By Emma Amaize, Egufe Yafugborhi and Perez Brisibe
WARRI- THE Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, on Sunday, endorsed the October 31 meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, aimed at finding solutions to the current Niger Delta crisis.
However, a group, Urhobo Commoun Cause, UCC, in Delta state, led by Henry Obukohwo Tafri , has rejected the representation of PANDEF, led by the former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, saying it was concerned about alleged ‘internal colonialism perpetrated by the leadership of Chief Clark.”
MEND, in a statement by its spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo, backing Clark-led PANDEF, asserted: “The forthcoming meeting vindicates MEND and Federal Government’s continued insistence and belief ab initio that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari meant well for the sustainable peace and development of the hitherto neglected Niger Delta region.”
It said: “MEND reiterates that we were the first and only militant group in the Niger Delta region who were meaningfully and constructively engaged in talks with the Federal Government with a view to resolving the Niger Delta crisis; as duly confirmed by no less a person than President Muhammadu Buhari sometime in July, 2016 in his farewell remarks to the outgoing German Ambassador, Mr. Michael Zinner.
His Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu later confirmed our claim when he informed the media that the Presidency was “waiting to receive the final agreement.”
“Following the fruitful talks, several concessions were secured by both parties. For the federal government, the major concession they secured was that MEND pledged the group’s firm commitment to work assiduously to get all aggrieved militant groups in the region to ceasefire and line up behind a single umbrella body.
“MEND duly kept to the terms of the agreement by leveraging on its vast contacts to prevail on militant groups, criminal elements amongst others to ceasefire and recognized Chief Edwin Clark to lead the Niger Delta region in proposed talks with the federal government,” it said.
The group noted: “And coming on the heels of a breakthrough, on August 27, 2016, MEND formally disbanded the Odein Ajumogobia-led Aaron team 2 and also lined up behind Chief Edwin Clark; in the overall interest and common good of the people of the Niger Delta region.”
“The federal government, Nigerians and the international community would certainly agree that, as part of these concerted patriotic efforts by MEND within the preceding six months of this year, relative peace has since returned to the Niger Delta region. The country’s oil and gas production capacity has also increased tremendously.
“However, in spite of MEND efforts, the federal government is yet to keep to the terms of the agreement reached with the group. Indeed, one of the key concessions secured by MEND was that, the federal government would concede to the release of certain political prisoners, including but not limited to the Okah Brothers – Henry and Charles,” the group said.
It added: “Nevertheless, with news of the forthcoming meeting between President Buhari and the Chief Clark-led PANDEF, we are confident that the concessions already secured by MEND shall be respected by the federal government.”
“Consequently, we urge members of the Chief Edwin Clark-led PANDEF to put aside personal interests and ambitions of primitive aggrandizement. Rather, we implore them to realize that the Niger Delta region is at a zebra crossing and, therefore, they must remain steadfast and focused on their core mandate, to wit: restoration of sustainable and permanent peace and development of the region,” it said.
The UCC in a statement, said: “We, the Urhobo people, reject completely the list of the Central Working Committee (CWC) Chief E.K Clark forwarded to the presidency as representatives of South-South ethnic nationalities,”
“The list forwarded to the Nigeria President does not represent the true population of the ethnic nationalities in the South-South, and furthermore, the membership of the committee did not take into consideration the economic contribution of the various ethnic nationalities to common national purse,” the group said.