*Says Tompolo not our sponsor
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South South, Egufe Yafugborhi & Perez Brisibe
WARRI—Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, weekend, said since President Muhammadu Buhari has decided to shun the demand for legitimate dialogue with militants and stakeholders on the Niger Delta question, it would continue to encumber all avenues by him to export crude oil from the region.
Avengers, in an exclusive interview with Vanguard, said that the struggle has entered a new phase with Buhari’s disposition of winning the battle and losing the war.
It also denied assumptions that ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, recently nominated by Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, as a member of its Aaron 2 Negotiating Team, was the sponsor of Avengers.
This came as another militant group, Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, NDRC, declared that it was ready to fight government and the Saudi Arabia mercenaries it was allegedly engaging over the God-given resources of the Niger Delta people, while the Ijaw People Development Initiative, IPDI, insisted that the way out was to conduct a referendum for the people to decide their future.
Toru- Ebe State
In a related development, a group, the Toru-Ebe State Creation Movement, yesterday, said the quick fix to the ongoing bombings was for the Federal Government to create Toru-Ebe State for the Ijaw in the western flank of Niger Delta inhabiting Edo, Delta and Ondo states.
Avengers said: “We have made our position clear to the world that Tompolo had been a friend to the Nigerian government, since the declaration of Presidential amnesty by President Yar’Adua and he will continue to be a friend to the government as he cannot be trusted with our struggle, so he can never be our Sponsor.
“This phase of our struggle encapsulates our determination to ensure that the petro-dollar from the Niger Delta is not used to develop the 97 per cent (95 per cent ) of those President Buhari claimed voted for him as against the five per cent he said did not vote for him and are not worthy of a Maritime University. Therefore, it is not a coincidence as far as the Niger Delta struggle is concerned.
“In the first instance, we suspended hostilities in good faith to see if the government of the day was sincerely speaking when it announced its dialogue initiative. That was why for strategic reasons we did not make open declaration of our cessation of hostilities. We wanted to watch and to show Nigerians and the world the insincerity of the government’s dialogue plans.
“Until we resumed operations, nobody reached out to us and government did not establish any genuine platform to address our grievances.
“Until President Buhari takes our demands seriously and set up a genuine framework to address the Niger Delta question, we will continue to obstruct all avenues to export our crude oil to develop his 97 per cent (95 per cent). In fact, whenever we have any contact to establish a genuine negotiation and dialogue, we will not hesitate to let the world know that we are in dialogue with the government and her representatives.
“This is another phase of the Niger Delta struggle to reclaim our resources for prosperity. Some mischief-makers can tag it Ijaw struggle, but our set short, medium and long-term plans are for us the people of the Niger Delta to control our resources and develop our land and pay tax to the central government.
“The people of the Niger Delta are born into polluted environment since the day they discovered oil in Oloibiri in commercial quality and quantity. The oil companies and the government have been good in tagging the host communities saboteurs, vandals, etc for pollution of the environment everyday to evade their responsibility, as they did in Ogoniland, even though there is an ongoing political charade they call clean up. However, it is part of the sacrifice Niger Delta communities and people will bear to take back their land and resources.
“We have stated our objectives, which are in three categories. It is President Buhari’s responsibility to show political will to address them, we do not want ‘peace of our time,’ we want ‘peace with honour.’ There are no new demands on the table, what every past government has given the people of Niger Delta is graveyard peace.”
On the past leaders of the struggle, the Avengers said: “Conclusively, we respect and adore all former leaders of the Niger Delta struggle. namely Elder T. Ogoriba, Dr Felix Tuodolo, Tompolo, Alhaji Asari Dokubo, Chief Ateke Tom, Farah Dagogo, Victor Ben (Boyloaf) and others.”
“They have contributed to the struggle immensely in past time, but please we want them to stay clear of our path as we do not want their personal interests to interfere with this phase of the agitation,” the Avengers said.
Ijaw won’t surrender to Buhari— NDRC
Meanwhile, NDRC in a statement by its spokesperson, WOI Izon-Ebi, reacting to an unsubstantiated report that the Federal Government had concluded plan to hire Saudi mercenaries to fight Niger Delta militants, said was ready to fight back.
“We want to sound it loud and clear that Usman Dan Fodio was not able to conquer the whole North talk less of the Niger Delta. In the history of Nigeria, the Ijaw of the Niger Delta have not been conquered before, so President Buhari should wake up from his slumber of trying to use his Muslim allies to conquer the Izon nation because of their God- given resources.”
Also, IPDI, which insisted on a referendum, said it was disturbed that the highly hailed ceasefire by militants was shattered because of President Buhari’s refusal to address Niger Delta demands.