THE Movement for Emancipation of the Niger-Delta has dismissed the governmentâ€™s amnesty programme as a propaganda exercise aimed at hoodwinking companies to return to the Niger Delta and pump production back up while the militant threat persists. In an emailed communique to journalists Mend said it will resume attacks against the oil industry at the expiration of the cease-fire on 15 October.
The news broke as the latest senior Mend commander to surrender weapons, Chief Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo, left his luxury suite at Abujaâ€™s Hilton Hotel to return to the creeks _ not to resume militant activities but rather to highlight the damage done by recent conflict to his home region of Gbaramatu and press the cause of peace and development.
By contrast, the Mend communique insisted that next phase of its struggle was most critical as â€œwe intend to end 50 years of the enslavement of the people of the Niger Delta by the Nigerian government, a few individuals and the western oil companies once and for all.â€
â€œIn this next phase, we will burn down all attacked installations and no longer limit our attacks to the destruction of pipelines. Mend will have no representation at the 9 October meeting that Abuja is planning with so-called stakeholders.â€
Mend spokesman Jomo Gbomo alleged the government was â€œinsulting the people of the Niger Deltaâ€ by choosing to â€˜dialogueâ€™ only â€œwith a class of individuals it can very easily manageâ€ and by rejecting the four-man team nominated by Mend.
Apparently referring to a bid by Chinese E&P giant CNOOC to buy oilpatch blocks currently held by other players, Gbomo accused Abuja of negotiating to sell off more Niger Delta land without consulting the people.
â€œWe warn all those interested in buying off our land that they will not go unpunished. We 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 bribing.â€
Gbomo blasted Abujaâ€™s claim to have conducted a â€˜successfulâ€™ disarmament exercise as â€œobviously another feeble attempt at re-branding Nigeria; an attempt to force a glaring untruth down the throats of the international community.â€
Gbomo insisted that most of those it presented as â€˜repentant militantsâ€™ were rented by the government â€œin the hope that real militants would be persuaded to emerge despite the fact that most of the so-called recovered weapons were bought for this purpose in a shameless charade and oil companies are warned to disregard this propaganda.â€
The Nigerian troops operating in the troubled Niger Delta region, the Joint Military Task Force (JTF), will remain in the region after the expiration of amnesty deadline, the News Agency of Nigeria reported on Tuesday.
Sarkin Bello, JTF commander, said the task force had been in the area since 2003, noting that the JTF was still guarding vulnerable points and key oil installations in the Niger Delta and that instructions to defend the installations in the area was still in place.
â€œWe take directives from the defense headquarters and so far we have not received any since the amnesty ended,â€ he said.
â€œWe are also aware a big achievement has been recorded by the government regarding the restoration of law and order in the Niger-Delta.â€œI am sure government in its wisdom, will direct the JTF on the next line of action,â€ he added.