Don’t underrate new militant group, ex-militants’ leader warns

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As the clock ticks towards the ultimatum given to the Federal Government by a new militant group, Asawana Deadly Force of Niger Delta, to address their demands or risk attacks on major landmarks, an ex-militants’ leader has warned that the group’s threat should not be treated with levity.
Among the targets listed by the group for bombing on Saturday are the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, the Bonga Oil Field and the Onitsha-Asaba Bridge.
ADFND had, last Saturday, vowed to bomb the three landmarks on July 2, 2016 if the Federal Government failed to accede to its request to relocate the headquarters of multinational oil companies, including Agip, Chevron and Shell, to the Niger Delta.
They also demanded the relocation of the country’s refineries to the oil-rich region before the expiration of the July 2 ultimatum, because they were all built with the funds realised from the sale of crude taken from the area.
Speaking with our correspondent on the threat by the ADFND, the President of the National Coalition of Niger Delta ex-Agitators, General Akpodoro, warned that the group was bent on making the country ungovernable for the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
Akpodoro disclosed that ADFND was an offshoot of the dreaded Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group, which had claimed responsibility for series of bombings and destruction of oil facilities in the Niger Delta since January this year.
The NCNDE-A president added that the new militant group was only carrying out the same objective as its forerunner, the NDA, describing its members as ex-militants who initially got amnesty from the Federal Government.
He, however, said with the continued proliferation of militant groups in the Niger Delta, the Federal Government should not consider holding dialogue with any one of them for now.
Rather, the ex-militants’ leader advised the President to evolve a means of developing the Niger Delta to provide job opportunities for the army of unemployed youth in the region.
The NCNDE-A boss said, “I am also against this negotiation with the Niger Delta Avengers because there is nothing to negotiate. What are we negotiating? We are calling on the President to develop the region and provide job opportunities for the teeming youths in the region and not to give amnesty to the same people that have already been given amnesty.
“So, if the government say they are ready to dialogue with one individual, who has taken amnesty before but went back and took up arms against the government again, then they should be ready to dialogue with many more groups in the country. The people who benefited from the Amnesty Programme out of the more than 30,000 militants who dropped their arms, are not more than 30 per cent.”
“On my part, I have convinced about 75 per cent of exmilitants to support this government. So, President Buhari should not make the mistake of dialoguing with this so called Niger Delta Avengers, because if he does that, he will continue to dialogue forever, until a civil war breaks out,” he added.
Akpodoro alleged that the ongoing violence in the Niger Delta region had been planned before the 2015 general elections.
“Before the election, there was a meeting convened by the Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, in October 2014. All the prominent Niger Delta ex-militants were there. What was the purpose of that meeting? They said that once Buhari emerged as the president of the country, they were going to make the country ungovernable for him. So this is what they are doing today,” he said.
On his part, a Niger Delta activist and environmentalist, Sheriff Mulade, said that the problem of ethnicity and personal aggrandizement now rearing its head in the Niger Delta had compounded the issue of proliferation of such armed groups in the region.
Mulade, who is also the National Coordinator of the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), noted that, with this development, the Federal Government should rather dialogue with the critical stakeholders in the region to address the fundamental issues.
He also accused politicians in the region of sponsoring the activities of the militants.