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The Chief Edwin Clark-led group of elders has drawn the ire of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) for not condemning the Niger Diger Delta Avengers (NDA), which it last Friday asked to stop blowing up oil installations.

MEND urged the Federal Government to ignore the Clark group for failing to condemn what it called the “criminal and treasonable activities of NDA”.

On Saturday night, NDA, while reacting to the group’s plea, said it was in support of “genuine Niger Delta stakeholders conference to engage the Federal Government” on the issues affecting the region.

In an online statement by its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, yesterday, MEND said it was in support of the ongoing military operations in the Niger Delta to flush out the Avengers.

It condemened the meeting of the representatives of Niger Delta Coastal States held last Friday in Warri, Delta State, which was jointly convened by Clark and Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.

MEND urged the Muhammadu Buhari administration to ignore the communique issued after the  meeting, saying: “The communique fails to categorically condemn the criminal and treasonable activities of the NDA. This is principally because the notable promoter of the meeting, Chief Edwin Clark, was recently named by the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) as a major supporter of the NDA.

“Chief Clark lacks the moral authority to lead a discussion on the so-called ‘re-structuring’ of the Nigerian federation at this critical point in the country’s history, given the fact that throughout the six years his ‘son’, former President Goodluck Jonathan was in power, the elder statesman kept mute and actively participated in the economic dismemberment of Nigeria. In fact, Chief Clark’s Abuja residence was an extension of the State House.

“None of the persons who attended the stakeholders’ meeting convened by Chief Clark and Governor Okowa has the capacity to persuade the people of the Niger Delta region to support the current efforts of the Buhari Administration to bring peace and development to the region.”

MEND said its members were prepared to tour the Niger Delta to drum up support for the Buhari administration, in an exercise code-named “Operation Moses”.

NDA, which expressed its readiness to dialogue with the Federal Government, passed a vote of confidence in the Clark group.

It said it would continue with the unilateral ceasefire it adopted before the region’s leaders and elders call and wait for the outcome of the talks.

In a statement by its spokesman, Mudoch Agbinibo, NDA advised the Clark group that would be talking with the government to take the situation in the region with all seriousness, adding that if the option fails, it would return to attacking public facilities.

It asked the government and its agents not to further provoke hostility in the region by using the military to invade communities, especially in the Ijaw axis, threatening to fight back.

“We are going to support any collective/negotiation team emerging from the Chief (Dr.) Papa Edwin Kiagbodo Clark Niger Delta elders and genuine stakeholders conference to engage with the government, representatives from the home countries of all multinational oil corporations and neutral international mediators that will be focused on achieving the short, medium and long term frameworks and objectives to de-escalate conflicts in the Niger Delta.

“Most of the frameworks and objectives are clearly stated in various reports, declarations and recommendations of the likes of the Sir Henry Willinks minority rights reports of pre-independence Nigeria (1957-8), the Kaiama Declaration document, the Gen. Alexander Ogomudia report, the Ledum Mittee-led Niger Delta Technical Committee report and restructuring to fiscal federalism.

“We have resolved to reject any idea of the peace of our time; we want the peace with honour this time around! Our advice to our Niger Delta elders and genuine stakeholders is that, whenever this project called Nigeria and her government is ready for dialogue/negotiations with them, this mandate should be treated with the care that driving a truck laden with fire requires.

“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 government continues to use security agencies/agents, formations and politicians to arrest, intimidate, invade and harass innocent citizens, suspected NDA members and invade especially Ijaw communities.

“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 the dialogue table with the government and the multinational oil corporations whenever the enabling environment prevails,” the statement said.

The Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) has hailed the NDA’s decision to opt for dialogue and urged the government to accept the offer in good faith.

In a statement by its spokesman, Eric Omare, the IYC urged the government to ensure that the dialogue deals with the core issues keeping the region “perpetually in a state of conflict”.

“The Ijaw Youth Council has always advocated dialogue as the means to the resolution of the Niger Delta crisis. As a result we welcome the conditional declaration of ceasefire by the Niger Delta Avengers if it is actually from them. We call on the government, especially President 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 bipartisan and sincere dialogue to resolve the root causes of the recurrent Niger Delta crisis. The dialogue should be issue-based and not to solve immediate problems and massage the ego of personalities. President Buhari must avoid listening to political hawks around him at the expense of the country’s unity and development,” the statement said.

Source : The Nation