By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Egufe Yafugborhi & Perez Brisibe
THE Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, yesterday, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to call for a referendum for Nigerians to decide if they want to stay as one country or not, just like Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK), David Cameron, did over the UK membership of the European Union EU.
NDA, which unveiled its plan for what it called a Sovereign State of Niger Delta, on May 12, made the call while reacting to last Friday’s appeal by Buhari to Niger Delta militants, in God’s name, to cease the bombing of oil and gas installations in the region.
The militant group, in separate responses to Sunday Vanguard inquiries at 2.04 pm and 2.56 pm respectively, yesterday, said: “He (Buhari) should call for a referendum to enable every Nigerian to vote if they want to stay as Nigerians or not just like what David Cameron of Great Britain did.”
Our reporter had asked: “Buhari is appealing to Niger Delta militants to stop the bombings in the region in God’s name because of the destruction to the economy, what is your group’s response to his appeal?”
NDA, which vowed over a month and a half ago “to display our currency, flag, passport, our ruling council and our territory to the world by October 16,” seemed indifferent to the appeal.
Ball in President’s court
Other militants and Niger Delta groups, contacted by Sunday Vanguard on the President’s plea, were also guarded like the Avengers, some dismissing Buhari’s call and others asking him to take the bull by the horn by leading the planned dialogue with stakeholders of the region.
Notwithstanding the distrust of Buhari, many see his appeal to the militants as a major shift on his earlier stand that soldiers should crush them.
They also believe that if he shores up the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, and his team spearheading the moves to stem the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta, they would end his nightmare with the present rapport he enjoys with the stakeholders and some of the militant groups.
Why Buhari should take the lead- IYC
Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, the umbrella body of Ijaw youths in the oil-rich region, stated: “What is required is not just an appeal but for him (Buhari) to lead the dialogue with the Niger Delta people towards finding a lasting solution to the recurring militancy in the region.”
IYC, in a statement by its spokesperson, Mr. Eric Omare, went on: “President Buhari must come to the negotiation table with stakeholders in the Niger Delta as was done by his predecessors rather than through his subordinates.
“The IYC is also of the view that the perceived multiplicity of militant groups in the region as stated by President Buhari is not an obstacle to engagement with stakeholders. The sort of engagement the IYC expects from the Federal Government is a holistic dialogue with stakeholders in the region.
“And strongly with a view to finding a lasting solution to the root causes of militancy and other agitations, rather than engaging with a view to giving palliatives to present agitators without addressing the issues responsible for the recurring agitations as was done in the past.
“The IYC would only support a dialogue that is geared towards addressing the fundamental issues responsible for militancy in the Niger Delta.
“Therefore, we call on President Buhari to put his appeal to action by starting the process of genuine and serious engagement with the Niger Delta people with a view to addressing the Niger Delta agitation for resource control once and for all.”
President should be sincere – Meinbutus
Secretary General, Meinbutus Federated Communities, an Ijaw group, Eniekebi Joseph, told Sunday Vanguard: “It is our opinion that Niger Delta needs special attention in terms of human and infrastructural development. We need sincerity of purpose from the President and his team to tackle the environmental and human degradation in the region.”
“We are not in support of bombing of pipeline and vandalisation of oil installations. Mr President should also stop to use the military to invade and intimidate communities in the region.
We don’t trust Buhari – IPDI
National President of the Ijaw People Development Initiative, IPDI, Comrade Austin Ozobo, in his response, said: “Our worry is that since Buhari returned from his short vacation last Sunday, he has started dancing different tones. We learnt that there are preparations ongoing to smash and crush innocent people of Niger Delta under the guise of fighting militants.”
“Buhari is pretending and not serious with his plea. He has a hidden agenda; he is just doing this for record purpose so that when he will smash and crush on the grounds of failed dialogue, the blame will not shift to him.
Spiritual and physical undertone
Meanwhile, a former leader of the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Chief Kemeizompoukomumor Ayuba, has appealed to Buhari to dialogue with new Niger Delta militant groups in the interest of peace and national co-existence.
Ayuba, who styled himself as one of the founding leaders of MEND, in a statement, said those opposed to the proposed dialogue were not doing the present administration any good.
According to him, if the present situation is not properly handled by the President, it could snowball into a major catastrophe.
Pointing out that the crisis has both spiritual and physical undertone, he stated that what the militants, especially the NDA was demanding, was not different from what they fought for between 2001 and 2009 before they voluntarily acceded to the Presidential Amnesty Programme.