ACF to Avengers: don’t plunge Nigeria into another civil war
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) yesterday described the destruction of oil installations embarked upon by the Niger Delta Avengers as an invitation to another civil war.
It also warned the militant group to desist from its “madness” of breaking oil pipelines, saying that the country cannot afford another war at this time.
A similar warning was issued to the Avengers by joint Akwa Ibom and Cross River militants under the aegis of the Bakassi Strike Force (BSF), saying that another civil war will not profit anyone including the destructive group.
Speaking in a telephone interview with The Nation yesterday, ACF Chairman and former Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Ahmadu Coomassie, said the Avengers unending attacks on the nation’s oil installations were unjustifiable, as necessary machinery to develop the region has been put in place by the Federal Government.
He said: “There is the Ministry of Niger-Delta. They have Niger Delta Development Commission and they have amnesty intervention and money was being passed through all these agencies.
“So why didn’t they develop their areas? Why are they asking for more? They were in government and certain projects were diverted there, including the fund for the dredging of River Niger. What else do they want?
“Why didn’t they do all these during President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration? So, I believe they are doing it deliberately.
“Look at Biafra too. Are they doing it to make the country difficult for this government to rule?
“Now that they are even refusing dialogue, do they want confrontation? There has been confrontation in this country before. Do we want a repeat?
“We have had one before and I believe no country can afford a civil war twice.
“So, Niger-Delta Avengers should give peace a chance. If they want a particular thing, they should come out and mention it, then Federal Government will consider it on its own merit.
“They should stop calling for another war.”
In a related development, the Bakassi Strike Force (BSF), a group made up of militants from Cross River and Akwa Ibom states, yesterday expressed solidarity with the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government in the latter’s call on the Niger Delta Avengers to drop their arms and come to the negotiation table.
The militants, whose members were clothed in camouflages and masks and displayed arms and ammunition at the Esuk Mba Beach in Akpabuyo Local Government Area, Cross River State yesterday, said that going to war will not be of benefit to anyone.
The leader of the group, General Simply Benjamin, said they were an indigenous group from Akwa Ibom and Cross River states made up of 642 foot soldiers.
He said they decided to display their arms to show that although they have enough weapons to engage in war, they believe that peace is the best option for the country.
Benjamin said: “BSF is an indigenous group made up of youths from Akwa Ibom and Cross River states, totaling 642 foot soldiers.
“You will agree with me that Akwa Ibom and Cross River states are part of the Niger Delta, yet we have been completely sidelined from the amnesty scheme and other empowerment programmes meant for youths of the Niger Delta.
“Yet it would interest you to know that it was in Obubra, Cross River State that the demobilization camp of the Niger Delta militants was hosted, when states such as Bayelsa, Rivers, Edo and Ondo refused to host the rehabilitation camp for the militants.
“Then again the Federal Government took away our oil rich Bakassi from us and handed it to Cameroun. We as inhabitants were not consulted, neither was proper compensational and resettlement process instituted.
“And to make matters worse, the Camerounian forces, after taking over our lands, began to molest, intimidate and laden us with heavy taxes which became entirely unbearable.
“Therefore, when it became obvious in spite of several petitions, that the federal and state governments were not interested in protecting us and even the United Nations, we invited our Ijaw brothers who were already in the arms struggle to help us resist the Camerounian oppression.
“Unfortunately, they embraced the Federal Government’s amnesty when it was offered and abandoned us with our challenges.
“We had no other option as indigenous youths of the land but to rise to defend ourselves from oppression and injustice from Camerounian forces
“This also underscores the fact that there is no struggle without reason. Like the Niger Delta Avengers today have reasons why they are blowing up oil an gas facilities belonging to Nigeria….
“Having said this, I wish to appeal to the Niger Delta Avengers that crippling Nigeria’s economy is not the solution to our challenges. It is cheaper to make peace as war leads to more destruction.
“Fellow compatriots Niger Delta Avengers, please sheathe your swords and give peace a chance.
“I think you have made your point, hence you should give government chance to respond.
“Enough of the bombings please. Nigeria needs peace now more than ever.
“The goverment of the day needs peace to implement its promises.
“I call on the sponsors of the Niger Delta Avengers to have a rethink of their actions.
“I also appeal to the Nigerian security agencies to please tread softly as two wrongs cannot make a right.
“Let’s adopt the approach of the Americam Ambassador to Nigeria who implored us to use dialogue, as war alone cannot solve our problem.
“As you can see, I have enough weapons to go to war, yet I believe war is not the solution. Peace is.
“I also appeal to all Niger Delta ex-militant leaders to support the Federal Government to change Nigeria for better.”
He pleaded with the Federal Government all the people in position of authority to be mindful of their words as they can infuriate anger and set one against the other.
“We recently heard comments from the Federal Government as ‘We will crush them, and ‘There will be No more Fresh Amnesty or in other words, no medal for criminals.’
“We are not saying criminals should be celebrated, but we should take cognizance of the fact that Niger Delta’s challenges are unique and therefore should be treated carefully.
“We are calling on Mr. President to look our way by extending an olive branch to us by way of amnesty and also rehabilitate our people and our land by ensuring proper resettlement of Bakassi people. We are ready to work with the FG.
“Let me seize the opportunity to state in clear terms to government and all stakeholders that BSF is not part of the Niger Delta Avengers group. We do not subscribe to their objectives or pattern of operation.”