– Militant group ready to lay down arms if…
AS part of efforts towards finding lasting solutions to the menace of militancy in the Niger Delta region, elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark on Tuesday led stakeholders from the region to a
meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari. Clark is one of the leaders chosen by some militant groups to kick-start dialogue process with the federal government.
Those at Tuesday’s meeting were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, some governors, ministers and other political appointees from the Niger Delta. Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, and Lawal Daura, director-general of the Department of State Services, DSS, were among the service chiefs present. Also in attendance were former governors, traditional rulers, civil rights activists and community leaders from the region. They include Obong Victor Attah, Timi Aliabe, Diette Spiff, Ledu Mitee, Florence Ita-Giwa, Tony Uranta, Nkoyo Toyo, Ewa Henshaw, Seminatri Bozimo and Roland Owei. The chairmen, Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Upstream, Downstream as well as Niger Delta were also in the meeting which started around 12:10pm. The stakeholders are expected to make submissions on issues that border on the economic and human capital development as well as security and restoration of peace in the region. The meeting with the president is also expected to “focus on socio-economic development of the region as well as building a strong synergy with multinational oil companies operating in the area.” Militant group to lay down arms, says agitations not targeted at oil facilities Militant group in the Niger Delta region under the auspices of Bakassi Strike Force, BSF, has expressed the desire to lay down arms to the federal government if the concerns of Bakassi returnees were addressed under a scheme midwife by international mediators. A leader of BSF, Mr. Simply Benjamin, aka ‘Humble Lion G1’ in a telephone interview on Tuesday claimed that the grievances of the group had nothing to do with vandalism of
national assets. He said that it was regrettable that military authorities had killed several innocent people in the guise of trailing members of the militant group and in the process abusing the human rights of the people resident in the area. He urged the federal government to withdraw the military from his community as they were in the struggle for self determination and posed no threat to national security. Benjamin who spoke from his camp in the creeks of Southern Cross River, said that unlike other militant groups, they have no record of destroying oil installations and were not involved in molesting innocent citizens. He said that despite offering to work with the government to address the concerns of the Bakassi returnees, the military had been on his trail and disrupting residents near his camp. He said that BSF has been agitating against the poor implementation of the Green Tree Agreement after ceding Bakassi to Cameroon, leaving Nigerians resident in the Peninsular without proper resettlement. He said that the group was ready to lay down their arms and embrace dialogue under a process to be brokered by the international community to ensure that the Nigerian returnees were properly resettled and rehabilitated. “Our grievance against the federal government has to do with the way Nigeria ceded our ancestral land to Cameroon without recourse to the feelings and rights of the people to self determination. “Under the Green Tree agreement there were steps to be taken to ensure that the fundamental rights of the returnees were protected but the government has not fulfilled its obligations under the agreement. “We have not resorted to destroying national assets like other Niger Delta militants because it does not make sense, if we destroy assets that yield revenue, how will the federal government get money to fund the projects
we yearn for?,” Benjamin said. Meanwhile the Joint Military Force Deployed to the Niger Delta, Operation Delta Safe said that it has degraded the capacity of the group and has intensified operations to flush out members of the group. The military had raided several camps and shrines used by the militants and discovered over 25 decomposing human skulls and killed no fewer than 15 suspected members of the armed group in cross fire. Lt.-Col. Olaolu Daudu, Spokesman of the Joint Force had in a statement, said that troops raided the BSF camp on October 29. “Troops of Sector 4 deployed at Efut Esighi in Southern Cross River State during anti militancy operation, raided Efut Esighi forest and killed a notorious militant popularly known as Okon Iyo while he was trying to escape. “Similarly, troops discovered the dead body of one of the Bakassi Strike Force militant who was earlier engaged in Efut Esighi but escaped with gun injuries. “His body was seen in a bush close to the main road in Effionsa, Bakassi Local Government Area. Meanwhile, troops also raided the compound of a suspected member of Bakassi Strike Force; Mr. Otobong Sunday Essien, at Road 27 Resettlement Centre Bakassi. “A Motor Bike was recovered from his compound. In addition, troops intercepted a Passat wagon car owned by a suspected Bakassi Strike Force militant known as “G1”. He is the sentry Commander of the group,” Daudu said. Daudu said that troops deployed at Ikang border while on patrol at Ikot Offing Ambai in Akpabuyo LGA in Cross River discovered militants’ shrine and also apprehended the Chief Priest of the group. The Spokesman assured law abiding members of the communities of their safety in the ongoing military crackdown on the militants.