*Dialogue with govt
13 June 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – A group of former militants in the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) have urged the Niger Delta Avengers, who have claimed responsibility for a recent string of attacks on oil and gas facilities, to join in discussions with the government.
A statement from MEND, obtained by our correspondent in Abuja, noted that only a return to peace will guarantee the reparation efforts as promised by the Federal government.
According to MEND, “If indeed your cause is to avenge the injustice done to the Niger Delta region then, we urge you to cease fire and join us to the table of negotiation with the federal Government.”
MEND, one of largest militant groups until it signed up for a government amnesty in 2009, said in a statement it had nominated a team of negotiators on its own behalf.
“Following useful exploratory discussions held with high-ranking officials of the current administration. MEND has constituted (a team) to dialogue with the federal Government on the immediate, medium and long-term future of the Niger Delta region,” it said.
Continued attacks by the militant groups on oil and gas pipelines in the region have cut Nigeria’s oil output to a 20-year low.
Recall that last week, the Avengers had shunned overtures for peace, stating that they would not cooperate with a government initiative to start talks with them and other militants over their demands for a greater share of oil wealth and pollution in the impoverished southern swamp area.
Also, the Niger Delta Avengers had slammed members of the rival, MEND, according to a statement it published online.
According to the statement by its spokesman, Brig.Gen Murdoch Agbinibo, titled “Mend your criminal days are over” the militant group which has been blowing up oil installations in the Niger Delta creeks, described MEND as “disbanded criminal elements.”
It noted that, “We appeal to the general public and all sane minds on the activities of Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) to disregard all purported statements and misplaced threat emanating from disbanded criminal elements like the so-called MEND that are political sidekicks and desperation from Gov. Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state, Mr. Timipre Silva and their political paymasters to hold their political party to the jugular of the affairs of the Niger Delta Region.
“That our struggle is focused on the liberation of the People of Niger Delta from decades of divisive rule and exclusion. We are watching keenly their regretful efforts at rebranding and regrouping criminal elements in the region for their short political gains and territories.”
The NDA said it is unperturbed by threats from the rival group, adding that, “we have mandate that is clearly a departure from those old tactics of the defunct so-called MEND that was indulged in kidnapping, hostage taking, Sea piracy, illegal oil bunkering, bank robberies and social crimes, the likes of Boyloafs, Ateke Toms, were associated to in their days in the name struggle.”
MEND has said some of its former commanders and fighters make up the Avengers, claims denied by the group. Security officials have also linked a MEND commander to the Avengers, though he denies this.
The government has moved in army reinforcements to the southern swamps but Western allies such as Britain have said widespread poverty and oil spills in the Niger Delta need to be addressed to stop the militants.