RETIRED soldiers and ex-agitators from the Niger Delta region are reportedly gathering forces to battle the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA. A top government bureaucrat, who is an ex-army officer, disclosed to Saturday Vanguard that “the plan has reached advanced stage, some retired army officers from the Niger Delta region have met and may call a larger meeting to take up the fight themselves if the militants do not stop destruction of oil and gas installations. “We have kept quiet for too long and with the way the militants are going, they do not seem to understand that they are destroying our environment and inviting the security agencies to come to our territory and kill our people,” he added.

AvengersA group, Voice Delta, also opposed to the bombings and which has persistently claimed that an ex-militant leader was behind the Avengers, tweeted: “Intelligence available to us indicate that over 90 per cent of the ex-agitators in the region are ready to partner with the Federal Government in flushing out the NDA.” This came as the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, which gave government a two-week ultimatum, last Saturday, to declare its stand on the planned dialogue, extended an olive branch to the Avengers to join its Aaron Team 2 for peace talks with government, but under stipulated conditions.

However, the well-placed government official, who is aware of the pronouncement by Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo last week, that government would not dialogue with Avengers, maintained that, “Government will not dialogue with criminals, but it will dialogue with other well-meaning stakeholders in the region that are working for peace. It will accept any condition from militants for dialogue and they must stop the bombings, otherwise, government will fight them.”

Meanwhile, the Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, NDRC,has taken MEND to task for conferring on itself the authority to negotiate on behalf of militant groups in the region, saying it does not have such power.

Ex-agitators prepared to stop Avengers

Voice Delta in a series of tweet, said: “We also advise the government to be wary of political jobbers who would want to exploit the problem posed by the criminal gang, NDA. Just like the concept of civilian Joint Task Force, JTF in the North East, ex agitators in the region are ready to help the government in stopping the NDA. “Buhari should therefore consider this option, we are willing and ready to assist the government in achieving a sustainable peace in the region and we also advise the government to be wary of political jobbers who would want to exploit the problem posed by the criminal gang, NDA,” it added.

On the claim by Avengers that it blew up an ExxonMobil crude export pipeline in Akwa-Ibom and the company’s subsequent denial, the group said: “It is now obvious that the criminal gang is resorting to making wild claims in order to cajole and blackmail the government into entering. It asserted: “No individual or any criminal gang should be allowed to hold the state to ransom. No responsible government should let that happen. We, therefore, call on President Muhammadu Buhari not to be hoodwinked by the antics of some sympathizers of the ex-militant leader into an unholy negotiation.”

“We are not unaware of the quest by Buhari to see that Nigeria meets its production quota of 2.2 million barrel per day, mbd, hence his desire to seek peace. Just as we posited in the past, any negotiation must be holistic and should be broad.

MEND advocates unity, one voice

About a week to the expiration of its ultimatum, MEND spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo, Thursday, said: “The attention of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has been drawn to an exclusive interview conducted by the South-South Regional Editor of the Vanguard newspaper with the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and published on July 11, 2016.” “After an in-depth study and thorough analysis of the interview, MEND is glad to note that the NDA has finally, welcomed dialogue on the Niger Delta question as the only credible and sustainable solution to the festering Niger Delta question.

“With this development, it has become more imperative for the entire Niger Delta region to unite and speak with one voice under a single umbrella in the forthcoming dialogue on the Niger Delta question with the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. The single umbrella is the MEND Aaron Team 2 peace initiative headed by Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, SAN,” the militant group said. MEND stated: “Accordingly, after receiving firm assurances from the highest level of government about its readiness to dialogue with the Aaron Team, MEND has decided to expand the representational capacity of the Aaron Team to accommodate the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) upon the following terms and conditions to wit:

Gives conditions to NDA

*That the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) shall publicly renounce all forms of hostility against Nigeria’s oil and gas industry by an unconditional ceasefire by virtue of the extant provisions of the Presidential Amnesty Proclamation of 2009. All Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) fighters and commanders who agree to ceasefire are automatically entitled to benefit from the Presidential Amnesty Programme after due diligence and documentation by the office of the National Security Adviser and the Presidential Amnesty office headed by Brigadier General Paul Boroh (rtd)

*That the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) shall publicly declare full allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and recognize President Muhammadu Buhari as the country’s President and Commander-in- Chief.

*That the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) shall nominate one (1) delegate to represent the group and articulate their demands; make a public declaration to abide by the outcome of the proposed dialogue between the Federal Government and the Aaron Team.

*If the NDA abides by these terms and conditions within seven (7) days from July 15, 2016, MEND shall regard the group as a genuine partner in the Niger Delta struggle,” the group asserted.

Group blasts MEND

Responding to MEND’s earlier two-week ultimatum, Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, which placed on record the role of former militant leaders, Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, ex-MEND leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, Farah Dagogo and others, queried the authority of MEND to speak for Niger Delta militants. “We want to ask, which MEND is speaking for the people of Niger Delta, is it the one that accepted amnesty or the one with a divided house that its leader, Henry Okah and brother, Charles Okah, in jail or the one John Togo was part and parcel of?

“Is it the one that set up Aaron team 1 that consisted of distinguished personalities like the Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, but was turned down by Boy-loaf and his mentor, which MEND”? Spokesperson of the group WOI Izon- Ebi queried.

The group said: “Nigerians and the Niger Deltans know that they have been long settled by the Amnesty and pipeline surveillance so they should stop distracting Mr. President from dialoguing with the Niger Delta aggrieved militants. Nobody is taking them serious because their time is long gone as the Niger Deltans are wiser now. We are proudly in support of the Niger Delta Avengers and in solidarity, and we will continue to wage the war against injustice.”

We esteem Asari, Tompolo, Dagogo

NDRC asserted: “We want to state it categorically clear to every Nigerian that we respect Alhaji Asari Dokubo because he is a vocal man and he stands for the truth. We urge him to continue to speak and stand for the truth. We want to use this medium to tell the world how we appreciate Government Epkomupolo (Tompolo) because he is a blessing to the Niger Delta and the Ijaw nation in particular. He is a man of peace and he represents the symbol of the Ijaw nation (peace).

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