19 June 2016, Warri – Power struggle among militant groups in Niger Delta is posing a threat to the Federal Government’s plan to have an all-embracing dialogue with stakeholders in the oil-rich region, including the rampaging Niger Delta Avengers, NDA.
Three militant groups, Reformed Egbesu Boys, Egbesu Water Lions and Egbesu Mythier Fraternity, said neither the Avengers nor the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta, MEND, which had raised a negotiation team, tagged Aaron Team 2, has their mandate to represent them in any dialogue with government.
Meanwhile, traditional rulers in Delta State, who appealed to the militants to stop bombing oil installations and embrace dialogue, urged government to adopt a carrot-and-stick approach in dealing with the militant groups.
The so-called General Officer Commanding, GOC, Intelligence, Tony Alagbakeriowei, and GOC, Logistics and Admin, General Ebi Abakoromor, in a statement on behalf of the three militant groups, condemning the NDA and MEND, said the preliminary discussions so far by government officials slanted towards Avengers and a particular former militant leader, vowing to cause mayhem if they were ignored.
The statement, addressed to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who is driving the dialogue process, read: “We write on behalf of the Reformed Egbesu Boys of the Niger Delta, Egbesu Water Lions and Egbesu Mythier Fraternity to bring to the urgent attention of the Federal Government that the negotiation with the Avengers is lopsided.
“It will be recalled that various militant groups make up the Niger Delta Avengers and we were taken aback that the Federal Government team is negotiating with Gbaramatu kingdom representatives only.
“Be reminded that this current crisis is not a particular ex-militant leader affair and, therefore, Gbaramatu representatives cannot negotiate with the Federal Government to the exclusion of other active participants in the crisis.” The groups went on:
“Consequently, we warn that the negotiation team be expanded to include various active group reps that participated in this current crisis. Failure to heed this wise counsel, aggrieved stakeholders will resort to doing what we know best.
“When the need for the cessation of hostilities arose as a result of pleas arising from national and international sources, the Reformed Egbesu Boys of the Niger Delta were the first to unilaterally declare ceasefire.”
They said that at the commencement of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, some militant leaders cornered the proceeds of the struggle to the exclusion of other participants, warning: “This is the scenario now unfolding, we object to this with all our might.”
Reacting to MEND Aaron Team 2, the three Egbesu militants groups said MEND exists only on the pages of newspaper and hotels rooms in Abuja and, therefore, could not speak for militant groups in the region.
“We condemn in strong terms the emerging trend where those in MEND, who took to kidnapping and hostage-taking to criminalise the legitimate agitation and had since been disbanded and accepted the poorly coordinated Amnesty Programme, are now seeking relevance and purporting to have raised a negotiation team to dialogue with the federal government,” the groups said.
“This is most ridiculous, embarrassing and nonsensical to say the least. MEND exists only on newspaper pages and hotel rooms in Abuja. We are taken aback that those who collectively destroyed the struggle want to recruit very respected elders for sinister motives.
“If the Federal Government negotiates with the purported MEND team as published, the consequences would be fatal and devastating to the multinationals as usual. We ceased hostilities in the larger collective interest of the Niger Delta environment, security of the people of the Niger Delta and the economic stability of the Nigerian state and the world at large.
“We wish to warn that the Ijaw nation is and shall not be taken as cannon fodder to the other ethnic nationalities as we are seen to be. We are branded criminals and all sorts of name-calling, but when the Federal Government calls for dialogue, our traditional antagonists and agent provocateurs would be the first to present them for dialogue.”
NDA spits fire
The NDA claimed that some political thugs, agents and militant leaders were foisting their selfish agenda on Kachikwu, warning that it would not be part of a charade involving the characters.
Its spokesperson, Mudoch Agbinibo, said in a statement, “We have never missed (sic) words in telling the whole listening world that the Niger Delta Avengers will not be part of any dialogue deal that will not bring about the peace of our time; but we want a peace with honour.”
The militant group said it was watching “with keen interest the unwholesome activities of the political thugs and agents of APC to undermine the Niger Delta struggle”.