…As militant group, Avengers, agree to abort hostilities temporarily
11 November 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The National Leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clark, has accused Nigeria’s security forces and government officials of causing unnecessary tension in the Niger Delta region.
Chief Clark decried the manner with which the army allegedly terrorize the people, including women and children, with fighter jets and gunboats, a factor which he blamed for the latest suspension of ceasefire and threat to resume hostilities by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).
He stated, “It appears that the Federal Government has not learnt from history. If the only answer it has is to use the military to fight back the threats and attacks of the militants in the creeks, then it will not succeed, it will not work.
“When the Niger Delta Avengers gave notice of withdrawing its ceasefire and resuming hostilities for obvious reasons, the leadership of PANDEF quickly intervened, appealing to them to maintain status quo. It went further to send emissaries to the creeks to deliberate with the NDA.”
According to Clark, “It is the ordinary people, including women and children who are the victims of this show of power by the military. For instance, the schoolchildren will be too scared to go to school; the fishermen and the petty traders will either hide in their rooms or run away from their homes for safety.
“One would have expected the Federal Government and the military to know that the Avengers have never shown any sign of retreat or fear when between February 2016 and August 2016, the area was over-militarized by Operation Crocodile Smile. These are people, who are ready to sacrifice their lives for what they believe in, which is remediation of the neglect of the region.”
Clark noted that, “It became clear that the second movement/deployment of Operation Crocodile Smile to the Niger Delta did not deter the NDA from repudiating ceasefire, which they had granted over a year ago. This should tell the Federal Government that the crisis in the Niger Delta is a cry for the development of the area; therefore, it will be very difficult, if not impossible to use the military force to cow the people to submission.”
“The wise thing for the Federal Government to do will be to sit down and dialogue with the people. What the Federal Government is doing right now is misapplication of resources. Can the Federal Government sit down and calculate how much it has cost it to deploy military to the Niger Delta area from 2002 to date?
“Can the Federal Government tell Nigerians what these figures are and has military action brought peace? But for the intervention of well meaning elders, let the Federal Government tell the Nigerian public what meaningful progress its actions has brought, outside pain and humiliation,” he said.
Meanwhile, a youth leader who spoke yesterday, said, “The Avengers have agreed not to do anything in one or two months, and that is until next year, but that does not mean that they would still not strike if government refused to take concrete action thereafter.”.
“We expect the Federal Government to take quick actions on the take-off of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, relocation of the operational offices of the International Oil Companies, IOCs, to the region, establishment of modular refineries, among others to douse tension,” he added.
PANDEF member, Mr. Famous Daunemigha, told reporters that stakeholders appealed to the Avengers to abort their planned hostilities and they yielded to the pressure, but there was no time-frame.
One of the leaders, who met with the boys, Chief Mike Loyibo, said, “In the last couple of days, we have been worried and concerned about the planned threat from the Niger Delta Avengers. I, Elder T. K Ogoriba and Chief Godspower Gbenekama and others shifted our base to Warri, Delta State.”
“After attending the European Union-facilitated Niger Delta Dialogue meeting, we have been talking to critical stakeholders across board and so far, so good, we have been able to secure more time like a month or two for government to perform.
“We are also seriously appealing to the government not to treat the issue of Niger Delta with levity because it is a special area.
“Once more, we appeal again to the aggrieved boys, the Avengers, not to go back to bombing because it affects farming and fishing amongst other things and moreover, it is not the solution. They should give peace a chance,” he said.
Loyibo, who is a national coordinator of Pan Niger Delta People’s Congress, PNDPC, asserted, “When it comes to the issues of Niger Delta, there is no division, government should stop the military from intimidating and harassing the people of Gbaramatu kingdom and other people, and withdraw them completely.”
“Instead of the money spend on military, government should utilize the funds in bringing bulldozers to turn the Niger Delta into a city like Dubai,” he added.