•  Says militants amenable to dialogue

Former Military Governor of Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Umar (rtd) yesterday warned President Muhammadu Buhari against deploying troops and military hardware in the Niger Delta to halt the activities of militants in the region.
Umar said the Federal Government’s planned use of force to rout out militants, especially the Niger Delta Avengers in the Niger Delta, was not the best option; adding that the militants were still amenable to dialogue.
In a statement credited to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media Affairs, Mallam Garba Shehu, in Nairobi, Kenya, President Buhari was quoted to have said that he would treat Niger Delta agitators the same way he dealt with Boko Haram if they failed to negotiate.
But the former governor in a statement made available to Nigerian pilot entitled, ‘War in the Niger Delta: A most dangerous option,’ argued that the militants could not be treated like Boko Haram insurgents that had killed over 20,000 Nigerians in the North-Eastern part of the country.
Umar argued that the Niger Delta militants could not be said to be terrorists in the real sense of the word, warning that collateral damages to any military option in that region would be colossal.
Umar said, “I am really frightened by the sudden escalation in the Niger Delta Region from where there are some reports of skirmishes between our security forces and the Niger Delta militants.
“This is happening after the President was quoted as vowing to deal with the militants as he did to Boko Haram.
“All factors considered, the use of military force in an attempt to resolve the lingering crisis is not a good option and must therefore be discarded.
“As a retired general, Mr. President is well aware of the serious and daunting challenges any military will face in its operations in the most difficult and densely populated Niger Delta region.
“The creeks are so heavily polluted with oil, rendering them highly inflammable. It will take the firing of a few high explosive shells to set the whole area on fire, resulting in the inestimable collateral damage among innocent civilians.
“It is also difficult to see how an armed conflict can secure our oil and gas assets in the region. Instead, it will aid the destructive activities of the militants and lead to the total shutdown of all oil and gas operations in the area.”
The ex-governor stated that, “Besides, the Niger Delta militants cannot be said to be terrorists in the real sense of the word. I believe they are amenable to meaningful dialogue.
“I need not to remind the President that a war in the Niger Delta will be opposed by most objective Nigerians and the international community as unjust and merely aimed at the control and exploitation of the region’s oil and gas resources.
“I therefore beseech you, Mr. President, in the name of all that is good, to continue to explore peaceful means of resolving the Niger Delta crisis as painful as you may find this. May God direct and guide you on the path of justice.”

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