CONVINCED by the genuine effort being made by elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, to engender peace in the Niger Delta region, members of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) have expressed support for the proposed peace initiative with the Federal Government.
The group, which has denied its involvement in any dialogue with the Federal Government in the past, made this known in a statement signed by its spokesperson, ‘Brigadier-General Mudoch Agbinibo and published on its website late Saturday night.
“The struggle has always been a pan-Niger Delta one; we only know the anti-Niger Delta elements are using some disorganised characters from the region to scuttle all efforts to restore the essence of our humanity, resources control and self determination.
“We are going to support any collective/negotiation team emerging from Chief Clark, Niger Delta elders and genuine stakeholders’ conference to engage with the Federal Government of Nigeria, representatives from the home countries of all multinational oil corporations and neutral international mediators that will be focused on achieving the short, medium and longterm frameworks and objectives to de-escalating conflicts in the Niger Delta,” the group declared.
It, however, advised the Clark-led stakeholders’ forum to consult and be guided by past submissions, reports, declarations and recommendations of various commissions and committees for the region.
“Most of the frameworks and objectives are clearly stated in various reports, declarations and recommendations of the like of the Sir Henry Willinks minority rights reports of pre-independence Nigeria (1957-8), the Kaiama Declaration document, the General Alexander Ogomudia report, the Leedum Mittee headed, Niger Delta Technical Committee report and restructuring to fiscal federalism.
“We have resolved to reject any idea of the peace of our times; we want the peace with honour this time around,” it warned.
The group said it would continue its unannounced cessation of hostilities provided security agents stopped harassing and intimidating innocent folks in the Niger Delta creeks.
“We are going to continue the observation of our unannounced cessation of hostilities in the Niger Delta against all interests of the multinational oil corporations, but we will continuously adopt our asymmetric warfare during this period if the Nigerian government and the ruling APC continue to use security agencies/agents, formations and politicians to arrest, intimidate, invade and harass innocent citizens, suspected NDA members and invade Ijaw communities especially,” the group warned.
It, however, vowed to resume hostilities if the opportunity being offered by Clark failed.
According to NDA, “we promise to fight more for the Niger Delta, if this opportunity fails.
“Therefore, we will give our Niger Delta elders and genuine stakeholders that tacit support to go to the dialogue table with the government and the multinational oil corporations whenever enabling environment prevails,” it added.
The militants singled out some groups and personalities, asking them to inform their sponsors that doom awaits them in the nearest future.
“Those sold and bought up interests from around the corridors of power cannot armtwist the NDA with bandits, drug addicts, illegal bunkerers, bank robbers and disorganised characters to derail the Niger Delta struggle,” the Avengers conjectured.
It will be recalled that Chief Clark, last Friday, held a one-day Niger Delta coastal states stakeholders’ meeting in Warri, Delta State, to de-escalate the persistent security concerns in the region, with a view to finding a lasting solution to the debacle.
The stakeholders, including traditional rulers, elders, leaders of thoughts, youths and women from Niger Delta coastal states, made seven recommendations in a communique issued at the end of the meeting.
They called on the Federal Government to stop the deployment of military hardware and personnel to the creeks of the region.
They also contended that the deployment of military hardware in the area was causing fear, unease and social dislocation of innocent people.
The communique also called on agitators and aggrieved groups in the region to listen to pleas by traditional rulers, elders and leaders of thoughts to halt further hostilities on the nation’s oil and gas facilities and embrace dialogue.
It urged the Federal Government to show more seriousness by reaching out to authentic representatives of the region, involving all ethnic nationalities, interest groups in an all-embracing manner, in order to chart a way forward.
The communique also demanded, among others, the adoption of the restructuring of the political system and the practice of equittable fiscal federalism for sustainable peace and development of the country, as recommended in the 2014 national conference.
Meanwhile, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) has welcomed the decision by members of the NDA to halt all hostilities and embrace dialogue with the Federal Government.
Spokesperson for IYC, Frank Omare, in a statement made available to the Nigerian Tribune, in Warri, on Sunday, commended the militant group for the roundtable option.
“IYC has always advocated dialogue as the means to resolving the Niger Delta crisis.
“As a result, we welcome the conditional declaration of ceasefire by the NDA if it is actually from them,” he stated.
He, however, called on the Federal Government to seize the ceasefire window period, to address issues affecting the region, as well as show sincerity and commitment.
“We call on the Federal Government, especially President Muhammadu Buhari, to take advantage of this ceasefire to aggressively dialogue with the people of the region to address the issues affecting the region.
“For the umpteenth time, we call for a bi-partisan and sincere dialogue to resolve the root causes of the recurrent Niger Delta crisis,” he said.
In another development, the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) has urged the Federal Government to reject the resolutions in the communique issued at the end of the Niger Delta coastal states stakeholders’ meeting held last Friday, in Warri, on Friday.
MEND said conveners of the forum, Chief Edwin Clark and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, lacked the moral rectitude to oversee a stakeholders’ meeting, let alone speak for the people of the region or restructuring of the country.
Spokesperson for MEND, Jomo Gbomo, in a statement made available to journalists on Sunday, said none of the elders and leaders at the meeting had the capacity to lead discussion on restructuring of the country.
He said the communique issued after the one-day meeting categorically did not condemn the heinous activities of the rampaging members of the NDA, who had, since January, held the country’s oil economy by the jugular through bombing of oil and gas installations.