Niger Delta group wants direct involvement by Buhari in peace dialogue

*Niger Delta militants.

*Niger Delta militants.

..Advocates return to ‘Yar’Adua template’ for appeasement of militants

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

19 July 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – A coalition of ethnic nationalities and civil society groups in the Niger Delta, the United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy (UNDEDSS), has stated that only a direct involvement by President Muhammadu Buhari in the dialogue process can bring peace to the troubled region, even as militant groups continue to bomb oil and gas facilities.

In the statement signed by UNDEDSS Secretary General, Mr. Tony Iprinye Uranta, the coalition urged the Federal Government to adopt the successful Yar’Adua template of 2009 by appointing a credible special adviser on the region and re-establishing the Niger Delta Committee/Council that operated five sub-committees to holistically and sustainably address the challenges identified in the region.

The statement noted that “UNDEDSS and other leading stakeholders in the region have tirelessly interfaced with very senior members of this administration and given them a detailed template the president should deploy now to resolve this growing insecurity in the region, which is negatively impacting all of Nigeria.

“This is against the background of the different calls from Niger Delta groups and militants that someone from the region chair the dialogue for peace between the Federal Government and the region.”

The group further urged the president to revive the now-comatose platform of the holistic 2009 Amnesty Dynamic that late President Umar Yar’ Adua deployed, adding that it was the only way to stem the tide of the dangerously imploding reality of armed agitation in the Niger Delta.

The coalition also called for the release of 10 secondary school children and others detained as prisoners-of-war, who they said have been in detention many weeks after the military’s invasion of Gbaramatu Kingdom.

Meanwhile, a group of militants had attacked a crude oil pipeline on the outskirts of Warri, a city in the Niger Delta, which is operated by a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), a community leader said on Monday.

Militants calling for a greater share of Nigeria’s energy wealth to go to the impoverished Delta area have attacked oil and gas facilities in the southern region in the last few months, briefly cutting the country’s oil production to 30-year lows.

Two blasts were heard on the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC) line on Sunday night, Batan community chairman Ogugu Dickson said. A security source also said there had been blasts in the town of Batan.

“This morning I and some PPMC workers, and security agents were at the site. All we could see was a huge bubble (of oil) on the surface of the river,” Dickson said. Oil facilities in Batan have been hit in the last few months.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), which has claimed responsibility for most of the recent attacks that began in January, said it was not behind the blasts.

“That’s not NDA,” the group said in an email to Reuters on Monday.

The Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Mr. Solomon Dalung said in a newspaper interview and on his Twitter account, that he had met some of NDA’s members. But the NDA said this was not the case.

“Any meeting with Niger Delta Avengers that the International communities are not part of to witness, we (Niger Delta Avengers) will not be part of,” the group said on its website.

The government has said it is in talks with militants and Delta community leaders in a bid to stop the attacks. In June, it said a month-long ceasefire had been agreed, but the Avengers said they did not agree to a truce.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a group of former militants, late on Sunday named a team it wants to participate in talks with the government which included one of its former commanders – Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo – who is currently a fugitive.

The current wave of attacks began shortly after a warrant was issued for Tompolo’s arrest to face corruption charges. He has denied the charges and also any involvement with those behind the recent attacks.

MEND also said it would be counter-productive if the government ignored such an individual who might be capable of talking to the militants about a ceasefire and called for the charges against him to be suspended.

A government source said that no formal request had been received from MEND on the talks or on suspending the charges.

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