By Soni Daniel, Emma Amaize, Egufe Yafugborhi & Perez Brisibe
Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, yesterday, served a fresh warning to the Federal Government that it would resume bombing of oil facilities if government made any further mistake to enter into negotiation with selfish leaders in the region that represented themselves instead of the interest of the people.
This came as Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, endorsed the October 31 meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, aimed at finding solutions to the current Niger Delta crisis.
But a group, Urhobo Common Cause, UCC, in Delta State, led by Henry Obukohwo Tafri, rejected the representation of PANDEF, led by the former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, saying it was concerned about alleged “internal colonialism perpetrated by the leadership of Chief Clark.”
The Avengers in a statement accused some unnamed selfish but vociferous Niger Delta leaders and groups of appropriating the overall interest of the region to themselves and cronies while the majority wallow in penury.
A spokesman for the NDA, who gave his name as Col. Rightman Hudson Opukurowari, warned that any attempt by the government to engage in any form of dialogue with Niger Delta leaders who had allegedly hijacked the commonwealth of the people for their selfish interest, would be resisted.
Opukurowari said: “Since we had agreed to suspend bombing oil facilities and enter into genuine dialogue with the government, the administration has not shown any seriousness in talking to the right set of people to move the peace process forward. Two months after the ceasefire, it has become clear to the world that this government has not been sincere and serious in meeting the simple demands of the people to put in place a concrete plan of transforming the landscape and giving us any sense of hope despite our critical contribution to the commonwealth of the nation.
“From the way the government is going after we had suspended bombings, it is clear to the world that the Federal Government is not ready to make peace with us as earlier promised and we are under pressure to resume our attacks. It is obvious that the Muhammadu Buhari administration has rather chosen to be nonchalant to the dialogue and has deliberately decided to invite only their political friends for a dinner in the name of dialogue, by their own selective measures, thereby ignoring the chance for real peace and dialogue with the appropriate persons and groups.
“The Government is trying to avoid a holistic approach to addressing the real issues affecting us and finding solutions to them but merely taking time off to engage those we see as “Niger Delta Vultures” sitting in Abuja with their sponsors, taking credit for our genuine agitations. We have watched and observed that with the body language of the President and the composition of the so-called dialogue group, no meaningful solution will be proffered unless the government invites all concerned and genuine individuals and groups for the purpose of finding a lasting solution to the crisis in the region.
“We hereby warn that any action taken by the government to provoke us to resume hostilities would be more brutal than before until we enter the promised land.
“We are concerned because these same persons invited for the scheduled dialogue have become Federal Government dialogue contractors and they do not represent the interest of the generality of the people.”
MEND backs dialogue
Throwing its support to the planned dialogue, MEND, in a statement by its spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo, said: “The forthcoming meeting vindicates MEND and Federal Government’s continued insistence and belief, ab initio, that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari meant well for the sustainable peace and development of the hitherto neglected Niger Delta region. MEND reiterates that we were the first and only militant group in the Niger Delta region who were meaningfully and constructively engaged in talks with the Federal Government with a view to resolving the Niger Delta crisis; as duly confirmed by no less a person than President Buhari sometime in July, 2016 in his farewell remarks to the outgoing German Ambassador, Mr. Michael Zinner. His Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, later confirmed our claim when he informed the media that the Presidency was “waiting to receive the final agreement.”
The group, among others, said: “We urge members of the Chief Edwin Clark-led PANDEF to put aside personal interests and ambitions of primitive aggrandizement. Rather, we implore them to realize that the Niger Delta region is at a zebra crossing and, therefore, they must remain steadfast and focused on their core mandate, to wit: restoration of sustainable and permanent peace and development of the region.”
However, the UCC in a statement, said: “We, the Urhobo people, reject completely the list of the Central Working Committee (CWC) Chief E.K Clark forwarded to the presidency as representatives of South-South ethnic nationalities. The list forwarded to the Nigeria President does not represent the true population of the ethnic nationalities in the South-South, and furthermore, the membership of the committee did not take into consideration the economic contribution of the various ethnic nationalities to common national purse.”
In another development, NDA, weekend, said no amount of military action would stop it from halting the flow of the oil from the region to sustain Nigeria.
This came as it declared that the group owed no authority, tribe or political group any apology for its agitations for true federalism, saying it was the duty of the central government to manage them, rather than overheating the system with fierce responses.
The militant group in a statement by its spokesperson, self-styled Brigadier-General Mudoch Agbinibo, said: “It is disgusting for President Muhammadu Buhari and his tribesmen to equate the revenue priorities of the Niger Delta region with regional comparisons of development in Nigeria. For crying out loud, since 1914 our resources have been the essence of this union called Nigeria before crude oil was discovered. The amalgamation of southern and northern Nigeria was for administrative convenience because the north was not viable economically. The idea of bundling through bills like North East/West Development Commission is fraud, hypocrisy and bigotry by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“President Muhammadu Buhari should think like a leader with the advantage of his age to see the genuine and legitimate agitation with the right attitude to pacify our people. We have been raped for too long, General Muhammadu Buhari should face the reality of the Niger Delta question. He can stop listening to ideas and advice of the agitation as political system support structure that his tribal warlords and conflict merchants have hypnotized him to believe as the face of the Niger Delta struggle. Niger Delta is part of Nigeria federation that he governs, since he is the president, he will always need the cooperation of our people to share or allocate our resources to other component units,” the group said.
According to NDA: “The daylight robbery and allocation of proceeds of our natural resources must stop. When he was the chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, as General Sani Abacha henchman, he exhibited this bigotry by focusing attention to his region, which he never pretended about by emphasizing 97 per cent versus 5 per cent development and appointment structure that he has exhibited again in his fifth coming in national affairs. He never pretended to be ethnic and religious bigot; the only things he pretends about are his roles in the underdevelopment of the Niger Delta and Nigeria in the over three decades he has being in government – 1976, 1978, 1983/4, 1993/98 and now.
“He also pretends over the deliberate politicization of the Niger Delta struggle by those tribesmen and conflict merchants he has abdicated the responsibilities of governing Nigeria to since May 2015. He has forgotten that on his assumption of office, peace has been sustained in the region not through political party and structure support approach but the involvement of genuine stakeholders and the people of the region. If Mr. President will come down from that his ethnic iron-horse to engage in discussion with our people on October or any date he likes, the issues are not new. We want to control our resources and pay appropriate taxation to the central government that is fiscal federalism in practice and in principles.”
“ The government, representatives of the multinational oil corporations, neutral international observers and elders as well as stakeholders should guide themselves with the following documents: the Sir Henry Willinks Commission Report of 1958, The Ogoni Bill of Rights, The Kaiama Declaration document of the Ijaw Youth Council, The General Alexander Ogomudia Committee Report, The Niger Delta Technical Committee Report which contains the Pre- amnesty issues and agreement with the government of Nigeria in 2009.
“Then, the framework can be drawn for achieving the short, medium and long term objectives toward the restoration of our land and reparation for the people that have been raped and colonized since 1914,” the Avengers asserted. They declared: “No amount of military action and surge will stop us from halting the flow of the oil from our land to sustain Nigeria. This is our land that we are the masters of its battlefields. We have warned earlier that we want the “peace with honour, no more peace of our time”. Any meeting with this government should be seen as driving a combustible vehicle laden with fire to safety; it must be driven with carefulness,” they said/