Militants demand withdrawal of soldiers, say any military action will provoke combats
The Federal Government has set up two committees over the Niger Delta crisis, especially the resurgence of militants, the Niger Delta Avengers, in the region.
The government hinted of the establishment of the committees as the militants demand immediate withdrawal of military since the agitators have agreed to a ceasefire, warning that any action by the soldiers at this point would provoke a combat.
They declared their position as the government held a critical meeting with stakeholders, who were made up of the representatives of the militants, and the elders, representing major groups and ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta.
The Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Brig. General Paul Boroh met the stakeholders on Friday at the Presidential Amnesty Office, Abuja. The stakeholders at the meeting were Elder Ogoriba Timi Kaiser, Chief Dan Ekpebide, Mr. Richard Akinaka, Mr. Dennis Philips and Olusegun Okungbure, the CSO.
Addressing the stakeholders before the meeting went into a short closed door, Boroh said: “We want to focus on issues that have to do with the programme and the region with emphasis on the upsurge of militancy in the region, emergency of new groups, the effect of their activities on the region. These are compelling issues.
“Fundamentally, the Amnesty Programme is in the real integration phase. Attention is now given to the need to reintegrate the ex-agitated. Amnesty has ended and we are in the reintegration phase.
“It is important to say that the office is aware of what is happening now. Two groups have been established to interface between the aggrieved persons and the Federal Government. And it is going on appropriately, it is going on very well and that is why there is some cool and calm.
“It is the Federal Government that established them. You know I have always talked about conflict of this nature, the modus operandi to effectively handle such issue is multi-tracked diplomacy, multi-tracked approach where everybody is involved in resolving conflict of this nature. The structure, including all persons in the region are involved because of the need to have adequate information to resolve this type of resource based conflict.”
Addressing journalists after the closed door meeting, Boroh said: “The Presidential Amnesty Office just had a meeting with stakeholders who are like representatives of the structure. The structure of the office is such that it is from the headquarters, stakeholders, leaders, and the ex-agitators.
“The recent occurrence in the Niger Delta region warranted a meeting of this nature. Most of what we discussed had to do with stabilising the region in order to allow for development, particularly the economy. Of late, the economy has been affected due to pipeline vandalism and the office feels, it is proper to discuss this issue so that we can revamp the economy.
“I am assuring you that from this moment, there will be positivity concerning an upward review of the economy of this country.”
On the demand by the agitators for the withdrawI of soldiers, the presidential adviser said: “I think it is a better thing to achieve peace generally because peace is so fragile that we won’t allow it to break. So, the Amnesty office will do all it can to work with security agencies for the stability of the Niger Delta region.
“There is a hope of progress in terms of stabilising the Niger Delta region. The stakeholders, like I said represent the region in the office but this time around we are focusing on issues that have to do with current escalation. The aim is to stabilise the region, fast track development, particularly the economic situation so that the economy can move on.”
The spokesperson for the representatives of the militants said the meeting was very important “because we are the field workers, we will find out what is happening in the field.”
He however demanded that the government should immediately withdraw the military presence in the region since the agitators have agreed to ceasefire.
He said: “Definitely, there is nothing that starts that does not end. Right now there is ceasefire because of the interfacing of some of us with the people that are involved. Government also has to show commitment by putting up a dialogue team, doing some of the things that the young men have asked for which they are very much aware of. And I believe that since the elders have decided to come together from the different ethnicities within the region, certainly, we are going to have an end to the issue.”