President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that the activities of the Niger Delta militants must be stopped, because it has greatly affected the nation’s economy.
He made this declaration in Kaduna, on Saturday, during the passing out parade of 63 regular course of the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA).
This is just as Ijaw leader and former Information Minister, Chief Edwin Clark, is set to lead negotiation with the Federal Government on behalf of the Niger Delta Avengers and other militant groups in order to find a lasting solution to the perennial crisis in the region.
President Buhari, who was the Reviewing Officer at the passing out parade, had told the newly commissioned officers that it was time to pay back what the country and their parents had invested in them.
While reminding the passing out cadets that they were joining the military at a time the country needed them the most, the president said his administration inherited a badly managed insurgency in 2015, just as he admitted that though terrorism was a global challenge, the role of the military was paramount in combating it.
He informed the officers of the security challenges now posed by kidnappers, cattle rustlers and the Niger Delta militants, saying that the Federal Government was approaching the security threats in a number of ways.
Buhari stressed that the activities of the militants had badly affected the economy and that it must be stopped.
“You now belong to Nigeria. You are no longer indigenes of your respective states or villages, but officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and you must behave as such. You must be ready to make the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of Nigeria when the need arises.
“The journey that you are starting today is turbulent and challenging, but the application of your training in the academy will certainly see you through.
“Similarly, you must be of good character as you move out of this reputable academy. Your character will determine how far you will go in your pursuit. Maintain discipline and loyalty to one Nigeria.
“We inherited a badly managed war against insurgency in the North-East, but now, the capacity of the insurgents to launch attack has been curtailed, while towns once taken by the insurgents have been liberated. The ongoing mop up operation is to clear remnants of insurgents from their hideouts, all of these due to the gallant troops of the armed forces.
“Our challenges go beyond Boko Haram, but include kidnapping, cattle rustling and militancy in the Niger Delta, which has impacted negatively on our economy,” President Buhari stressed.
‘N/Delta not against Buhari’s govt’
Meanwhile, Chief Edwin Clark has maintained that the Niger Delta elders and leaders were not against Buhari’s government.
He added that they were fully prepared to support him in achieving peace in the region and the development of the entire country.
Clark, who made this disclosure after an expanded meeting of elders, leaders of thought, and representatives of various stakeholders from the Niger Delta, held on Friday night at his Asokoro, Abuja residence, called on the Federal Government to show more commitment in resolving the crisis in the Niger Delta region.
The meeting had in attendance representatives of Delta State government; His Royal Majesty Alfred Diete Spiff; Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (retd); former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah; a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice F.F Tabai; former Minister of Science and Technology. Professor Turner Isoun; Timi Alaibe; former Minister of Police Affairs, Alaowei Brodrick Bozimo; Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme for former Niger Delta militants, Brigadier-General Paul Boroh (Retd) and several leaders of groups and ethnic nationalities.
Briefing newsmen at the end of the meeting, Obong Attah maintained that as part of the resolutions at the meeting, it was agreed that all the various groups and initiatives which had been working to achieve peace and stability in the Niger Delta since the escalation of renewed militancy in the region be collapsed into one under the umbrella of Pan Niger Delta Forum, with Chief Edwin Clark as leader.
“The new forum has also placed a demand on the Federal Government to urgently set up its negotiation team that would engage these genuine leaders of the Niger Delta mandated to speak for the various militant groups in the region.
Attah said Chief Clark “is approaching 90 years, and he feels the burden to make sure the Niger Delta he leaves behind is something our children and grandchildren will be proud of, because we helped to engineer it.
“We held a two-hour meeting and made certain decisions, which are encapsulated in the communique,” Attah said, adding that the meeting noted that several groups, out of concern for the Niger Delta, have sprung up on efforts to right the wrongs of the Niger Delta and “this evening, we resolved and everybody agreed that the groups collapsed into one body, to be known as Pan Niger Delta Forum with Chief Edwin Clark as the leader.”
He said further that the meeting resolved to set up a working group that would work out the details and modalities of how the new formation would operate in the interest of the Niger Delta region.
The communique issued and signed by Clark and co-chairmen of the Central Working Committee, Diete-Spiff and Attah, indicated that the meeting deliberated on current developments in the Niger Delta and agreed on several issues on how to resolve the crisis in the region.
“For all the various groups to work under the central umbrella of Pan Niger Delta Forum with Chief Edwin Clark as leader.
“The setting up of a central working committee taking into regard representation of states, ethnic nationalities, and special interests under the chairmanship of Obong Victor Attah.
“The meeting also noted that the problems of the Niger Delta remain as follows: “Question of fairness, justice and equity, as the region remains largely unfairly treated and shortchanged on most national issues.
“Poor social infrastructural development and environmental degradation, poor funding of intervention agencies-Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Amnesty Office and Ministry of Niger Delta.
“With respect to the current insecurity in the region, the meeting noted as follows: That the 60-day ceasefire declared by various agitating groups on the 21st of August, 2016 has led to relative peace in the region and thereby helped boost oil production and thereby aid the national economic recovery.
“However, the Federal Government has been unable to reciprocate so far by putting together a government dialogue team.
“That ‘operation crocodile smile’ exercise embarked by the Nigerian military has not advanced the course of peace but only heightened the state of insecurity and tension.
“The need for various agitating groups in the Niger Delta to continue to maintain the peace, refrain from all acts of violence and give the pursuit of dialogue by the leaders of the region a chance,” it stated.
Chief Clark, earlier in his welcome speech said that while individuals randomly condemned the escalated activities of the Niger Delta youths who have been involved in destruction of the national assets resulting in the military intervention by deploying troops to the region, “the grievances of the youth were not new.”
He said that the struggle for the development of the Niger Delta dated back to the late 1950s, which led to the setting up of the Henry Willinks Commission in 1957 by the British colonial government, adding that “it is also what we, the elders and leaders of the region, are still fighting and agitating for. The difference is the manner and method of the agitation.”