By Emma Amaize
TWENTY-FOUR hours to the end of tomorrowâ€™s deadline by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND), to restart hostilities in the Niger-Delta region, the Federal Government is supposedly strategising with some of the ex-militant leaders to checkmate the insurgent group.
However, just as the government is plotting with ex-militant leaders, MEND has exclusively revealed to Vanguard how the government can momentarily avert its new skirmish, which would be decided on the midnight of October 15 by the leadership of the militant group.
A source, nevertheless, disclosed that the ex-militant leaders were not ready to enter into any alliance with the Joint Task Force (JTF) on how to cripple the recalcitrant militants in MEND.
One of the ex-militant leaders that was contacted told Vanguard in confidence, yesterday, â€œYes, we have been reached by top government officials who I will not like to mention their names on how to help the government forestall the planned attacks and burning of oil installations by MEND.
“Itâ€™s a secret plan and I am not in the position to talk to you about it because it is a national security matter, not meant for the pages of newspaper.â€
He said, on the other hand,Â a number of the ex-militant leaders were not disposed to the idea, adding, â€œThey would rather want to be left alone while the government carries out its battle with those that have refused to surrender arms so as not to be regarded as sell-outsâ€.
It was gathered that some of the ex-militant leaders were requested to stay back in Abuja after last Fridayâ€™s meeting with President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua and they held a series of meetings with senior government representatives on the actualisation of the plan.
Yarâ€™Adua was said to have directed that everything possible should be done to ensure that MEND did not carry out any fresh attacks on oil installations at the expiration of its ultimatum tomorrow and the Minister of Defence, Major-General Godwin Abbe was not sleeping over the matter.
Despite the official strain in the relationship between the Special Adviser to the President on the Niger-Delta, Mr. Timi Alaibe and MEND, which led to the severance of talks with him by the militant group, Vanguard was told Mr. Alaibe was in contact with some key leaders of MEND through his lieutenants not to make good its threat to resume fresh attacks.
However, MEND in an exclusive reaction to the plot to recruit ex-militant leaders to protect oil installations in their areas or generally counter its activities said it would be a preposterous idea for the government to contemplate recruiting ex-militant leaders to stop checkmate it.
â€œWill they be given weapons to become security men or will they work side by side the JTF? Aside from a few individuals who accepted amnesty for money, the suggestion will be considered ludicrous to othersâ€, the groupâ€™s spokesman, Jomo Gbomo told Vanguard.
On the way out of the looming hostilities, he said the government should start discussions on the root issues of the struggle, one of which is the enthronement of true federalism with the Aaron team, appointed by the militant group for the purpose.
He said the Aaron team comprising the former Chief of General Staff, Rear Admiral Mike Akhigbe (rtd), Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka (observer) and others was the only mediator the federal government should deal with on behalf of MEND to make any headway.
His words, â€œThe eminent Nigerians who accepted to mediate are not fools. The issues they will talk about are not jokes either. If the President is sincere, let him invite them to open discussions on those issues now that he has a window of relative calm or he will be begging for them in an atmosphere of warâ€.
Last Wednesday, October 7, 48 hours to the October 9 meeting of the Federal Government with ex-militants, the outcome of which MEND insisted, yesterday, was not binding on the group, it warned that it would resume fresh attacks on the oil industry at the expiration of its present ceasefire, just as it distanced the amorphous organization from parley.
â€œThe Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) will resume with attacks against the oil industry at the expiration of our ceasefire. MEND considers this next phase of our struggle as the most critical as we intend to end 50 years of slavery of the people of the Niger Delta by the Nigerian government, a few individuals and the western oil companies once and for allâ€.
â€œIn this next phase, we will burn down all attacked installations and no longer limit our attacks to the destruction of pipelinesâ€, Jomo Gbomo had stated in the email statement.
According to him, â€œMEND will have no representation at theÂ Friday, October 9, 2009 meeting the government plans with so called stake holders. The government in trying to further insult the people of the Niger Delta has selected to â€œdialogueâ€ with a class of individuals it can very easily manageâ€.
It noted, â€œThis government has gone ahead negotiating to sell off more lands of the people of the Delta without deeming its people fit to be consulted. We warn all those interested in buying off our land, they will not go unpunishedâ€.
â€œWe will fight for our land with the last drop of our blood regardless of how many people the government of Nigeria and the oil companies are successful in bribingâ€, MEND added.
Furthermore, it observed, â€œThe Federal Government of Nigeria today (October 7) through its Minister for Information and Communications declared the amnesty offer to militants and supposed disarmament exercise a successâ€.
In its words, â€œThis is obviously another feeble attempt at re-branding Nigeria ; an attempt to force a glaring untruth down the throats of the international communityâ€.
â€œThe Nigerian government estimated a surrender of at least 10,000 weapons at the inception of this exercise. According to the government, an excess of 10,000 militants surrendered. Most of those who participated in this fraud were rented by the government in the hope that real militants would be persuaded to emerge.
â€œDespite the fact that most of the weapons â€œrecoveredâ€ were purchased for this purpose, the government does not have up to two thousand of the several thousand weapons in the delta to show for this shameless charade.
â€Indeed a few weapons were surrendered by commanders who decided to discontinue their participation in our struggleâ€, adding, â€œOil companies are warned as always to disregard this propaganda by the Nigerian governmentâ€.