THERE was misapprehension yesterday over the statement from President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday that the Federal Government was holding dialogue with militants in the Niger Delta region to end pipeline bombings as the foremost militant group, Niger Delta Avengers, NDA and other groups denied such talks. The bombings have devastated the economy.
the economy. Militants vs Buhari Militants vs Buhari President Buhari, while speaking with the outgoing Ambassador of Germany to Nigeria, Mr. Michael Zinner, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, confirmed that government was in dialogue with Niger Delta militants towards putting a stop to pipeline vandalism and violence in the region. He said the negotiations
were done through oil companies and law enforcement agencies. Besides the militants, former national chairman of the Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria, TROMPCON and paramount ruler of Siembiri Kingdom, Delta State, HRM Charles Ayemi-Botu and the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, said it was disappointing for the government to say that oil companies and security agents were the ones engaged in the negotiation. However, the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ, welcomed what it said seemed like a volte face on dialogue by President Buhari but urged the President to engage critical stakeholders of the region, and not just militants.FG talking to mercenaries – Avengers Niger Delta Avengers in a swift reaction to President Buhari’s statement that government was talking to Niger Delta militants through the oil companies and security agencies, said: “Our attention has been drawn to media reports that the President is in touch with Niger Delta agitators, including the Niger Delta Avengers. But the truth is that we are not aware of any peace talk.” Their spokesman, Mudoch Agbinibo who issued the statement, said, “If there is any such peace talk, it means the President is talking to their mercenaries set to disturb the genuine struggle of the agitators. President Buhari led government is not sincere to the Nigerian people and their foreign allies”. According to NDA, “If we are to engage in any peace talks, we made it clear that the international community must be part of it. The President knows our demands. Therefore, the government should stop deceiving the international oil companies, the general public and the international community.” Stop the joke-Ayemi- Botu Responding to Buhari’s declaration, HRM Ayemi-Botu said: “The statement credited to President Buhari to the outgoing German Ambassador that ‘we are talking with the militants’ as widely published in the electronic and print media gave us some hope and temporary relief .” “But the fact that Mr. President further stated that it is the security agencies and multinational oil companies that are doing the talking or negotiating with the militants, while the militants on the other hand stated that government was not talking with them, gives me cause for worry. More so, they blew up a PPMC pipeline some days ago,” The monarch said, “it sounds like a cat and mouse game because security men are hunting for them up till Thursday in Warri. So, how can they be discussing. Militants cannot negotiate with security agents. Or is it the oil companies which the militants have asked to stop operating and quit their areas of operations that are dialoguing with the militants, “the royal father asked. He asserted: “My candid appeal to Buhari is to take the bull by the horns and emulate late President Umaru Yar’ Adua to appoint prominent personalities, including traditional rulers, opinion leaders and chiefs to dialogue on the protracted Niger Delta issues with a view to having lasting solution. “Apparently, a situation whereby the President is telling the world that security agents and oil companies are delegated or mandated to dialogue with the militants may not work. We should call a spade, a spade,” he said. President’s advisers should advise him well- IYC Meanwhile, the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, in a statement by its spokesperson, Mr. Eric Omare, said: “The government should stop deceiving Nigerians and the international community about talks with Niger Delta militants on how to stop attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta region.” “It may not be right for the President to say that his government is negotiating with Niger Delta militants through oil companies and law enforcement agencies during the farewell audience with Mr. Michael Zinner, the outgoing Ambassador to Germany on Thursday, the 21st of July, 2016. “It is even embarrassing for the President of an independent nation such as Nigeria to say that it is oil companies that are negotiating for peace with Niger Delta agitators, which in effect amounts to surrendering a lot to international oil companies,” the council said. It added: “The IYC wonders if Nigeria is back to pre-colonial and independence Royal Niger Company days where international companies govern Nigeria. The point must be made that the issues at stake are completely beyond the capacity of oil companies to resolve.” “For the umpteenth time, the IYC call on the aides and advisers of President Buhari to properly advise him on how to solve the current hostilities in the Niger Delta region and equally display a determination to resolve the problem as his predecessors did. “Only a sincere and holistic dialogue with the people of the Niger Delta region which is aimed at addressing the remote causes of recurrent militancy can bring permanent peace to the Niger Delta region. This can only happen when President Buhari as the political leader of Nigeria come down to the negotiation table,” IYC said. Avoid jamboree- CEPEJ Speaking through its national coordinator, Sheriff Mulade, CEPEJ, thumbed up the federal government for going ahead with the peace talks, but cautioned against “engaging the militants alone in the peace parley.” “We suggest that critical stakeholders should be identified and engaged by the government, otherwise government would create more rooms for other pseudo militant groups to emerge. “CEPEJ wants the government to hold town meetings with the communities and address their social problems and also talk to the oil firms, and find out their relationships with the communities. The engagement should be more comprehensive, beyond the militants. ‘’If the government wants to truly resolve the issues, it should involve critical leaders and not political stakeholders; otherwise it will be another jamboree and failed attempts. The fundamental issues are clear: the people of the Niger Delta need development and remediation of their environment, which has been devastated by years of oil and gas exploration and exploitative activities,” the group said. It added: ‘’the politicians are the beneficiaries of the system. When they are fraternizing with the militants on one hand, they want to end militancy on the other. That is why we said the government should not make it a political talk; rather Niger Delta stakeholders at the grass-roots should be involved,” The NGO condemns in strongest terms the continued bombings of oil and gas installations by the rampaging Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) after a lull in their nefarious activities, saying that the renewed bombings have affected the gains recorded in recent weeks, and caused more damage to the environment, the only heritage of the people. “The Center is of the opinion that the continued bombings of oil and gas facilities were not doing the region any good, rather they were adversely affecting the environment and slowing down the economy. “We reiterate our appeal to militants in the Niger Delta to sheathe their swords and allow peace to reign as no development can take place in an environment wrecked by conflicts and environmental degradation,” CEPEJ stated. What Buhari said The President , who gave the confirmation of dialogue with militants through the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, while granting farewell audience to the outgoing Ambassador of Germany to Nigeria, Mr. Michael Zinner, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said the talks were being done through oil companies and law-enforcement agencies and was aimed at finding lasting solution to insecurity in the region. He also said that his administration was studying the instruments of the Presidential Amnesty Programme inherited from the previous administration with a view to carrying out commitments made that were undelivered. “We understand their feelings, we are studying the instruments, we have to secure the environment otherwise investment will not come. We will do our best for the country,” Shehu quoted the President as saying.