In a statement issued today, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) claimed that a team negotiating on behalf of the Federal Government for a return of peace to the oil-rich delta had agreed to release several detained or imprisoned militants, including Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, Henry Okah, a MEND chieftain serving a jail sentence in South Africa, Charles Okah, and Obi Nwabueze.
The statement disclosed that Mr. Kanu and other detained IPOB activists would be released on condition that they renounce their agitation for secession. According to MEND, ex-Senator Adolphus Wabara had introduced the compromise to secure the release of the pro-Biafran agitators.
MEND also stated that the government’s negotiators had agreed not to arrest or harass fugitive ex-MEND militant, Government Ekpemupolo (popularly known as Tompolo), “whenever he makes himself available as a delegate of the MEND Aaron Team 2.” In addition, the group stated that the government would review the life sentence meted out on Edmund Ebiware.
MEND declared itself the only militant group from the Niger Delta region presently engaged in a dialogue with the Federal Government of Nigeria, adding that oil companies and security agencies were representing the government in talks aimed at brokering peace in the region which has witnessed increasing attacks on oil facilities since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in May 2015.
MEND stated that the agreement called for a review of “criminal charges against Urhobo freedom fighter, Mr. Kelvin Prosper Oniarah,” and the review of life sentences handed to seven soldiers in 2008 for supporting the Niger Delta struggle. The affected soldiers are Major Suleiman Alabi Akubo, Sergeant Mathias Peter, Lance Corporal Alexander Davou, Lance Corporal Moses Nwaigwe, Lance Corporal Nnandi Anene, Lance Corporal Taatihi Emmanuel, and Private Caleb Bawa.
Declaring the deliberations “fruitful,” MEND seemed to back military reprisals against the Niger Delta Avengers should the group refuse to stop attacking oil installations in the area. MEND’s statement declared, “one of the most immediate and urgent fall-outs of the ongoing dialogue is the imperative for the Federal Government and MEND to jointly and separately take proactive steps to rescue and secure the region in the event that the recalcitrant Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) continue on their senseless and politically-motivated path of attacks on the country's oil assets.
“To this end, both parties agreed that the Special Forces of the Nigerian Army should commence the purely routine but strategic military exercise code-named ‘Operation Crocodile Tears’; while MEND would commence a meet-the Government-Actors-and-People tour of the Niger Delta region code-named ‘Operation Moses.’”
The statement continued: “While ‘Operation Crocodile Tears’ is aimed at ensuring the combat readiness of the Nigerian Army in Amphibious and Internal Security Operations in the Niger Delta as well as check
criminal activities like kidnapping, pipeline vandalism, piracy and other forms of criminal activities spearheaded by the NDA in the region, MEND's ‘Operation Moses’ is essentially to inform, educate and generally sensitize the citizenry in the Niger Delta, particularly the Government, the youth, oil companies, elders and militant community on the need to ceasefire and support the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration in its determined bid to proffer sustainable solutions to the current Niger Delta crisis.”
MEND urged all states, local governments, oil and gas companies and the people of the Niger Delta region “to go about their lawful and legitimate concerns without any iota of fear as we have received FIRM ASSURANCES from the Federal Government that ‘Operation Crocodile Tears’ is an innocuous exercise in the national interest.”
It added, “Meanwhile, MEND's ‘Operation Moses’ shall be anchored by the AARON TEAM 2 Dialogue, Peace and Development Initiative jointly led by Mr. Odein Ajumogobia (SAN) and HRH King Alfred Papapreye Diette-Spiff, the Amanyanabo of Twon-Brass in Bayelsa State.
“’Operation Moses’ shall commence with a visit by the distinguished members of the AARON TEAM 2 to President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja between August 22, 2016 and August 26, 2016.
“Thereafter, the Team shall hold sessions with top executives of major indigenous and international oil & gas companies operating in Nigeria, including the state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on August 29 and 30, 2016 in Abuja. The focus of those sessions shall include, to wit: Local content development; Petroleum Industry Bill; Corporate Social Responsibility/Host community relations, etc.
“On September 5 and 6, 2016 in Abuja the MEND Aaron Team shall hold sessions with the top echelon of security agencies in Nigeria as well as the top management of the intervention agencies in the Niger Delta, namely: Ministry of Niger Delta; Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Presidential Amnesty Office. The Minister of Justice/Attorney General of the Federation is expected to personally attend these sessions. The focus of the sessions shall include: Extension of presidential amnesty to certain categories of political prisoners in Nigeria; Fundamental Human Rights; NDDC Act in focus; Presidential Amnesty Proclamation 2009 in focus; collapse of federal infrastructure in the Niger Delta in focus; Calabar-Lagos rail line in focus; East/West Road in focus, etc.
“After these critical sessions, "Operation Moses" shall move to tour the 9 states in the Niger Delta region, commencing with Rivers state between September 12, 2016 and September 14, 2016. Between September 15, 2016 and September 18, 2016 the Aaron Team shall be in Bayelsa state. Between September19, 2016 and September 21, 2016 the Team shall be in Delta state. From Thursday September 22, 2016 to Sunday September 25, 2016 the Aaron Team shall be in Akwa Ibom state. Between September 26, 2016 and September 29, 2016 the Team shall be in Abia and Imo states. And finally, between October 3, 2016 and October 7, 2016 the Aaron Team shall be in Edo and Ondo states.
“The central clearing house for all activities connected with "Operation Moses" shall be the MEND Aaron Team 2 secretariat. Accordingly, the Secretary of the Team, Timipa Jenkins Okponipere, Esq., shall duly communicate with all concerned persons and institutions.
“Ultimately, peace and development in the Niger Delta region is the final destination of the ongoing dialogue between MEND and the Federal Government.”