Chukwudi Akasike, Olalekan Adetayo and Ovie Okpare
Niger Delta militants on Saturday threatened ‘war’ while dissociating themselves from the meeting elders from the oil-rich region had with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, last Tuesday.
Apart from distancing themselves from the meeting, they warned the Federal Government not to rejoice yet over the recent rise in oil production in the country, threatening that a series of attacks await oil facilities in the region in the days ahead.
The militants also asked the Federal Government to drop the charges against Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo, and other leaders from the region.
The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, which is the only militant group that has refused to key into the ceasefire with the government, also claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s bombing of the Trans-Forcados Crude Export pipelines near Batan community in the Warri South-West Council Area of Delta State.
The Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, had on Tuesday said Nigeria’s oil production had recently risen to normal after a sharp drop earlier this year due to renewed militant attacks on oil and gas facilities in the region.
In a statement issued on Saturday by its spokesperson, Aldo Agbalaja, the militant group accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s government of plotting to wage war against the people of the Niger Delta region.
“As a matter of fact, what the Avengers did to the oil industry will be nothing compared to the grand plan already set by our central command. We shall bring Nigeria’s daily output quota to below 500,000 barrels. Just be ready for the approaching tsunami.
“The multinational oil companies, we know you are recalcitrant and will always come to test wills, we hope you will continue in this tradition so there will always be reason to let the world know that ‘you don’t contest the corners of a house with the owner of the house.’
“The destruction of the Trans-Forcados Pipeline is just a warning. We warned against the restarting of the facility, but the daring companies won’t listen. That shadow operation that brought the TFP down was only meant to let these companies know that we aren’t kidding with them; when we say stay down, you stay down, and it’s in your best interest.”
The militant group described last Tuesday’s meeting between Buhari and stakeholders, including traditional rulers from the region as a humiliation of the people of the Niger Delta.
“The humiliation that came with the meeting of the elders with President Muhammadu Buhari did not come to the NDGJM as a surprise. We expected it because we know even the government knows the character and intent of the man and most of those he led to the meeting.
“The only painful part is the fact that the humiliation is stamped on the collective image of our people. However, we want to dare President Buhari and his administration to attempt or fully carry out his military action against our people and see the response that will follow.
“We want to say here, without mincing words, that we are aware of his intentions. We heard loud and clear his hostile message, we understand his message and the NDGJM is saying we are ready for him. We know he has reportedly threatened war on our people; we had been calm enough not to respond to the threats, but at this point, we believe it is time for us to come out to say to him ‘enough is enough.’
“If it is war, bring it on, we are no cowards, just be sure you can sustain the consequences because this is not going to be another vanquished ‘Biafran Uprising’. Niger Deltans are nobody’s slaves; we shall fight until there’s nothing left to defend.”
Similarly, leaders of the Niger Delta Peoples Democratic Front, Ultimate Warriors of Niger Delta, and other major players in the Niger Delta Avengers, who spoke with SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday, said they were not a party to the 16-point demand presented by their leaders to Buhari.
The leader of the NDPDF, simply identified as General Playboy, faulted the stakeholders’ meeting with Buhari, describing it as a platform for them (leaders) to expose their selfish interests.
He expressed surprise that the 16-point agenda submitted by the Niger Delta stakeholders to the Federal Government did not address the issues of Tompolo who was declared wanted by the FG.
He said, “The stakeholders are talking about negotiation. They are talking about $10bn for Niger Delta people; they (stakeholders) are thinking about oil blocs that will be released to Niger Delta people and how they will share it among themselves. That is the only thing they are thinking of.
“They have refused to talk about the fact that there is a matter against Tompolo that should be dropped. None of the stakeholders is thinking about others; they are only thinking of themselves. But it will not work as far as I am concerned except President Buhari comes down here to know the problem of the Niger Delta. That is when Nigeria will have peace. If not, there will be no peace. We are not interested in what the stakeholders went to do in Abuja.’’
The militant leader stated that a situation where ex-agitators like Mujaheed Asari-Dokubo, Boyloaf and Soboma Jackrich (Egberipapa) were not part of the stakeholders’ meeting, was an indication that government was not ready for peace.
“Any meeting geared towards peace without protecting Tompolo’s interest will fail. Tompolo himself cannot come out to negotiate his freedom. As far as we are concerned, Tompolo’s case needs a political resolution, just like that of Henry Okah and Charles Okah.
“These are forces in the region that should not be undermined. We want the Federal Government as part of the dialogue process to get a legal framework to free Okah and let Tompolo have peace otherwise peace will continue to elude the region, and oil pipelines will be blown off continuously to protest their persecution.”
Apart from persons from the region who were facing prosecution, he also demanded the release of the Indigenous People of Biafra’s leader, Namdi Kanu.
Similarly, a member of the Niger Delta Avengers who spoke on condition of anonymity told SUNDAY PUNCH that peace would continue to evade the oil-rich Niger Delta until the government stops the persecution of Tompolo and other leaders of the region.
He said, “All the politically motivated cases against Tompolo, Godsday Orubebe, Kingsley Kuku, Dr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, and Mrs. Patience Jonathan, should be dropped by the Federal Government, otherwise, agitation continues.”
Also, the spokesperson for the Ultimate Warriors of Niger Delta, Sibiri Taiowoh, vowed that his group would open a new chapter to the struggle.
He said, “We will return to the drawing board. And we know the Federal Government will fail (to meet the demands) because they are not sincere. We have lost faith in Buhari, so whether he will grant all the requests or not is irrelevant to us.’’
NDA warns Buhari against dealing with sycophants
The Niger Delta Avengers, in a statement on Saturday, warned President Buhari against dealing with “sycophants in his cabinet” if he really wants to achieve peace in the region.
The NDA Spokesperson, Brig.Gen Mudoch Agbinibo, in a statement made available to SUNDAY PUNCH, also challenged Buhari to visit the region instead of relying on information from his ministers and political friends from the region.
The group said, “You cannot treat the Niger Delta with disdain while you treat your brothers that are terrorists and kidnappers (Boko Haram) like kings and queens by committing the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement from Geneva to witness your transactions with them, before they released their hostages to you.”
“Let Muhammadu Buhari be advised to come down from his ethnic and religious fundamentalist iron horse to lead the Federal Government dialogue and negotiations team with neutral international observers and representatives of international oil companies.”
Meanwhile, the President of the Ijaw National Congress, Chief Boma Obuoforibo, has said Niger Delta stakeholders will not give the Federal Government an ultimatum or a timeframe to implement their demand for the development of the region.
Obuoforibo, who spoke in a telephone interview with SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday, said the stakeholders were optimistic that the President would not renege on his promise to alleviate the sufferings of Niger Delta people.
He said, “We are not going to be negative about the ability of the Federal Government to implement the demands because we have a positive mindset and we have never reached this length in the past. We are doing all this in good faith.”
Meanwhile, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, told one of our correspondents on Saturday that the release of Tompolo was not part of the demands of the Niger Delta leaders.
Shehu said, “I was present when the Niger Delta Elders met the President. At no point did anyone mention this (Tompolo) or any other name by way of a demand for release. ” Punch.ng.com