By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Egufe Yafugborhi & Perez Brisibe
Power struggle among militant groups in Niger Delta is posing a threat to the Federal Government’s plan to have an all-embracing dialogue with stakeholders in the oil-rich region, including the rampaging Niger Delta Avengers, NDA.
Three militant groups, Reformed Egbesu Boys, Egbesu Water Lions and Egbesu Mythier Fraternity, yesterday, said neither the Avengers nor the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta, MEND, which had raised a negotiation team, tagged Aaron Team 2, has their mandate to represent them in any dialogue with government.
Meanwhile, traditional rulers in Delta State, who appealed to the militants to stop bombing oil installations and embrace dialogue, urged government to adopt a carrot-and-stick approach in dealing with the militant groups.
The so-called General Officer Commanding, GOC, Intelligence, Tony Alagbakeriowei, and GOC, Logistics and Admin, General Ebi Abakoromor, in a statement on behalf of the three militant groups, condemning the NDA and MEND, said the preliminary discussions so far by government officials slanted towards Avengers and a particular former militant leader, vowing to cause mayhem if they were ignored.
“It will be recalled that various militant groups make up the Niger Delta Avengers and we were taken aback that the Federal Government team is negotiating with Gbaramatu kingdom representatives only.
“Be reminded that this current crisis is not a particular ex-militant leader affair and, therefore, Gbaramatu representatives cannot negotiate with the Federal Government to the exclusion of other active participants in the crisis.”
The groups went on: “Consequently, we warn that the negotiation team be expanded to include various active group reps that participated in this current crisis. Failure to heed this wise counsel, aggrieved stakeholders will resort to doing what we know best.
“When the need for the cessation of hostilities arose as a result of pleas arising from national and international sources, the Reformed Egbesu Boys of the Niger Delta were the first to unilaterally declare ceasefire.”
They said that at the commencement of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, some militant leaders cornered the proceeds of the struggle to the exclusion of other participants, warning: “This is the scenario now unfolding, we object to this with all our might.”
Reacting to MEND Aaron Team 2, the three Egbesu militants groups said MEND exists only on the pages of newspaper and hotels rooms in Abuja and, therefore, could not speak for militant groups in the region.
“We condemn in strong terms the emerging trend where those in MEND, who took to kidnapping and hostage-taking to criminalise the legitimate agitation and had since been disbanded and accepted the poorly coordinated Amnesty Programme, are now seeking relevance and purporting to have raised a negotiation team to dialogue with the federal government,”the groups said.
“This is most ridiculous, embarrassing and nonsensical to say the least. MEND exists only on newspaper pages and hotel rooms in Abuja. We are taken aback that those who collectively destroyed the struggle want to recruit very respected elders for sinister motives.
“If the Federal Government negotiates with the purported MEND team as published, the consequences would be fatal and devastating to the multinationals as usual. We ceased hostilities in the larger collective interest of the Niger Delta environment, security of the people of the Niger Delta and the economic stability of the Nigerian state and the world at large.
“We wish to warn that the Ijaw nation is and shall not be taken as cannon fodder to the other ethnic nationalities as we are seen to be. We are branded criminals and all sorts of name-calling, but when the Federal Government calls for dialogue, our traditional antagonists and agent provocateurs would be the first to present them for dialogue.”
NDA spits fire
The NDA claimed, yesterday, that some political thugs, agents and militant leaders were foisting their selfish agenda on Kachikwu, warning that it would not be part of a charade involving the characters.
Its spokesperson, Mudoch Agbinibo, said in a statement, “We have never missed (sic) words in telling the whole listening world that the Niger Delta Avengers will not be part of any dialogue deal that will not bring about the peace of our time; but we want a peace with honour.”
The militant group said it was watching “with keen interest the unwholesome activities of the political thugs and agents of APC to undermine the Niger Delta struggle”.
It said that few days ago, a militant leader and his group were “parading, regrouping, re branding and re-arming defunct ex-MEND and settled militants leaders discussing pipelines, oil and gas facilities contract in Edo State Government House.”
In a related development, Acting Chairman of the Delta State Traditional Rulers Council, Dr. Emmanuel Efiezomor, who addressed reporters at the end of a meeting in Asaba, urged NDA to lay down arms and embrace the peace overtures of the Federal Government.
The royal fathers acknowledged the efforts of governors in the region to end the crisis and emphasized the need for a more collaborative effort by all stakeholders towards ensuring an enduring solution to the Niger Delta question.
In a related development, a militant group, which described itself as Niger Delta Sea Commandos, yesterday, said it would commence attacks on military personnel, oil workers and companies for breaching the two-week ceasefire ordered by the Federal Government and failure to obey its demand not to repair damaged oil facilities.
The group, in a statement by one of its leaders, Osama Blatter, said: “Our attention has been drawn to the continued arrest of innocent villagers and incessant invasion of their communities in Gbaramatu kingdom by the navy and military personnel after government announced a two week ceasefire, as well as frequent appeals for peace talks.”
Meanwhile, the Conference for the Actualization of Human Rights, CAHR, has raised the alarm over the arrest of ex-militant leader, ‘General Aboy Francis Muturu’, by soldiers, who stormed his house on June 7, and kept him incommunicado with his family since then.
Sea Commandos, which had earlier announced its intention to dialogue with government, said: “Except they (military) stop their barbaric attacks, we will bomb military personnel taking our simplicity for granted.”
“We will commence attack on oil companies and their workers disobeying our order to quit operation and repair of destroyed facilities”.
Urhobo warn FG
Also, yesterday, the Urhobo nation in Delta State, amid government moves to negotiate with militants, warned that concentrated interest in volatile Ijaw areas to the exclusion of peaceful oil producing areas would provoke extended destruction of oil assets in the Niger Delta.
Morris Idiovwa, Chairman, Oil Mining Lease, OML 30 Community Development Board, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, in Warri, said the warning became necessary as the body language of government suggested that it was pushing for another amnesty to glorify criminality in one section of the region and deride several peaceful ethnic nationalities hosting as much strategic oil and gas assets in the producing space.
Idiovwa, who also chairs Host Communities (HOSTCOM), Delta Central, stated: “What we have been witnessing in Delta State is terrifying in the way a single ethnic nationality is assuming the identity of the entire Niger Delta, taking up arms and disrupting the existing peace in the region purely on selfish interest.
“What is happening is outright criminality and Urhobo, as the largest ethnic group in Delta State, are not in support of this. We believe the best way to approach issues is dialogue. Irrespective of our peaceful nature, no region has the monopoly of violence. Urhobo have what it takes to be violent or take laws into our hands”. On Urhobos doubt over the proposed dialogue, he said, “We love dialogue but the underground negotiations we are hearing about in the name of Niger Delta is totally unacceptable. Urhobo have never sat with anyone to discuss the sufferings in our communities. What we saw is just a group of people who came destroying national assets because the region has been neglected”.