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The military and Niger Delta militants yesterday agreed to a ceasefire deal to stop hostilities in the region. This means all the groups will henceforth stop bombing of oil pipelines. The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) had carried out attacks on oil pipelines resulting in drop in nation’s revenues.
This is even as the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) agreed to back the Chief Edwin Clark-led negotiating team to resolve the regions crisis.
It also claimed it had secured some concessions from Federal Government which the military denied yesterday. Last week, the militant groups approached Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka to represent them in the negotiation.
MEND has accepted to work with Clark team while disbanding the Odein Ajumogbobia-led negotiating Aaron Team 2.
Confirming the concession, MEND said in a statement issued by the group’s spokesman, Jomo Gbomo that the Federal Government has made some concessions to the group. “In fact, we have so far been able to secure a number or concessions, some of which include, but are not limited to the release of political prisoners. We expect that Chief Clark and his team shall follow through with the rest of the dialogue and peace process,” MEND said.
The disbandment of the Ajumogbobia team followed the decision of MEND to accede to the request of other militant groups led by ND that the foremost Ijaw leader, Chief Clark should lead discussions on behalf of the Niger Delta region.
MEND which had initially rejected the request, but succumbed to pressure and dispatched its representative, Timipa Jenkins Okpomipere to meet with Clark and had positions harmonised for a united front to negotiate with the Federal Government.
Gbomo, in the eight-paragraph statement, also disclosed that following the disbandment of the team, its Operation Moses, supposed to involve a tour of Niger Delta states to sensitise the people on the need for peace will not hold.
The MEND’s spokesman, who thanked the team for honouring its invitation stated that the group has nominated Ogoni civil rights activist, Mr Ledum Mitee, Mr Ibanga Isine and Okponipere to join Clark in articulating the position of Niger Deltans.
MEND also disclosed that it would be monitoring proceedings on the talks, adding that it reserves the right to pull out its representatives after six months if it is not satisfied with the progress of the talks.
The group also warned the members of the Bayelsa State Waterways Security Task force and those it called their military collaborators to respect the on-going ceasefire.
It cautioned one of its former leaders, General Africanus Ukparasia not to venture anywhere near its camp as its commanders have been told to treat him as an enemy.
Nevertheless, MEND is compelled to categorically warn that it is not yet uhuru. Clark-led new initiative should realise that MEND was already in preliminary talks with the Federal Government as confirmed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
All efforts to reach General Africanus on phone were futile. He has also not replied the text message sent to his phone. But one of aides who doesn’t want to be named said the Waterways Security Task Force would not be deterred in its efforts to rid Bayelsa and by extension the Niger Delta region of criminals masquerading as freedom fighters.
According to him, MEND has ceased from existence since 2008 when the commanders embraced the Federal Government amnesty, noting that those claiming to be members of MEND are impostors.
Meanwhile, the Akwa Ibom State Government yesterday disagreed with the Federal Government over the actual status of protesting ex-agitators from the state who alleged alienation from the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, appealed to the Amnesty Office to treat the ex-agitators from the state fairly, saying that they were duly captured in the programme like their counterparts from the other parts of Niger Delta.
Umanah spoke on the heels of a statement credited to the Coordinator of the Amnesty Office and Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Brig. Gen. Paul Boroh (retd), urging the state government to engage and empower some ex-agitators from the state who may not have been captured in the programme.
Meanwhile, a public affairs analyst and former commissioner with the Delta State Oil Producing Communities Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Sir Ken Okolugbo, has praised the decision of leaders and activists in the Niger Delta to line up behind the Clark team.
In denying the purported concession yesterday, a top military source who does not want to be mentioned in print, however told Daily Sun, that even though the government initiated the dialogue with the militants, to find a lasting solution to the incessant combing of oil pipelines, it was yet to make any specific decision.
The source described the claim that government had agreed to release some perceived political prisoners from the region as lies.
The source said those spreading the rumour are only doing so to divert security operations and the ongoing military raid to flush out militants from the region which has been intensified.
According to the source, “the government cannot just release political prisoners from the region who are in jail for heinous offences, this is because the government just want to be careful and not take chances.”
Culled from: http://sunnewsonline.com/niger-delta-militants-agree-to-stop-bombing-of-oil-pipelines/