The Federal Government, on Tuesday, warned the militant groups in the Niger Delta behind the spate of bombing oil pipelines not to interpret the disposition of President Muhammadu Buhari to dialogue as a sign of weakness.
Senior Special Assistant to President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, who issued the warning, said the president was only taking his time to respond to the restiveness in the region, because he was determined to find a lasting solution to the recurring crisis in the Niger Delta.
The clarification made by Shehu, in an essay entitled: “President Buhari sharpens focus on Niger Delta” and made available to the Nigerian Tribune, came against the backdrop of the renewed attacks on oil installations by members of the Niger Delta Avengers.
No fewer than six oil pipelines were vandalised on Tuesday, bringing the number of such burst pipelines to 11 within three days in Delta State alone, with serious implications for the nation’s foreign earnings.
According to president’s spokesman, Buhari’s refusal to tackle the new onslaught on the economy with the same hawkishness that characterised his tenure as military head of state in the 80s was not a sign that he was afraid of the Avengers.
Shehu said 14 different groups, claiming leadership of the new militant group launching a renewed onslaught on the nation’s economic jugular, had already held meetings with the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Munguno (retd).
Each of the groups, he said, were brought by a former or serving governor and had insisted that it was the authentic and the right group to dialogue with.
He added that the president had already outlined his plans to develop the Niger Delta region during a meeting he held with the Niger Delta Dialogue and Contact group led by the Amanyanabo of Twon Brass, His Royal Majesty, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, at the State House, last Thursday.
Buhari, he said, told Diete-Spiff, a former military governor of the old Rivers State and his (Buhari’s) senior in the army, that peace and stability in the Niger Delta region and the country was the priority of his government and there would be no compromise on this.
According to Shehu: “The president is mindful of the fact that the Delta region is an important part of the whole, but as he charts his course for a permanent peace in the Niger Delta, it is important, however, that militants don’t mistake his efforts as a sign of weakness.
Quoting the famous statement of former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, shortly before her government defeated the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that publicity for the terrorists is the oxygen needed for survival, the presidential aide accused the media of deliberately aiding NDA’s onslaught out of an appetite for sensational stories.
Read full script on page 34.