By Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt/Okodili Ndidi, Abuja
Mandate South-South governors to set up common security outfit to fight banditry
Militant group Avengers returns, threatens attacks on oil facilities, politicians
The South South geo-political zone has raised the ante in the agitation for the restructuring of the country, handing down a three-month ultimatum to the federal authorities to start the process of giving Nigeria a new lease of life.
Niger Delta leaders emerged from a meeting in Port Harcourt late Friday asking the federal government to convene a national dialogue for the purpose of charting a new course for the country.
Almost simultaneously, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) announced its return to the creeks ahead of launching what it called Operation Humble to destroy targeted oil installations in the region.
The Niger Delta leaders, in a communiqué at the end of a South-South zonal conference in Port Harcourt, said the dialogue they are advocating should draw its membership from all ethnic groups to chart a new course for the country.
The conference had as its theme, “Restructuring: imperatives for sustainable development, unity and security.”
They spoke of an urgent need for the devolution of powers to the states and vowed to resist oppressive and repressive tendencies against the Niger Delta region and its people.
They appealed to the Federal Government to stop selling their resources to the Chinese and others.
The stakeholders, who came from the nine states of the region, threatened to actualise their freedom if nothing happened at the expiration of the ultimatum.
The communique was read by prominent Niger Delta activist and President of Agape Birthrights Development Initiative, Ms. Ann Kio-Brigss.
The communique: “We the people of the Niger Delta hereby give the Government of Nigeria a three months window within which to cordially address our concerns towards re-federalising the polity, by convening a national dialogue of the representatives of the ethnic groups in Nigeria to chart a new course for the country.
“At the expiration of this three months window, we the people of the Niger Delta will commence the process that will guarantee our freedom and progress.
“Our people should mobilise all human resources to see that fiscal federalism and devolution of powers are included in the constitution. There should be internal justice amongst us- charity begins at home.
“We the people of the Niger Delta hereby reaffirm their commonality, unity and oneness despite our multi-ethnic diversities.
“The Niger Delta people, who are the breadwinners of Nigeria, demand to be heard and fairly treated with equity by the oppressive Nigerian state, and by extension, the insensitive Nigerian political class, as the only basis for peaceful co-existence.
“We the people of the Niger Delta demand restructuring, with the states as the federating units and devolution of more powers to the states.
“We the ethnic nationalities of the South-South affirm the right of peoples to self-determination and to fully control their resource to stop and put an end to further deprivation and despoliation of their environment which they have suffered in the last 60 years.
“The people of the Niger Delta will take all lawful measures to develop an agenda for freedom and liberation and development of the region.
“The Niger Delta ethnic nationalities hereby demand that the governors of the South-South immediately set up security outfits in their respective states and network with each other in the region to protect our territories against terrorists, criminals, land grabbers and other criminals who often operate as bandits and kidnappers.
“Niger Deltans demand that the governors of the South-South region immediately set up community based defence forces in all local government areas of the South-South.
“The ethnic nationalities of the Niger Delta demand the Federal Government of Nigeria to immediately discontinue the selective appointments, posting and deployment of mainly non- Middle-Belt and Southern Nigerian security officials to the Niger Delta to oppress our people.
“The Niger Delta demands equal representation, control and headship of all relevant security and military organisations in the country. The Niger Delta demands and expresses the desire for a provision in the Nigerian constitution for the exercise of the inalienable right to self- determination through a referendum in line with international laws.
“The Niger Delta demands total ownership rights to lands, natural resources, seas and waters by communities wherever such are located in the region.
“The Niger Delta has resolved to put an end to all oppressive and repressive tendencies by the Nigerian State against our region and warns that we shall no longer tolerate same from other nationalities.
“The Niger Delta people demand immediate environmental remediation and clean-up of Niger-Delta which has been deliberately devastated by crude oil exploration and exploitation.
“The Niger Delta governors should as a matter of extreme urgency take the issue of food security as to prevent the starvation of our people in the event of any food blockade.
“The Niger Delta governors are to ensure protection of the flora/fauna and take interest in general environmental protection, including endowments above or beneath the soil for sustainable development.
“The Niger Delta people demand that the federal government desists from selling out our resources to the Chinese or Sukuk promoting countries, to secure any project.
The Niger Delta People demand their enjoyment of the right to own and bear arms for self defence as law-abiding citizens. The selective grant of firearms licences is hereby condemned and denounced. This is necessary considering the present state of insecurity in Nigeria.
“The people of Niger Delta demand the establishment of State Police in their respective states.”
The Port Harcourt meeting came 48 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari met with the leadership of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) and promised to follow the lead of the National Assembly to implement the wishes of Nigerians on restructuring.
Buhari said he would not hesitate to endorse any move by the National Assembly on restructuring.
“As soon as they finalise the process, necessary action would not be delayed on my part,” he told the Professor Benjamin Okaba-led delegation of the INC.
Only penultimate Saturday, the President had branded agitators of restructuring and secession as mischievously dangerous and naïve.”
“You are telling us to dissolve a system and call for an obscure conference to come and discuss how we can move forward as a nation, that can never be done and no country will agree to that,” Buhari had said in a message to the launch of the Kudirat Abiola Sabon Gari Peace Foundation in Zaria, Kaduna State.
He added: “Those who are discussing restructuring, my question is that what are you going to restructure?
“If you ask many Nigerians what are they going to restructure, you will find out that they have nothing to talk about.
“Some of them have not even studied the 1999 Constitution. The 1999 Constitution is almost 70 to 80 per cent 1979 Constitution.”
Niger Delta Avengers returns with Operation Humble to cripple economy
In a separate statement, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) said it was staging a return to the creeks to launch Operation Humble designed to destroy targeted oil installations in the region.
The statement was posted on NDA’s website.
It threatened to hit political actors collaborating with the Federal Government to “undermine the interest of the Niger Delta.”
Stakeholders had warned the Federal Government and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, of the consequences of reneging on their pledge to constitute a substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the end of June.
The month ends on Wednesday.
The NDA said that it suspended its Operation Red Economy‚ which bled the Nigerian economy into recession about four years ago not because it was lazy but for the love it had for the people and out of respect for the voice of the elders of the Niger Delta region.
Although NDA made no mention of the NDDC board issue in its latest statement, it hinged its decision on the underdevelopment of the region and the undermining of the collective interests of the people of the region.
The NDA, after a meeting of its high command, said it had lost confidence in all socio-cultural groups like the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), the elders and “the bunch of so-called ex-agitators frolicking with the government at our detriment”.
It said: “This operation shall be coded Operation Humble aimed at bringing down targeted oil installations in the Niger Delta capable of humbling the economy into permanent recession. This mission is also targeted at political actors who are collaborating with the Nigerian government to undermine the interest of the Niger Delta people.
“There is no doubt that the Nigerian government has continued to pay deaf ears to our demands and the rising challenges in the country because the pipelines that crisscrosses our lands are left untouched, allowing dollars to flow into the federal treasury on a daily basis for mismanagement.
“We shall spare no single oil installation within our range of strategic targets marked for destruction in the coming days and we bet the Nigerian Government will be humbled to return to the drawing board and chart an all inclusive course by the time we are done with our action plan.
“Members of our strike teams across the Niger Delta are commanded to be on red alert awaiting precise strike plans as mapped by the high command of the NDA.
“The high command of the NDA has promoted and appointed one of our finest operatives, Field Commander Tu-ere aka Queen of the Creeks to the rank of Brigadier General. She is an experienced field agent who before now was the head of the counter intelligence unit of the NDA, using her connections with top government and security officials to deliver on her assignment”.
The statement added: “She was part of our elite Strike Teams that attacked and took down the Chevron Valve platform on the 4th of May, 2016; the Shell Forcados 48-inch Export line on the 3rd of June, 2016; and the Exxon Mobil Qua Iboe 48 Crude Oil Pipeline on the 11th of July, 2016.
“Brig. Gen. Tu-ere is the first female to ever attain this level and it is solely out of merit, and is placed in charge by the High Command of the NDA to execute operation humble to the letter.
“As a gender friendly organisation, we are using this avenue to encourage other female operatives within the rank and file of the NDA to be inspired by the rising profile of the Queen of the Creeks and never to deter in delivering on our mission of liberate our people and God given resources from the shackles of the oppressive Nigerian Government. We advise other female operatives to emulate her and be dedicated to our mission at all times.
“Conclusively, we wish to state unequivocally and in simple terms that we are back with operation Humble; with the aim of humbling the economy into permanent recession and political players from the Niger Delta extraction to political retirement.
“Our Strike Teams 01 – 09 and all other formations are to regroup and remain on red alert awaiting further command.”
Navy: we’re not aware of any threat to attack oil facilities
Contacted on Saturday over the Niger Delta Avengers’ threat, the Nigerian Navy said it was not aware of any such statement.
But it said it was battle ready for groups threatening to carry out attacks on critical oil installations in the Niger Delta region or any other part of the country.
The Director of Information Nigerian Navy, Commodore Suleiman Dahun, told The Nation that the Navy was well positioned to protect all oil installations in the country.
“I’m not aware of any such threat, but you can be rest assured that the Navy is positioned to deal with any threat to peace and order,” Dahun said on the phone.
Niger Delta Affairs Minister Godswill Akpabio said on Tuesday that Nigeria could not afford to have crisis in the South South now on account of its economic importance to the nation.
Akpabio told reporters after a meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, that he was doing his best to ensure peace, especially in the Niger Delta, because of its strategic economic importance.
He also said he had fast-tracked action on the constitution of the NDDC board and that the names of nominees would soon be forwarded to the National Assembly.
Akpabio, however, said the ongoing field forensic audit to the commission must be completed as the outcome would serve as a guide to the board’s operations.
According to him, the audit report should be turned in by the end of next month.