THERE was comprehensible dissonance among militant groups in the Niger Delta beforelast Friday’s eventful consultative meeting of Niger Delta leaders in Warri, Delta State, where a pan-Niger Delta platform of all ethnic nationalities was established to dialogue and negotiate with the Federal Government.
Former Federal Commissioner for Information and Ijaw national leader, Chief Edwin Clark, convened the one-day consultative stakeholders’ meeting of monarchs, elders and leaders of Niger Delta coastal states, which intervention has reduced the tension in Niger Delta. .
Barely 24 hours after the meeting, which called on militants to sheath their swords, the most deadly group in the region, Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, unpredictably ceased hostilities in deference to the leaders.
Three other militant groups, the Reformed Egbesu Fraternities, Niger-Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, NDRC, Asawana Deadly Force of Niger Delta, ADFNG and Niger Delta Development Movement, NDDM, agreed with Avengers and ceased hostilities.
However, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, which was already dialoguing with the federal government and had made some inroads despite the ill feelings about the organization and its role, totally rejected the involvement of the leaders that gathered in Warri in such an undertaking.
Another militant group, the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, NDGJM, which blew up a pipeline belonging to the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, 24 hours before the meeting of last Friday, has also teamed up with MEND in rejecting the outcome of Warri meeting.
Avengers proffer reasons
While the Avengers’ spokesperson, self-styled Brig Gen Mudoch Agbinibo, said: “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 federal government of Nigeria.
“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.”
NDA welcomed the involvement of 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-escalating conflicts in the Niger Delta.”
Reformed Egbesu throws light
On its part, the Reformed Egbesu Fraternities, said: “We commend the convener, Chief Dr Edwin Clark and all the royal fathers, who participated in the meeting, which came at the most auspicious time. Most importantly, the pan Niger- Delta composition of the meeting cutting across all the ethnic nationalities is to say the least a step in the right direction.”
It said in a statement by “General” Tony Alagbakeriowei, GOC (Intelligent) and another: “We have been pressured and appealed to by the Niger Delta Coastal States stakeholders’ consultative meeting, convened by Chief Dr E K Clark and most importantly, the Niger Delta Dialogue Contact Group, led by HRM, King Alfred Diette-Spiff.
“Nigerians from all shades of opinion, elder statesmen, royal Majesties, elders, chiefs, members of parliament, bureaucrats, technocrats, diplomats, ministers, of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, key government functionaries amongst numerous others, pleaded that we come to the negotiation table, so we have to oblige,” he added.
MEND, Greenland counter
However, MEND stated unequivocally: “The attention of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has been drawn to a meeting of the Niger Delta Coastal States held in Warri, Delta State on Friday, August 19, 2016. The meeting was jointly convened by elder statesman Chief Edwin Clark and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.”
Its spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo, asserted: “MEND hereby advises the Federal Government to ignore the communiqué, released at the end of the meeting for the following reasons: The communique failed to categorically condemn the criminal and treasonable activities of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA). This was principally because notable promoter of the meeting was recently named by the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) as a major supporter of the NDA.
“None of the persons who attended the stakeholders’ meeting convened by Chief Clark and Governor Okowa have (sic) 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.”
The NDGJM, on Monday, threw its weight behind MEND, saying: “So much as we have tried not respond or just let things pass, we find it really difficult to ignore the charade that was recently convened in Warri, Delta State, by the Ijaw ethnic national leader, Pa E.K. Clark and the Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as the conference of Niger Delta stakeholders.
“He does not have the mandate to convene a meeting or speak on behalf of the Niger-Delta. The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate is not in support of that so-called stakeholders’ meeting, which by the way was populated by the same gang of breast-pocket politicians, who in the six to seven years of Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency, ruled with him, looted the nation and raped the Niger Delta,” its leader, “Gen” Ado Agbalaja said.
How Clark lampooned militants
Apparently, unknown to the MEND, one of the first things that Clark did at the Warri meeting was to berate the NDA and other militant groups for blowing up pipelines in the region, insisting that it was a heinous offence.
. MEND does not exist b — Ayemi Botu
Former national chair of the Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria, TROMPCON, HRM Pere Charles Ayemi-Botu, aka Lion of the Niger, who attended the meeting, told
Vanguard in Warri: “MEND does not exist anymore, it used to exist between 2005-2009, but when the late President Umaru Yar’Adua granted militants amnesty, it died.
“If anybody says he is representing MEND now, let him come out or is it Henry Okah and his brother, Charles, that are in prison that is MEND?
He said that fifth columnists were using MEND to set up Niger Delta for a kill and asked those using the faceless group in government to say all manner of things about Niger Delta leaders to desist.
His words: “I read MEND saying that Chief Clark had not condemned bombings of pipelines by militants, this is not true. He had criticized them on several occasions in the past. The truth is that we saw that something was going wrong and if the monarchs and leaders from the ethnic nationalities did not come together to address the problem, it will consume all of us. Our fear before the meeting was how the militants, who are our sons, will hear the plea of us, their fathers.”
“I thank God that the Avengers responded quickly to our call that they should stop bombing pipelines, which the meeting totally condemned. I, therefore, appeal to other militant groups to sheath their swords, We, their fathers are saying that we want peace in our region and to avoid ambiguousness, we have decided to set up a pan-Niger Delta platform to reach out to the federal government,” he said.
HRM Ayemi-Botu said it would be fatal for royal fathers and leaders to be alive and allow militants to overrun the region, adding: “That is really the reason we had to intervene to save the region from becoming a laughing stock.”
Intention and motive very clear — Ikponmwen
Former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army and South-South leader from Edo state, Brig General Idada Ikponmwen (retd.) told Vanguard on phone: “The list of people invited for the meeting was very exhaustive and it included all those, who have been involved in the struggle for a very long time.”
“Though, some of them did not attend, but the intention and motive of the meeting are very good and it was on the spot that delegates suggested that we come up with a pan-Niger Delta group. However, some of us have been saying it for the past 15 years that the coastal states of the South-South must form a regional group like Arewa, Afenifere.
Crucial thing is to provide good leadership
Ikponmwen stated that it would be wrong for the leaders of the region to remain silent when things were going wrong. He, however, said: “The militants are our children, they are our boys, we are their fathers, they cannot lead the region, we are supposed to give them direction and that is what their fathers have done by telling them to sheath their swords.”
He admitted that some things went wrong in the past, but there was no questioning the important position of Chief Clark in the region and it would be scandalous for militants to speak for the region, as if those that chose to tread the path of non-violence were senseless.
The former army officer said: “What is important now is that with the formation of a new pan Niger Delta group, the direction must be clear and focused. The leaders must provide a good leadership that will carry others along without which the ship will run aground. In fact, people are watching to see how the leaders are going to navigate the ship.”