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MEND: Federal Government Has Two Weeks To Discuss

•Asks govt to begin dialogue with  Tompolo
•Rejects negotiation involving NSA
• Says Avengers are criminals

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has given the Federal Government a two-week ultimatum to commence dialogue with its “Aaron Team,” including a repentant militant leader, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, aka Tompolo, to end the bombing of oil installations and Niger Delta militancy.

It, however, declared that the dialogue must not be coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), since most of the issues surrounding the Niger Delta question were on the exclusive legislative list and the proposed dialogue was not an interrogatory session.

MEND described members of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) as criminals, who had been holding the Federal Government to ransom and forcing concessions.

The NDA members, according to MEND, also engage in militancy for their own personal aggrandizement.

The militant group (MEND) stated these yesterday in an online statement by its Spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo.

It expressed displeasure that successive governments and the International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the crude oil and gas-rich Niger Delta had repeatedly reneged on agreements entered into with the people of the region and also owing the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) billions of naira in withheld funds.

MEND said: “Government is at liberty to negotiate with arm-twisting unions and criminal groups like the NDA, so long as such negotiations are done in the national interest.

“MEND is not opposed to government’s plan to negotiate with the recalcitrant NDA through the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA). Government must, however, not delude itself into thinking that negotiation with the NDA was tied to the resolution of the Niger Delta question.

“Negotiation with NDA is merely a temporary respite, as another opportunistic group is lurking in the shadows, but dialogue and resolution of the Niger Delta question will be a sustainable solution for all stakeholders.”

It added that, “MEND had repeatedly reiterated that the Niger Delta struggle was beyond attacks on oil installations. In fact, destruction of oil and gas pipelines is an elementary course in guerilla warfare, which can be carried out by any militant group.”

The group also stated that it (MEND) stopped attacks on oil installations more than two years ago, when the group unilaterally declared a ceasefire of hostilities on May 30, 2014 against Nigeria’s key economic and strategic interests.

It noted that since it declared ceasefire, it had relentlessly sought to engage the Federal Government in a sincere dialogue on the release of those it described as “Prisoners of Conscience,” including Henry and Charles Okah, as well as addressing the root issues bedeviling the Niger Delta, without success.

MEND stated that on January 6, 2015, when it realised that ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, an indigene of Otuoke in Ogbia LGA of Bayelsa State, was not interested in dialogue on the Niger Delta question, the group endorsed Muhammadu Buhari as its candidate in the 2015 presidential election; in the belief that President Buhari would sincerely welcome dialogue.

The militant group said: “There is a marked distinction between negotiation with criminals and fraudsters who force concessions from government, using the strategy of attacks on oil installations, on the one hand; and dialogue with genuine militant groups, such as MEND, who are committed to meaningfully engage government on the vexed Niger Delta question, on the other hand.

“While the former (NDA members) engage in militancy for their own personal aggrandizement, the latter (MEND members) are patriots, who are fighting a just cause and are equally desirous of peace, stability and development of the Niger Delta region for the common good.

“As unfolding events in Nigeria have since revealed, the major challenge of President Buhari’s government lies in its inability to distinguish between negotiation with criminal elements such as the NDA, who are sabotaging the nation’s economy and whose demands range from the mundane to the outright ridiculous and dialogue on the Niger Delta question with a serious-minded group such as MEND.

“The way and manner criminal gangs, such as the NDA, hold government to ransom and force concessions, is exactly the same way and manner pressure groups such as PENGASSAN, NUPENG or even the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) often times hold government to ransom, regardless of the risks posed by their actions to the national economy and to the lives of ordinary Nigerians. The only difference is that NDA ups the ante with its senseless and unprovoked attacks on oil installations.”

MEND faulted the stance of some Niger Delta leaders and called on President Buhari to refrain from being deceived by the recent visit of the Amayanabo of Twon-Brass in Brass LGA of Bayelsa State, King Alfred Diette-Spiff, to the Presidential Villa, under the pretext of a hurriedly-formed Niger Delta Dialogue and Contact Group (NDDCG).

The group said: “Throughout the six-year tragic reign of former President Goodluck Jonathan, King Diette-Spiff said or did nothing on record to draw the attention of the former President to the resolution of the Niger Delta question. He and other elders and elite of the region, including Chief Edwin Clark, certain ex- militants, tribal assemblies such as the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) and a coterie of so-called Niger Delta activists embarrassingly kept mute and turned a blind eye during the six years of colossal waste, unmitigated corruption, monumental fraud in the unsustainable amnesty programme, environmental decay and neglect, infrastructural stagnation such as the wicked and criminal abandonment of the East-West Road project, among others.

“Regardless of the fact that there is a consensus of opinion that the Federal Government is not sincere about the kind of dialogue advocated by MEND, the group has nevertheless named an Aaron Team, comprising the following persons: Henry Odein Ajumogobia, SAN (Rivers)-Team Leader, Bismark Jemide Rewane (Delta)-awaiting re-confirmation, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa (Cross River), High Chief Government Ekpemupolo (Delta)-awaiting  confirmation, Ledum Mitee Esq. (Rivers), Lawson Omokhodion (Edo), Ibanga Isine (Akwa Ibom), Senator Adolphus Wabara (Abia), Alfred Isename (Edo) and Timipa Jenkins Okponipere Esq. (Bayelsa)-Team Secretary.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the MEND’s Aaron Team shall not dialogue with the NSA, given that the office of the NSA lacks executive power.”

The militant group also hoped that the Federal Government would reach out to the Aaron Team Leader (Ajumogobia), to signal government’s intention to commence the dialogue.

MEND added that if after the two-week ultimatum and it did not hear from the Federal

Government, the militant group would assume that the Buhari’s administration was truly not sincere about dialogue on the Niger Delta question, but would prefer to respond only to the threat of violence or industrial action.