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NIGER-DELTA: Militant groups’ rivarly threatens peace process

President Muhammadu Buhari’s poser to region’s leaders
Anger spreads to Itsekiri, Edo
NDGJM, Urhobo group kick against PANDEF leadership, composition
Ethnic armies emerge – Henry Tafri, Urhobo Common Cause leader
There’s no rivalry — AVENGERS

bY Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South & Perez Brisibe

WHEN  President Muhammadu Buhari met, last  Tuesday, with Niger Delta leaders at Aso Villa, Abuja, one of the matters he raised at his three-hour closed-door meeting was that there was no assurance that the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, led by former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, which swanked about its mandate from militants, could guarantee peace in the region, as the boys struck few days to the meeting.

Indeed, it was the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, NDGJM, that blew up the 32-inch Effurun-Otor delivery line operated by the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, in Delta State, three days to the meeting.   And, as if to confirm Buhari’s apprehension, a militant leader ascertained to be an aggrieved commander of the western axis of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta, MEND, blew up the just renovated Trans Forcados Pipeline 24 hours after the Abuja get-together.

At the session, President Buhari hinted that he had asked security agencies to identify militant leaders in the region, their locations and camps, as well as traditional rulers and opinion leaders that have influence over them. militants-0

Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who spoke briefly to  Sunday  Vanguard on the interface, said the president was “brutally frank” with the leaders.

Before and after the meeting, tongues have really been wagging over the assumed peace, particularly over the last two attacks.

Ethnic war in Delta   

Findings by  Sunday  Vanguard suggest that the continued bombing was more of a disagreement among the ethnic groups localised in Delta State, and not even the entire Niger Delta region.

The main group that is causing the present unrest in the region is the NDGJM, whose gripe evidently is that the Ijaw ethnic group lords it over other ethnic groups in Delta State because of the claim that it was its (Ijaw) boys that have always fought for the region. So, nobody should complain if the ethnic group gets lion share of things that accrue to the region.

Before the Abuja meeting, the group had complained about the composition of the Clark-led PANDEF, saying it was tilted in favour of the Ijaw, insisting it would never support the group. In fact, the decision of the militant group to continue destruction of oil installations in the state and in the region is a protest against the leadership of the region.

Clark’s intervention

Chief Clark had tried variously to resolve the matter, but some of the leaders of the group allegedly thought that the Federal Government made available money to him and, so, he should not come with empty hands. But, Clark maintained that he was given any money and took the role of seeking for peace because he could not sit down, as a leader, and watch the boy continue their wanton destruction of assets of the region and country without doing anything.

However, there are muffled complaints against the Ijaw ethnic group by other ethnic groups in the Niger Delta over the domination of PANDEF.

Besides, a section of Itsekiri ethnic nationality is also not happy with the supposed unbearable role and antics of some Ijaw people in the matters affecting the region. Outspoken Itekiri leader, Chief Ayirimi Emami, is against the activities of PANDEF because of the presence of some Ijaw leaders.

Spread to Edo 

Lately, one of the respected Niger Delta leaders told  Sunday  Vanguard: “My people from Edo State are also complaining of the attitude of some Ijaw persons in the whole affair. They act as if other ethnic groups in the region do not matter. That is the real problem now and if this matter is not properly handled, there may be an implosion.”

“Clark should know about this because it is manifesting even in our meetings, when a meeting of leaders are called, many Ijaw youths come to the meeting as if they are leaders and they disrespect leaders from other ethnic groups . They act as if the matter is an Ijaw affair and sometimes, they even want to behave as if others do not matter.

“This was why Clark himself berated some Ijaw leaders, who, some months ago, after the  August 19  meeting of the ethnic nationalities in the region at Effurun, Delta State, went to meet Dr. Kachikwu in Abuja over matters of the region. Other ethnic groups saw it as a betrayal of trust because there was a mutual agreement to work together and collapse other structures.

“Though, the affected persons misunderstood Clark, some of them have since reconciled with him, but the Ijaw tendency to want to overshadow other ethnic groups is still there,” he asserted.

Bitterness still deeply rooted

Investigations by  Sunday  Vanguard showed that until the matter was resolved, the hostility would continue. For now, the most devastating militant group in the region, Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, has ceased fire; same goes for  Ultimate Warriors of Niger Delta, Adaka Boro Avengers, Reformed Egbesu Boys and others with seeming Ijaw affiliation.

After the presentation of a 16-point demand to Buhari by Niger Delta leaders, a militant group blew up the Trans Forcados crude export pipeline at Batan in Delta State with dynamites, but the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta, MEND, had come out to explain that it was not really a resumption of militancy, but an act of rebellion by its western commander, who was not happy with the outcome of the PANDEF meeting in Abuja.

According to our findings, it was not even PANDEF that sent delegation to the Abuja meeting, other groups representing the region were also at the meeting through other sources, but the forum’s bigwigs overshadowed them.

MEND’s leader infraction   

Spokesperson of MEND, Jomo Gbomo, in a statement,  Thursday, said:  “The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) takes  full responsibility for the Trans-Forcados Crude Export pipeline attack in  the Batan area of Delta State on Wednesday, November 2, 2016.

“The attack was however, unauthorised by our high command given the fact that the MEND unilateral ceasefire of hostility against Nigeria’s oil and gas assets declared May 30, 2014, is still in force.

“Nevertheless, the unauthorised attack by our Commander,    Western Delta,    (CWD), was to express the disapproval of MEND fighters at the Chief Edwin Clark-led PANDEF for failing to list out, in clear terms, as agreed, the concessions already secured between MEND and the Federal Government to President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, November 1, 2016 during a courtesy visit,” it said.

Supposed‘vultures’ in PANDEF!

“MEND fighters were also upset to see several ‘vultures’ among the PANDEF delegation comprising dead wood and corrupt politicians; compromised so-called activists; a crook who leads an effete tribal youth assembly; shameless men and women, who had gone to make demands on a Northern President; demands they couldn’t make from their own son, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan, when he was at the helm.

“These ‘vultures’ actively participated and reveled in a conspiracy of  silence and looting of our common patrimony throughout the six years Mr. Jonathan was privileged to lead Africa’s most important country. Had Mr. Jonathan won the 2015 presidential election, the ‘vultures’ would certainly not have bothered to make any demands on him,” MEND asserted.

The militant group    said: “Among the concessions secured by MEND was the release of the Okah  brothers – Henry and Charles; together with two others who were all framed on trumped-up charges following the October 1, 2010 bomb blast; grant of presidential amnesty to 7 soldiers who were deliberately discriminated and by-passed during the 2009 presidential amnesty program because they were non-Ijaws; release of Urhobo freedom fighters,    who are currently detained at the Department of State Services (DSS)  and other political detainees inherited from the Goodluck Jonathan Administration.”

“The meetings between MEND and the Federal Government that led to these concessions were confirmed by President Muhammadu Buhari in person sometime in July, 2016 during his farewell remarks to the outgoing German Ambassador Mr. Michael Zinner.

Apology

“We are however, quick to emphasize and restate that MEND regrets the unauthorised and hasty action of the CWD, who is now facing severe disciplinary action.

“Within the preceding six months of this year, MEND has worked assiduously to bring peace to the troubled Niger Delta region and hereby assures Nigerians and the international community of our unflinching support for President Buhari’s efforts to bring permanent peace to the region.

“To avoid a repeat of the unfortunate incident, we have accordingly communicated to all our commanders that the concessions secured by MEND were actually captured as the second point – “Law and Justice Issues” in the overall 16-point agenda of PANDEF.

Our fighters have sufficiently been made to understand that the ambiguous reference to the subject shall be addressed by the Federal Government and MEND representatives in PANDEF after a dialogue team is constituted by the Federal Government.

“MEND, therefore, urges its fighters and supporters to remain patient and calm,” Jomo Gbomo said.

Red alert

Before the MEND commander struck, NDGJM had warned on October 22:    “The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate has not been deterred from meting out justice to the abusers and pillagers of our people and our natural assets, we shall execute this ongoing campaign until last vestige (sic) of our enemies (the heartless, conniving oil and gas companies and their criminal partners, the military) have been vanquished and evacuated from our land. This can only be halted if these leeches listen to the voice of reason and seek to do right by our people and do so by taking the right steps.”

“We do not have much to say to the oil companies than to just dare you to reopen the Trans Forcados Pipeline, TFP. We are aware you are experts at testing wills, especially as you believe that you have a military shield. Please go ahead of restart the facility and see what will happen. Enough said,” Agbalaja said.

The real problem

If the attack after the November 1 meeting was done out of irritation as MEND portrayed, the earlier attack by NDGJM was not an afterthought and the group is prepared to carry on.

Its spokesperson,  self- styled Gen. Aldo Agbalaja, in a statement before the group struck, said: “We are reiterating our unflinching belief that the Pan Niger Delta Forum being coordinated by E.K Clark is a job and, therefore, can never get our support.”

It, however, asserted: “The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate is not opposed to a genuine dialogue between the federal government and real representatives of the various nations of our region. We are collecting names from the nations in the region on those who will sincerely and equitably represent our various peoples.”

The group has continued to carry out attacks on oil and gas facilities in the region with its latest on the Effurun-Otor delivery line operated by NPDC.

Threatening to carry out more attacks, Agbalaja said: “The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate is not kidding with anybody and anybody should not think this is just one of those coming around to beg for a morsel of bread.”

“We thought we should continue to ignore the grand error being orchestrated by those, who are responsible for the current parlous state of our region. These people seem to have succeeded in bewitching and railroading the federal government into settling for a dialogue with them in the name of the Niger Delta people.

“The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate has nothing against the people of the region reaching an agreement with the federal government, what we find offensive is the entity that is about to, as it has done in the past, steal the identity of our people to hoodwink government.

“By the time an agreement is reached with this so-called Pan-Niger Delta Dialogue team, Chief E.K Clark’s new conduit, the current disaffection in the region will remain because the old man has his model of doing things, which ultimately sidelines the people of the region and satisfies the greed of a few,” the group said.

Its words: “The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, however, uses this opportunity to warn the federal government not to make this mistake and to say that we are 100 per cent against the October 29th meeting ( Read November 1),    we consider it to be an impersonation of the people of the Niger Delta and their interest.

“If the federal government wants to meet with the people of the region, it cannot be through an organ put together by persons associated with the causes of our long history of neglect and impoverishment, the different peoples of the region can raise young, sincere grassroots persons, who have been known among them to be free of today’s Nigerian corruption scandals.

“However, we would also want the world to know that very soon we shall be releasing the names of credible grass root leaders and traditional rulers who shall be representing the upland region in any form of negotiation/dialogue and not those breast pocket money seeking politicians looking for relevance in this Buhari’s administration,” it stated.

Way out

On the way out, the group said: “Start a real and genuine engagement of real grassroots leaders from the region, not the divide-and-rule pattern, and this campaign shall cease.”

FG should reciprocate 90-day ceasefire – Uranta 

Reacting to the continued attacks, the Secretary General, Nigeria Summit Group, NSG, Tony Uranta, lampooned the federal government for not publicly acknowledging or appreciating the 90-day unilateral ceasefire that PANDEF got the armed agitators to commit to embark on.

“Negotiations have not commenced, President Buhari has not even named the federal government’s Negotiation Team or even publicly acknowledged or appreciated the 90-day unilateral ceasefire that PANDEF got the armed agitators to commit to.

“Why does anybody think that just because PANDEF was granted audience and snacks in the Villa, all are hunky-dory with the Niger Delta and that the insurgency is over? The ball is in the President’s court now. We can have a fully secure and peaceful Niger Delta as soon as the President commits to negotiations, gets the military to stand down, and mandates an FGN Team to negotiate with the region’s Team.”

Speaking further, Uranta said: “As soon as the world begins to see positive actions resultant from those negotiations, I prophesy that all will be well going forward. As it stands now, nothing has really changed; and that truth is reflected in the continuing violence being perpetrated by both the FGN and the armed agitators in the creeks, villages and cities of Nigeria.

“Negotiations must begin before the end of the 90-day unilateral ceasefire that was proclaimed by the Niger Delta Avengers or we may be in for a worse season of unrest. The region has done its bit. Now, it’s up to President Buhari to show that he truly desires a peaceful united Nigeria.”

Ethnic armies

Contrary to the supposition of Mr. Uranta, the leader of the Urhobo Common Cause, Henry Tafri, said different ethnic groups in the region have formed their own freedom fighting arms because of the attitude of Ijaw people.

According to him: “Youth frustration was what gave rise to the formation of Niger-Delta People Volunteer Force, and also MEND, and now Niger-Delta Avengers, NDA, Niger-Delta Greenland Justice Mandate and the various ethnic armies that dot the entire landscape of the Niger-Delta.

“It should be clear to all that 90 per cent    of all ethnic communities now have their armies, waiting for the day of reckoning either from internal or external aggression, the situation is such that no ethnic group can be taken for granted,    whether by a big brother or small brother,” he said.

Tafri asserted: “To sort the situation we find ourselves, the government of President Buhari must among other things relocate the office of Amnesty from the National Security Adviser, NSA, back to the Presidency; separate the office of Adviser on Niger-Delta from the Coordinator of Amnesty Programme, grant the release of Kelvin Onarhiah of Kokori, Matthew Edjedegba and other youths, who can help the healing process.”

No rivalry- Avengers

Sunday  Vanguard’s inquisition showed that there is a perceived rivalry between Urhobo and Ijaw militant groups in Delta State, which is responsible for the present tension in the region.

But, spokesperson of NDA, “Brigadier-General” Mudoch Agbinibo, told  Sunday  Vanguard: “There is no problem among groups in the agitation; we may have challenges of speaking in one voice. When the trumpet  blows, we will go the biblical way of “separating the Shears from the Tares” (Matthew 13:24-30).   We know that, there are some elements and by products of  conflicts merchants from the Niger Delta working with some sold and bought up interests against the peace of Niger Delta that works closely with those that President Muhammadu Buhari abdicated governance of Nigeria to, since May 2015, which is deplorably misusing his trust.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.