No Consensus Yet On Need For Talks With Niger Delta Militants | Independent Newspapers Limited
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No Consensus Yet On Need For Talks With Niger Delta Militants

Posted: Jun 19, 2016 at 3:20 am   /   by   /   comments (0)







The decision of the Federal Government to open negotiation with militants in the Niger Delta has attracted mixed reactions from Nigerians. While some see the step as the best and necessary, others want government to be cautious as the step might send a wrong signal and create more problems for the government in future than the solution to the problems in the troubled Niger Delta region. To others the FG should assert its superiority by crushing the militants.

It would be recalled that militants in the Niger Delta who agreed to sheathe their sword during the administration of previous administrations of the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan have gone to the trenches and renewed hostility last month with bombing of oil installations which has drastically reduced oil production and a further reduction in the nation’s revenue.

The oil production tumbled from 2.2m bpd to about 1.6million bpd. The Federal Government, which initially boasted of crushing the group, suddenly dropped its high shoulders and decided to accept the option of negotiating with the militants when it appeared the idea of using force to deal with the situation was worsening the problem.

Tony Uranta, secretary general, United Niger Delta Energy Development and Security Strategy, described the decision of the Federal Government to soft-pedal on its earlier hard position to resolving the issue as a step in the right direction. He believed that only negotiation could bring the crisis in the Niger Delta to an end.

Similarly, Annkio Briggs, frontline female Niger Delta activist has supported the decision of government to dialogue with the militant group. She said, “The British government is recommending dialogue with the Niger Delta Avengers, the American Government is recommending the same, and it is a welcome recommendation. People like me support that recommendation and also call on the people blowing up the pipeline that they should also hold their peace, let us see how we can now sit down and discuss the issues,”

Briggs also suggested the practice of true federalism to end regional agitations and marginalisation of Niger Delta and other parts of the country. True federalism, Briggs believes, would reduce the concentration of too much power at the centre and more power given to federating units which entails controlling their natural resources and developing at their own pace.

Emmanuel Uduaghan, immediate past governor of Delta State is not happy that militancy that was suspended some years ago has resumed in the area. Apart from economic loss, the destruction of oil installations would continue to have a negative effect on the environment and so, wants government to negotiate with the group in order to bring a lasting solution to the area.

He said, “The bombings are damaging our environment and it will take several years to rebuild”.

“I want to advise the Federal Government to take the issue of dialogue very seriously because I believe that is the solution to the current crisis.

“The leaders of the Niger Delta should come together and engage ourselves to find solution to the problem”.

Speaking on the rumour that there are external forces involved in the latest attacks, he said, “I do not think so because there are enough of issues in the region to cause what’s happening”.

While supporting the negotiation, Comrade Celestine Akpobari, national president, Ogoni Solidarity Movement further suggested massive investment in the Niger Delta region as panacea to incessant militancy in the area.

He said, “You don’t make same mistake two times, the root cause of the crisis in the Niger-Delta is long years of neglect by successive administrations. Until they begin to address the problem of Niger Delta, we would not get out of the problem”, he said.

Comrade Alpobari regretted the action of former regime which empowered some militants to the detriment of the common people in the Niger Delta. “President Goodluck Jonathan made some militants billionaires but cannot point to projects executed to the benefits of the people.”

Speaking against going into dialogue with the new group of militants, Mr. Africanus Ukparasia a.k.a. General Africa, a former militant leader, has warned that the Federal Government’s plan to negotiate with the Niger Delta Avengers will breed more criminals and further encourage militancy in the region.

He also alleged that a former militant leader founded the Avengers to blackmail the Federal Government to drop his corruption case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Ukparasia expressed readiness alongside other ex-militant leaders in the region to fight and capture the said former militant leader and his lieutenants and hand him over to Federal Government to face the law.

He dismissed the threat by the Joint Niger Delta Liberation Front (JNDLF) to bomb the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, the Police Headquarters, Defence Headquarters and other national assets in Abuja, Lagos and Kaduna as a mere threat, saying that they (militants) know one another’s capacity in the Niger Delta and none should bite more than they can chew.

In the same vein, Warri Study Group, a pressure group in Itsekiri area of Delta State has called on the Federal Government to jettison its resolve to open dialogue with Niger Delta Avengers as a way to ending acts of sabotage on oil facilities and restoring peace to the region.

The group which made the call in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari accused the politicians in the Niger Delta who were calling for dialogue with the militants of frustrating various interventionist efforts put in place by previous administrations to improve the lives of the people in the region, alleging that such politicians pursue a common agenda with the Niger Delta Avengers.

Meanwhile, Odein Ajumogobia former minister of state for Petroleum, who was named to be on the negotiation team with the militants has denied reports that he is on a negotiation team created by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) to dialogue with the Federal Government on the crisis in the region. Ajumogobia made the denial via a statement which reads:

“My attention has been drawn to widespread reports in the media claiming that I have agreed to participate in negotiations with the Federal Government over the issue of attacks against oil installations in the Niger Delta on behalf of some of the alleged perpetrators of these actions or connected persons.

“This is not so. I wish to make it absolutely clear that I do not know the alleged perpetrators nor have I offered to serve as their representative in prospective discussions with the Federal Government in any capacity whatsoever.”