Military to reduce presence in Niger Delta communities
• U.S. concerned over violence in region
• MEND warns against protecting NDA militants
• Navy arrests kingpin of pipeline bombings
Amid threats by the joint Niger Delta Liberation Force (NDLF) to attack the Presidential Villa and other strategic locations and military installations in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Kaduna and Lagos, an emergency security council meeting convened yesterday with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo presiding directed that the heavy military presence in the Niger Delta communities be reduced considerably.
But the council also stressed that the presence of the military on the waterways be sustained in order to ensure adequate security while discussions with the leaders of the communities continue.
Meanwhile, the United States Embassy to Nigeria yesterday expressed concern over reports of attacks and other incidents in the Niger Delta.
This is contained in a statement by the Embassy’s Public Affairs Unit which was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja. Similarly, Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for agreeing to negotiate with the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).
However, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has warned communities who harbour NDA members that they risk not being protected by the extant principles of international or municipal law during a conflict.
It commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his political will in tackling the vexed issue of the clean-up of Ogoniland with the June 2, 2016 launch of the implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report; which is one of the cornerstones of the group’s agitation, over the years.
Besides, the Delta Naval Command yesterday said it made a major breakthrough over pipeline bombings in Delta State as a kingpin behind many of the incidents was arrested.
The Commander, NNS DELTA, Commodore Raimi Mohammed while parading the suspect yesterday afternoon and some of the gadgets he used in his activities at the Warri Naval Base, said the kingpin had coordinated a series of attacks on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Chevron oil and gas facilities in Delta.
The navy commander who did not disclose the identity of the alleged kingpin as investigation was still going on, described the arrest as “a major breakthrough.”
Present at the National Security Council meeting were the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Gabriel Olonishakin; Chief of Army Staff (CAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai and his Navy counterpart, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ekwe Ibas and some state governors among who were Nyesom Wike of Rivers; Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa; Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo; Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia; Adams Oshiomhole of Edo and Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom.
Some ministers, Brig-Gen. Mansur Mohammed Dan-Ali, (rtd) (Defence), Usani Usani Uguru (Niger Delta) and Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu (Petroleum ) were also in attendance.
Delta and Edo state governors who briefed State House correspondents later said the meeting, part of the synergy between the federal and state governments, was very fruitful as it afforded them the opportunity of finding a lasting solution to the festering crisis in the Niger Delta region.
Okowa spoke first: “We governors of the oil-producing states, security chiefs and ministers who are concerned met with the vice president and I believe we had a very fruitful meeting.
“One thing we identified which is the synergy between the Federal Government and the States which is very important and this meeting has raised a lot of issues and we believe that the collaboration will help us to tackle the issues in the Niger Delta.
“Of course, we were briefed by the service chiefs and the governors also have their own perspectives along with the Minister of State for Petroleum. We have taken a lot of decisions which will help us mitigate what is going on currently in the states particularly Bayelsa and Delta.”
He said the meeting agreed on the need for both the federal and state governments to share intelligence which is very important and for there to be a proactive decision on working together with the various stakeholders in the states to achieve a better result going forward.
“We have also agreed that there is a need to distill military operations directly in communities, but the military needs to actually remain on our waterways to ensure that we adequately man the waterways itself while we engage the communities and that engagement process is starting any moment from now.”
Explaining the lull in the activities of the Amnesty Programme, Oshiomhole attributed it to the transition, occasioned by change in the leadership of the organisation.
He, however, warned that no matter the skills acquired, they could not be put into any judicious use where there is no peace.
His words: “The amnesty programme is on but you know there was a little transition because there is a new leadership and there is always a time lag. In principle the programme is on. There are stories about non-payment and those problems are being addressed, funds are being provided.
“If you have skills in all sorts of things without economic activities, you cannot deploy your skills. One thing leads to the other. In the first instance the man has no skills, the first challenge is to give him skills
“That is being done and when he has finished and acquired those skills the final challenge is to get him a place to work to earn money and to develop a lifestyle that is sustainable to contribute to the development of his community and the rest of our people need to see the quality of life improving.”
The statement by the U.S. mission to Nigeria says the country is monitoring reports of attacks and other incidents in the Niger Delta and shares the concerns of all Nigerians about these attacks.
It appealed to all parties to resolve their disputes through peaceful means and emphasised that human rights of all Nigerians must be protected . It called for the establishment of conditions and mechanisms for profound, positive, and lasting changes in the region. ”