In its efforts to ensure that peace returns to the Niger Delta region, a group, Concerned Niger Delta Elders, CNDE, has warned the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government not to enter into any kind of dialogue with the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, but rather, dialogue directly with the Niger Delta Avengers or their appointees.

In a statement by Seigha Manijar and Aureol Viviana, the group said that whatever resolution reached between the Federal Government and the Avengers, would be a long lasting one rather than going through MEND, even as it appealed to the militants group to sheathe their swords and dialogue with the government.

“MEND should speak for itself and not for others. It can speak on behalf of the Avengers if invited to do so. MEND should not arrogate to itself the authority to speak for others outside its ranks,” the statement said, warning that negotiating with MEND instead of Avengers would have grave implications, such as conflict of interest, mistrust, non implementation of resolutions among others.

“We understand the Avengers’ demand for foreign observers in the dialogue but we appeal to them to pick their representatives from among the numerous trusted individuals from the Niger Delta such as Dr Timiebi Agary, Brig-Gen. Paul Boroh (retd), Timi Alaibe, Prof G.G Darah, Dr Otive Igbuzor, Enemo Samiama, Roland Ekperi, Wilson Ajuwa and Joel Bisina, among others.”

“However, if they are not comfortable with the suggested names, they should feel free to pick their representatives. That will show the world that they are ready for dialogue. The government should also consider the Avengers’ demand of inviting foreign observers as a show of sincerity.”

On how to stem the tide of proliferation of splinter groups in the region, the statement said: “Once the Federal Government starts a genuine dialogue with the Avengers, who seem to have shown enough capacity and consistency in their acts, we believe that other groups will fall in line by absorption or coercion.”

The group also frowned at Tompolo’s willingness to be part of the negotiation saying, “Tompolo does not necessarily have to be in any negotiation team, whether it is driven by MEND or any other group. What is important is that given the right atmosphere, any group or representatives could discuss Tompolo’s plight, including Henry Okah and others. There is no doubt that Tompolo can be an asset to this government on Niger Delta crisis if well managed.”

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