MOVEMENT for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) announced yesterday resumption of fresh hostilities against the oil industry, the armed forces and its collaborators in the Niger Delta but one of the ex-militant leaders contacted by Saturday Vanguard said it was an empty noise.
On its part, the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the NigerÂ Delta sued for peace, urging the militant group not to carry out any such attack in the overall interest of the country.
MEND in a paragraph statement by its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, MEND stated, â€œThe Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) resumes its hostilities against the Nigerian oil industry, the Nigerian armed forces and its collaborators with effect from 00:00Hrs, Friday, October 16, 2009â€.
JTF spokesman, Lt. Colonel Atigha who spoke on the renewal of hostilities by the militant group told Vanguard that the task force was not at war with MEND or any other group ofÂ Â Nigerians and would want the militants to support the post amnesty programmes and development efforts of President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua in the region.
An ex-militant leader, however, said, â€œMEND cannot carry out any attack at the moment, who will carry it out, they donâ€™t have the machinery to do it, they are only rakingâ€.
Lt Colonel Atigha also shed light on Thursdayâ€™s purported attack on ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo along the Escravos River in Delta State , pointing out that it was not that men of the task force attacked Tompolo.
HeÂ said the speed boat conveying Tompolo was on top speed and did not slow down for check by soldiers, prompting them to fire into the air, which was the normal practice to get the occupants to do the right thing.
Despite the JTF explanation, the Warri â€“Ijaw Peace Monitoring Group (WIPMG) insisted that it was an attack on Tompolo and warned in a statement by its chairman, Chief Patrick Bigha , yesterday, that the task force couldÂ jeopardise the on-going peace process if not properly checked.
â€œTravellers have severally complained of the inhuman treatment of the JTF troops to them in recent times, they are harassed, embarrassed and sometimes shot at while travelling in the waterways. This is the second time in two weeks Tompolo has been harassed by military men on the waterways. First was the Naval gun ships at the Nigerian Ports Authorty(NPA)jettyâ€, he said.
â€œUrgent steps must be taken to call the JTF to order so as not to truncate the on-going peace processâ€, Chief Bigha stated.
On why MEND still went ahead to announce resumption of hostilities even when the option of dialogue has not been fully exhausted, a top official of the militant group told Saturday Vanguard, yesterday, â€œThe one demand of MEND all through the campaign has been for a return to federalism within which they own and control their resources as it was up to 1966.
In making this demand , weÂ have lost faith in any offer of development by the centre, as that has not worked since the 1958 Willinks report up to NDDC,Â Niger Delta Ministry, NigerÂ Delta Technical Report,Â etc â€œ.
In his words, â€œIn furtherance of ourÂ rights to self-determination, demand for a return to federalism, this is a point I want all stakeholders toÂ appreciate if progress will be made, we see the amnesty as flawed in that it has not at all addressed this root cause of our agitationâ€.
â€MEND in naming the Aaron Team is not averse to dialogue and it would seem best that that window be exploredÂ to seek common ground upon which sustainable peace can be built.
We gave them that chance but they ignored the Aaron team. Once that dialogue is opened and common ground found, MEND has consistently indicated it is prepared to be part of the peace process, which is a commitment not to put its weapons to use as long as the agreed agenda is being pursued with sincerity.
â€œThe challenge, therefore, is to quickly find that common ground before any further escalation of hostilities, which is bound to be worse than the previous scale because confidence is low now.
Other ethnic blocs seem to have built the consensus needed to drive the entire process because it is impracticable for the centre to give the Niger_Delta federalism in isolation. The suits in court challenging the legitimacy of the 1999 Constitution also has a direct bearing on all the issuesâ€, he added.
Why MEND is forging ahead with the struggle
Reviewing the struggle in the past two years, he said, â€œFor about 2 years now, our organization, the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, has been at war with the Armed Forces of the Nigerian State, which we regard as an occupation force in the Niger Delta.
Our campaign has often been misconstrued by many, either mischievously or due to ignorance of the issues at stake. We have chosen this time to re_state our case for the benefit of those who do not know; those who might have opposed us ignorantly; and those persons and institutions of goodwill from within and outside Nigeria who have sought to interveneâ€.
â€œAt the heart of the matter is the issue of our right to self_determination as encapsulated in the Kaiama Declaration (1998), the Ogoni Bill of Rights and other such declarations, these declarations which were products of organized peaceful and civilized mass political processes were largely ignored by the operators of the Nigerian State and other stakeholders, particularly the transnational oil/gas corporations.
This conspiracy having made the peaceful change we advocated impossible invariably made the violent option inevitable.
â€œAt the peak of our loud cry for equity by way of resource control, the government of the day organized a shallow jamboree styled the National Political Reform Conference in Abuja which collapsed on the altar of the organizers greed, with unquantifiable verbal insults heaped on our people.
FGâ€™s declaration of war
â€œAs if these were not bad enough, the Federal Government arrested many of our compatriots,Â including Dokubo-Asari and Depreiye Alamiesiegha and deployedÂ its occupation force to quell the expected resistance of the people; This is obviously a declaration of war on the region by the Federal Government of Nigeria, though not its first time,Â as there had been the Umuechem invasion, Odi Massacre, Okochiri raid, the Ogoni saga and the judicial murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others, the Odioma invasion, Okeronkoko and Ogbakiri aerial bombardments amongst many other acts of war. All of these escalated the armed struggle which we embarked upon more in self_defense and self-preservation than any other reason.
â€œFollowing the collapse of the pretence at Political Reform in Abuja (NPRC 2005), a group of eminent leaders from various parts of Nigeria led by the duo of Chief Anthony Enahoro and Prof. Wole Soyinka under the aegis of the Pro_National Conference Organisations PRONACO, invited us to the Peoples National Conference (PNC 2005_2006), in recognition of our right to self_determination.
â€œAt that conference (PNC), our representatives met with 163 other ethnic delegations including OPC, MASSOB and Arewa Consultative Youth Forum etc, each armed with its own memorandum.
Robust debates, heated arguments, frank exchanges all ending in a body of Resolutions distilled from the aforementioned memoranda became the basis of the Draft Peoples Constitution now proposed by that Peoples National ConferenceÂ as the comprehensive solution to all the agitations for self-determination in the land.
Concurrence by various ethnic nationalities
â€œWe note that this is the first time various nationalities, which make up Nigeria would come together to agree afresh on the terms of their union since after the military sacked the Federal Constitution in 1966. We confirm that the said PNC Draft Constitution has answered all our agitations if it becomes the constitution for the union called Nigeria.
â€œA â€œconstitutionâ€ simply refers to the body of agreement reached and adopted by the constituents on how to govern their union.
When such an agreement is replaced by the imposition of a tiny but powerful minority as has been the case in Nigeria since 1966, the result is the agitation for liberation which in our own case has assumed an armed dimension. Arms aside, the struggle of MEND is not different from that of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) or the Movement for Yoruba Autonomy (MOYA)/Oâ€™odua Peopleâ€™s Congress (OPC) or the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP).
They are all seeking to retrieve their lost sovereignties either within a re-negotiated Nigeria as prescribed by PRONACOâ€™s draft or outside it as envisaged by MASSOB.
â€œFrom our consultations with other self_determination groups across Nigeria, we confirmed from them that their agitations are also met by the same PNC Draft Constitution.
We have no doubt that the said PRONACO Draft Constitution if adopted will return Nigeria to a true Federal Republic to which the constituent Nationalities will be happy to belong.
Failure to exploit this golden opportunity while it lasts leaves the door wide open for a disastrous end to this falsehood called Nigeria.
â€œFor the avoidance of doubt, the imposition of â€œConstitutionsâ€ by successive military administration on the constituent nationalities of Nigeria is at the root of all the conflicts and the resultant collapse of values, decayed infrastructures and total breakdown of law and order.
â€œBoth the 1979 and 1999 constitutions are examples of such impositions in that the military administration of Olusegun Obasanjo imposed 17 amendments on the Draft Proposed by the Constituent Assembly of 1978 while General Abdusalami Abubakar and his PRC unilaterally crafted the 1999 constitution whilst claiming that â€œWE THE PEOPLE OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HAVING FIRMLY AND SOLEMNLY RESOLVED TO LIVE IN UNITY AND HARMONY AS ONE INDIVISIBLE AND INDISSOLUBLE SOVEREIGN NATION UNDER GODâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.. DO HEREBY MAKE ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THE FOLLOWING CONSTITUTIONâ€ in its preamble.
â€œIt is under this fraud that the sovereignty of the peoples of the various nationalities in Nigeria is usurped and their resources hijacked. That fraud is being challenged by a group called Movement for New Nigeria, whose effort we fully endorse, before the Federal High Court Abuja with the sole intention of peacefully terminating it and replacing it with a truly Peoples Constitution.
These will accord with the rights of the various Nationalities to self_determination as affirmed by the September 12th, 2007 declaration by the United Nations General Assembly on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Thus, the erstwhile crime of â€œsecessionâ€ is now the exercise of the right to self-determination.
â€œWe wish to call the attention to the ultimatum issued at Port-Harcourt on the 18th of January 2008 by a Consultative Congress of Niger Delta self determination organizations in which it demanded from the Nigerian state that steps be taken forthwith to either subject the Draft People Constitution to a referendum or in the alternative convoke a Sovereign National Conference before the 31stÂ of March 2008, failing which they will mobilize the Region to reject the operation of the 1999 â€œConstitutionâ€ in its entirety.
The amendments being pursued by the Abuja Authorities is an exercise in self deceit as you cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand neither can the NDDC palliatives take the place of our right to control our resources within the context of our right to self_determinationâ€, he asserted.