The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, has berated the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, for threatening the use of force in the Niger Delta.
While MEND corroborated President Muhammadu Buhari’s comment that the federal government was actually holding peace talks with militants in the Niger Delta, another group, Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), has continued in its campaign of bombing oil and gas installations even as it spurned government and stakeholders’ overtures for dialogue.
It was in apparent recognition of the Avengers’ tough stance that Mr. Buratai, in Port Harcourt on Monday, warned that if efforts at talks with militants in the region fail, the Army will be forced to deploy full military action.
“Government is still committed to dialogue (with Niger Delta militants). Whereby this cannot go on, then, there could be resort to other means; the non-kinetic means has always been the source first, before government can recourse to the kinetic means”, the Army Chief was quoted as saying.
But MEND described the threat as “insensitive and provocative”.
“MEND hereby makes it clear that General Buratai’s statement is insensitive, provocative, unprofessional and prejudicial to the fair outcome of the ongoing preliminary talks regarding the Niger Delta crisis between representatives of oil companies and security agencies, on the one hand; and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), on the other hand”, the group said in a statement by its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo.
It continued: “We therefore warn the Chief of Army Staff to guard his utterances, refrain from making political and inflammatory statements and stick to his primary responsibility.
“We use this medium to appeal to the good people of the Niger Delta to remain patient with the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and keep hope alive as MEND and the Aaron Team 2 Dialogue, Peace and Development Initiative led by Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, and HRH King Alfred Papapreye Diette-Spiff are working assiduously to secure sustainable concessions for the region from the Government.
“While MEND have already kick-started the dialogue process with the ongoing preliminary talks, the Aaron Team, made up of distinguished and accomplished personalities from the region, are waiting on the sidelines to conclude the dialogue process”.