X-raying Implications Of Dialogue With Militants | Independent Newspapers Limited
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X-raying Implications Of Dialogue With Militants

Posted: Jun 19, 2016 at 3:35 am   /   by   /   comments (0)
Niger Delta Avengers

Niger Delta Avengers

Against the backdrop of the Federal Government’s order on the military to end the onslaught against the militants, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) has indicated interest in discussing with the Nigerian government. But, this is with stringent conditions. This is the first time the group, which has claimed responsibility for multiple attacks on oil and gas facilities across the Niger Delta region, declared interest in having dialogue with the government.

The NDA’s decision was contained in a statement signed by  its spokesman, Mudoch Agbinibo, in which they said they were ready to negotiate with the government if there were good grounds for such deliberation.

However, the group said it was yet to see any signs that the government had made new concessions.

Speaking in the statement posted on the group’s website Agbinibo said: “The high command of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) is using this medium to restate that there are no new items to put on the table for dialogue, we only want a genuine attitude and conducive atmosphere that will make us commit to any proposed dialogue and lasting peace talks.

“We want the Federal Government to commit member-states of the multinational oil corporations to commit independent mediators to this proposed dialogue; we believe that it is only such environment that will engender genuine dialogue that will be aimed at setting up a framework for achieving the short, medium and long term demands of the Niger Delta to de-escalating this conflict and bring about a lasting peace.”

Should the Federal Government accept these conditions? Will negotiations make the FG appear weak? Nigerians speak.


 FG Must Do The Needful To Achieve Peace In Niger Delta

Hon. Essien Ekpeyong Ayi representing Calabar South/Akpabuyo/Bakasi Federal Constituency of Cross River State, has called on the Buhari-led Federal Government to do whatever is necessary to achieve peace in the Niger Delta to safeguard the nation’s economy.

Hon. Ayi spoke on the sideline of a joint meeting of the House House Committees on Niger Delta and Procurement, and ministers over the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta region. He urged the government to boost the budget to the sum of N55.8 billion requested by the Amnesty Office for the payment of stipend of 30,000 ex-militants.

Ayi stated that due to renewed agitation by youths in the region, the House has also directed his Committee to carry out an investigative hearing based on a motion requesting the Executive to urgently release the balance of N33.8 billion to the Amnesty Office in a bid to quell the lingering crisis in the oil producing region.

He stressed that the unabated bombing and vandalisation of petroleum pipelines and facilities by the agitators, if not addressed urgently, might result into total collapse of the nation’s economy.

On whether it would not look cowardly for government to accept the stringent conditions of the militants as prerequisites to dialogue and peace, the lawmaker said: “No price is too big for the sake of peace.

“In recent times, there has been a resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta region which is taking a different dimension – blowing up of pipelines and oil installation in order to cripple the economy of the nation.

“No reasonable and patriotic Nigerian is happy about this development. Thank God the Executive is trying its best to dialogue with the Niger Delta Avengers which is commendable and should be encouraged.

“But our fear is that the ex-agitators on the Amnesty program who are being owed their stipends, in-training allowances, tuition fees and other commitments, out of frustration, may join forces with the so-called Avengers and wreak more havoc on oil installation and pipelines,” he warned.

He said the Joint Committee on Niger Delta and Public Procurement had observed that the sum of N20 billion approved by Federal Government for the Presidential Amnesty in the 2016 budget was grossly inadequate.

Negotiation With the Avengers, Necessary

A cross section of Nigerians have expressed support for the Federal Government to dialogue with the Niger Delta militants for the peace to reign in the region. However, they argued that the stringent conditions given by the militants to the government were unnecessary, and as such should be toned down.

Barrister Yomi Obaditan and Barrister Kunle Oyatomi, who spoke on the issue from their Osogbo base, stressed the need for the government to dialogue with the militants with certain proviso. To Obaditan, the government was supposed to be superior negotiator in the matter, but it’s like the situation had become the other way round.

They also felt that the stringent conditions given by the militants were not good enough since what they had been destroying was the nation’s property.

According to Obaditan, “Before the discovery of oil, the money from cocoa, kola and other cash crops from the South West and from the North were used for developmental purposes. Now that it is the turn of oil from the Niger Delta region, they have to be patient with the situation.

“The negotiation in this regards will put the Federal Government in very weak position because the government has taken the situation in the area with levity. Government supposed to have dealt with the militants decisively and now negotiate later.

“Even though, the situation in the Niger Delta is pitiable, it does not warrant blowing off the pipelines at will to redeem whatever unjust cause. Blowing pipeline is not the solution to the problem on ground. Their negative actions and behaviour were caused by the immediate past PDP Federal Government that empowered the militants by awarding the contract of securing pipeline to them.”

Oyatomi, on his own, maintained that “if you are going for a negotiation, you don’t go with a mindset of what you will accept or what you will not accept. The Federal Government also has conditions for peace they will canvass at the negotiation.

“Whatever becomes an outcome, agreed to both parties at the negotiation will form the position of the parties eventually. So, it is not a question of accepting or rejecting the militants’ conditions. Otherwise, there will be no need for a negotiation.

“All conflicts in the world are eventually settled through negotiation and the Niger Delta Avengers is no exception. War does not bring peace. Only negotiation does.

“As long as Niger Delta crisis persists, we are involved in destroying ourselves. So, negotiation is the only answer for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.”

Secessionists Have Never Succeeded In Nigeria

Colonel Paul Ogbebor (rtd), a veteran of the Nigerian civil war, stated that members of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and the other ethnic militias had not weighed their options well before embarking on the spate of destruction of oil facilities in the Niger Delta region and maiming, killings and destroying properties in other parts of the country.

Ogbebor said: “It seems the Niger Delta militants, the MASSOB and the others do not know the implications of their actions. From history, including Biafra, the process of secession is like this – declare secession, invite all your people home, have a meeting with them and then declare secession, form your own army and prepare for any eventualities. These have not been done.

“We are having Ijaw all over the country without education. If there is war today what happens to these people? There are Igbo all over the country. If there is war today what will they do?

“It looks as if these people do not know all these things. They are starting from the rear instead of from the front.

“You tell the nation this are our grievances, address them. Where they are not addressed they should call their people to come back home and discuss with them. If there is a consensus that they should declare secession they should do so.

“It is now left for the remaining part of the country to say ‘go or don’t go’. If it is agreed that they should go, they go in peace. But where it is not accepted there is war and they should be prepared for that.

“If you want something and you start destroying properties, that is rascality. That would be unacceptable anywhere in the world.

“I think they should be properly educated. What is happening now is because they don’t know what war is,” he stated.

On the demands of the militants that the government should attend to some of their needs before negotiations for a ceasefire could start between them, the retired military officer said he was totally opposed to it as it would amount to the government emboldening criminals.

Dialogue: FG Must Not Appear Weak

Barrister Moses Oha who spoke from Umuahia warned that in view of the conditions given by the militants, government should be careful not to negotiate with the group from the position of weakness, meaning that “no reasonable government could meet such conditions as given by the militants”.

Oha explained that there was no way government could grant the Niger Delta militants their desire because “no government that worth its name can do that. That will imply that government is negotiating from the point of weakness, which is not possible”.

Oha, who fought in the Nigeria-Biafra war disclosed that what he saw in the war “was something I will not want to see again until I die. War is not good. I say this because the call for the release of the Radio Biafra director, Nnamdi Kanu, as a precondition for the dialogue, is uncalled for.

“Kanu does not have a good knowledge of the war. I don’t even think he was born then. He therefore has no right to wake up from his comfort zone in London and spark off the agitation for the creation of the Republic of Biafra.

“As a lawyer, I will advise that he should be tried. If he is guilty, government knows what to do. If he is not guilty, he should be released. But, no responsible government will tolerate the incitement of any of its citizen for whatever reason.

“So, government should look at all the conditions given by the militants and see which could be achieved and the ones it cannot achieve. But definitely, government cannot accept all of those conditions, otherwise, government will look weak,” Oha said.

He however enjoined that given the suffering of the Niger Delta people whose environment had been devastated by oil spill and exploration, “they deserve to have some oil blocs”. He also noted that when such oil blocs are awarded to the indigenes of the region, they should “refrain from selling them out”.

Niger Delta Avengers Have Some Points, But…

Fatima Ardo, a judicial worker, said it has become a sort of tradition by people from the region to hold government to ransom anytime they needed attention. According to her, militancy did not start today and people who sowed the seed of militancy never envisaged that it would grow so wild to be difficult to tame.

“In summary, I believe they have genuine cause if that answers your question but my take is the way they are going about it. The Federal Government should delegate some seasoned Nigerians to speak on its behalf so that they will know when to speak sense into the militant’s ears when they start demanding for the impossibilities because whether we like it or not, what the militants are claiming is the common wealth of all of us as a people,” Ardo added.

According to her, every citizen of Nigeria has the right to oil wells they were claiming ownership of, “but the question is: Do we all have to fight and claim ownership of any natural resource in our respective domain as the militants are doing before we are recognised as Nigerians? So elders of the region should call the youths to order because nobody has monopoly of militancy or violence.”

Sarah Nmadu, a civil servant, said the militants deserved the right to fight against environmental degradation and lack of attention to their plights.

In her contribution to the issue, she maintained that the Federal Government should listen to them, adding, ”If they are bringing some stringent conditions before negotiations can take place, it is the duty of the Federal government to talk to leaders and elders from the region to see how the conditions can be met.

“But I do not see meeting the conditions as a sign that the Federal Government is weak. I heard that many of them learnt act of militancy from their leaders and elders who became wealthy through militancy and that is why the trend has continued.

“If that is the case, then leaders from the region should be blamed for teaching their children that they can only survive through militancy and that is not good for their image.

“What I am saying in essence is that the government should do what they can and hold leaders of the region to commitments to end militancy and wanton destruction of government facilities.”