because he wants to please an ambassador? “Whatever the President is hiding should be made bare. They talk so sweetly when they face the international community or they have foreign visitors, but lack the will to do the just and equitable thing in the region. They should stop this deceit and face the reality.
“This is a propaganda taken too far. How can he say the international oil companies, IOCs, are reaching out to the militants groups when even the government has not been able to do so? So it is the IOCs that are wasting billion of dollars to pay soldiers to secure their facilities that now have the means to talk with agitating militant groups more credibly than Nigeria state.”
The militant group added: “We sensed the Buhari government must have struck a deal with the IOCs to commence the divide and rule tactics, which they want to deploy in tackling the renewed insurgency.
“On this note, let us restate that we are not in any talk with the Nigeria government either through a minister or any of its officials.” On the Niger Delta/South-East lawmakers demand for 65 per cent ownership of oil in the two regions at a recent meeting in Owerri, the group said: “We want to use this medium to salute the dogged and bold steps taken by the South South/South East Lawmakers Forum for lending their voice to one of our core demands- the allocation of 65 percent oil blocs to Niger Delta people. “ “We actually demanded 60 per cent of the oil blocs but in their wisdom they decided to up it to 65 per cent, which is still a fair deal to us by the Nigeria nation state. The position of the lawmakers only shows that they are at home with us on this struggle.”
‘President not sincere’
Meanwhile, the NDRC, in a statement, yesterday, said the Presidency had not contacted it on dialogue with government. It said: “Though members of the Aaron Team II are distinguished Niger Deltans, MEND is not in a position to speak for the Niger Deltans or impose a negotiation team because they have taken sides with the Nigerian government against the Niger Delta.”
‘Surrendering our sovereignty’
Speaking to Sunday Vanguard, IPDI national president, Austin Ozobo, said Buhari was surrendering Nigeria sovereignty to multinational countries by saying the problems of Nigeria were being negotiated by multinationals.”