ABUJA — Apparently angered by the activities of criminals, who are currently bombing strategic national oil facilities, the federal government may deploy its fighter jets and troops to flush out the malevolent elements.
This came on a day three Niger Delta militant groups, in solidarity with the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, declared their support for the move by monarchs and leaders in the region to form a pan-Niger Delta group, comprising all the ethnic nationalities in the coastal states. This is to enable the region negotiate with the Federal Government on way out of the current crisis.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar, confirmed at a media briefing in Abuja, yesterday, that the jets might move in soon but did not give a specific date and the number of troops to be mobilized for the crucial assignment.
There were conflicting declarations by the Niger Delta Avengers, who have been bombing oil assets in the area and several militant groups over further destruction of oil facilities.
While the NDA said it would stop further bombings, two other militant groups vowed to destroy more oil platforms in the region until the federal government met their demands.
But at the media briefing, the CAS explained that the mission of the NAF was to preserve Nigeria’s sovereignty and protect lives and property in the Niger Delta.
Abubakar said: “Our mandate is to protect the sovereignty of Nigeria. What we are doing is to protect oil infrastructure and the community.
“We are not going into the Niger Delta to fight militants or anybody, but to protect oil facilities and the people as guaranteed by the constitution of Nigeria,” the NAF boss declared.
Abubakar also spoke on effort by the Federal Government to rescue the Chibok girls, saying the government was more concerned than anybody else about locating and freeing the abducted students.
He said it was all in a bid to salvage the girls and other Nigerians seized by the Boko Haram terrorists that the NAF has continued daily missions over the 60,000-square metre Sambisa forest. According to him, NAF is dedicated to identifying the possible locations of the missing girls and rescuing them.
Responding to a recent video clip by Boko Haram, accusing the NAF of bombing the Chibok girls to death, Abubakar described such claim as sheer sentiments by the terrorists in an apparent bid to earn the support of the gullible.
“These guys are just trying to whip up sentiments. No NAF aircraft bombed any Chibok girl or any Nigerian we are trying to rescue from the hands of the terrorists.
“The truth is that we conduct our operations with the safety and wellbeing of the innocent civilians around the operational areas in mind. We used 50 per cent of our missions to find the girls through intelligence. We fly over the forest routinely all in a bid to free the young girls and I want to say that we are more concerned about Chibok girls and all those trapped by Boko haram than anyone else.
“We painstakingly identify our legitimate targets to strike and not civilians and our pilots have always carried out their duty in line with the best standards of operation,” he said.
NAF Chief warns Boko Haram
Abubakar asked the terrorists to give up on the fight as there was no escape route for them.
The air chief disclosed that NAF had already developed an unmanned aerial vehicle, UAV, through its research and development effort, adding that as part of NAF’s quest to produce a Nigerian jet, it has despatched a team to the United States to work on the possibility of a Nigerian jet.
Abubakar disclosed that NAF had been able to use research and development and collaboration with some Nigerian universities to find solutions to some of its operational facilities, which were hitherto maintained abroad at exorbitant rates.
The NAF boss said no fewer than 960 units of houses have been built for the welfare of its officers and men and a strategic post-retirement scheme put in place for them.
On the plight of Internally displaced persons in the northeast, Abubakar said that the NAF had built and commissioned a hospital in Borno State to take care of victims of terrorism, while another one would soon go into operation.
He said NAF had performed eye operations on 120 IDPs in the state and had given them necessary support so as to alleviate their suffering.
Three more militant groups go for peace
Meanwhile, three Niger Delta militant groups in solidarity with the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, yesterday, declared their support for the move by monarchs and leaders in the region to negotiate with the Federal Government.
The groups are Reformed Egbesu Fraternities, REF, Asawana Deadly Force of Niger Delta, ADFNG and Niger Delta Development Movement, NDDM.
But Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, dismissed the initiative by Niger Delta monarchs and leaders, singling out Chief Edwin Clark and Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who they contended were not in a position to persuade Niger Deltans to key into President Muhammadu Buhari’s agenda.
REF, in an open letter to President Buhari, also announced a 60-day ceasefire on attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta in deference to the Niger Delta monarchs and leaders, who ordered them to stop hostilities.
REF leaders, “General” Tony Alagbakeriowei and “Commander” Ebi Abakoromor, commended Chief Clark and the royal fathers, who participated in the meeting and resolutions reached at Effurun, Warri, Delta State, last Friday, describing it as a “step in the right direction.”
They said: “Aware that our collective strengths and efforts no doubt have had a very negative impact on the economy of the country, coupled with our commitment and determination to continue with our bombing of oil and gas infrastructure and the declaration of the Niger Delta Peoples Republic, we have been pressured and appealed to by the Niger Delta Coastal States Stakeholders Consultative Meeting, convened by Chief Clark and most importantly, the Niger Delta Dialogue Contact Group, led by HRM, King Alfred Diette Spiff.
“Nigerians from all shades of opinion, elder statesmen, royal majesties, elders, chiefs, members of parliament, bureaucrats, technocrats, diplomats, ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, key government functionaries among numerous others, pleaded that we come to the negotiation table.
“In view of the persistent pleas and appeals, the Consultative Council of the Reformed Egbesu Fraternities unilaterally declare cessation of hostilities for a period of 60 days to enable the Niger Delta stakeholders commence an all embracing dialogue with the federal government.
“We never begged the Federal Government for dialogue because in the last few months, we have not seen the sincerity and commitment to dialogue.
“However, under this 60- day period, we call on relevant security agencies to stop forthwith all military harassment and intimidation of suspected members of these and other organisations.
“We caution the preconceived notion of the service chiefs of the armed forces, who had persistently stated recourse to military option, if dialogue fails.
“This, to the best of our knowledge, is an act of intimidation and a ploy to truncate the negotiation process if at all there is sincerity and commitment on the part of the Federal Government,” REF added.
MEND slams peace moves
MEND on its part, urged the Federal Government to ignore any resolution reached at the meeting of the stakeholders convened by Chief Clark.
MEND, in a statement by spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo, said: “The communique failed to categorically condemn the criminal and treasonable activities of the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA.
“This was principally because, notable promoter of the meeting, Chief Clark, was recently named by the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, RNDA, as a major supporter of the NDA.”
Though, Chief Clark and others accused by RNDA of promoting NDA had denied the allegation and condemned the activities of the militant group, MEND insisted: “Chief Clark lacks the moral authority to lead a discussion on the so-called “re-structuring” of the Nigerian Federation.
“At this critical point in the country’s history, given the fact that, throughout the six years his “son,” former President Goodluck Jonathan was in power, the elder statesman kept mute and actively participated in the economic dismemberment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“….None of the persons, who attended the stakeholders’ meeting convened by Chief Clark and Governor Okowa have the capacity to persuade the people of the Niger Delta to support the current efforts of the Buhari administration to bring peace and development to the region.”
“Consequently, MEND re-iterates its full support for the ongoing military presence in the Niger Delta, even as we prepare to tour the region to drum support for the current administration in an exercise, code-named ‘Operation Moses.
“MEND shall continue to insist that so long as these elders and stakeholders do not categorically and publicly denounce the NDA, the Federal Government should also continue to ignore them.”
Countering MEND, the leader of Asawana Deadly Force of Niger Delta, ADFNG, Commander Olomubini Kakarakokoro, said: “Our militant group is in support of the genuine dialogue process because of the personalities involved.
‘’We shall give peace a chance, but we promise to carry out more destruction if this ongoing negotiation fails.
“We also want our delegates to be present at subsequent meetings. We want to thank Chief Clark and our prominent monarchs for being in attendance.”
Also, an ex-militants group, Niger Delta Development Movement, NDDM, yesterday, expressed support for the ongoing peace process by Niger Delta leaders.
National President of NDDM, Mr Paul Toruwwei, in statement: said, “The preparation for the peace dialogue in Niger Delta is a good omen. We wholeheartedly welcome the idea and we pay that the outcome would be favourable to us in the region.
‘’We, therefore, plead with all current militants in the region to sheathe their swords and embrace the peace process.”