The leaders of the Niger Delta region have branded the resurgent militants, especially the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) as saboteurs who are bent on destroying the region’s common heritage.
The elders, who came under the umbrella of Concerned Niger Delta Leaders, deplored the recent attacks on oil facilities and economic infrastructure, describing it as a criminal act aimed at erasing what binds the people together.
These concerns were being expressed on Wednesday by the National Coordinator of the group, Chief Mike Loyibo, who in a press conference in Abuja condemned the ongoing attacks on the oil pipelines by the NDA.
Loyibo, who spoke alongside a former Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Ebebi Peremobowei, warned that the actions of the Avengers were unacceptable to both the Federal Government and the people of the area.
He called on all stakeholders in the unity of the country to condemn the actions of the militant group, saying that their agenda is very vague but capable or wrecking the foundation of the nation.
To this end, Lobiyo appealed to the rampaging groups to lay down their arms and eschew violence in order to attract sustainable development to the oil rich region.
He emphasised the fact that violence was neither an option nor solution to their problems, urging President Muhammadu Buhari to take all the necessary actions to crush the “saboteurs” and restore peace and normalcy Niger Delta.
He noted that Niger Delta people are peace-loving, and assured that they would give the required support to Federal government policies in the area and the country as a whole.
He, however, called President Buhari to “provide critical infrastructure to the area, give serious consideration to the region in the next round of political appointments and also ensure the take-off of academic activities at the Maritime University, Okerenkoko”.
Loyibo also commended Buhari on the appointment of Major General Paul Boroh (rtd) as the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), and called for allocation of more funds to the Programme.
He stressed that the fact that the Programme does not “have a terminal date and could only be concluded after the training of the 11,000 delegates of the programme awaiting training”.
He said: “We have for some time watched with utmost dismay the manner in which the Niger Delta Avengers, a group with an aimless agenda, has been destroying our common heritage and the economic mainstay of the country through the vandalisation of critical government infrastructure and oil installations.
“To us, the agenda of these people still remains unclear. At best, their actions are clear acts of sabotage and criminality, both against the state and humanity. It is also a direct threat to the collective existence of us all. The activities of the Niger Delta Avengers also threaten the un-negotiable unity of Nigeria to its very foundation, and this must be condemned by all well meaning stakeholders.”
Speaking further, Lobiyo however, cautioned the security forces to exhibit high level of professionalism in the conduct of the ongoing operation to fish out the members of the group, noting that the “last operation in Gbaramatu resulted in the suffering of innocent people including children, the aged and women”.
According to him, the flagrant use of the military and armed forces to resolve differences and conflicts is inferior to dialogue, which has proven globally to yield more lasting solution and peace.
He also called on the former militant leaders and warlords to help towards resolution of the brewing conflicts and call the Avengers to order.
He continued: “You don’t use military solutions in addressing problems, one of the steps, we want to use is to be able to use former agitatithe who embraced the Amnesty Prigramme. If you bring all the military, you have not solved the problem.
“The problem is not to go and crush them, the problem is to dialogue with them and ensure that you solve the problem once and for us. If there are any issues then, try to address them.”
The other members of the Concerned Niger Delta Leaders are retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Francis Tabai; former Military Administrator of the Old Bendel State, Gen. John Yeri and the first Military Administrator of Rivers State and Amayanabo of Twon Brass, Alfred Diete-Spiff.