RETIRED soldiers and ex-agitators from the Niger Delta region are reportedly gathering forces to battle the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA.
A top government bureaucrat, who is an ex-army officer, disclosed to newsmen that “the plan has reached advanced stage, some retired army officers from the Niger Delta region have met and may call a larger meeting to take up the fight themselves if the militants do not stop destruction of oil and gas installations.
“We have kept quiet for too long and with the way the militants are going, they do not seem to understand that they are destroying our environment and inviting the security agencies to come to our territory and kill our people,” he added.
A group, Voice Delta, also opposed to the bombings and which has persistently claimed that an ex-militant leader was behind the Avengers, tweeted: “Intelligence available to us indicate that over 90 per cent of the ex-agitators in the region are ready to partner with the Federal Government in flushing out the NDA.”
This came as the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, which gave government a two-week ultimatum, last Saturday, to declare its stand on the planned dialogue, extended an olive branch to the Avengers to join its Aaron Team 2 for peace talks with government, but under stipulated conditions.
However, the well-placed government official, who is aware of the pronouncement by Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo last week, that government would not dialogue with Avengers, maintained that, “Government will not dialogue with criminals, but it will dialogue with other well-meaning stakeholders in the region that are working for peace.
It will accept any condition from militants for dialogue and they must stop the bombings, otherwise, government will fight them.”
Meanwhile, the Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, NDRC,has taken MEND to task for conferring on itself the authority to negotiate on behalf of militant groups in the region, saying it does not have such power.
Ex-agitators prepared to stop Avengers
Voice Delta in a series of tweet, said: “We also advise the government to be wary of political jobbers who would want to exploit the problem posed by the criminal gang, NDA. Just like the concept of civilian Joint Task Force, JTF in the North East, ex agitators in the region are ready to help the government in stopping the NDA.
“Buhari should therefore consider this option, we are willing and ready to assist the government in achieving a sustainable peace in the region and we also advise the government to be wary of political jobbers who would want to exploit the problem posed by the criminal gang, NDA,” it added.
On the claim by Avengers that it blew up an ExxonMobil crude export pipeline in Akwa-Ibom and the company’s subsequent denial, the group said: “It is now obvious that the criminal gang is resorting to making wild claims in order to cajole and blackmail the government into entering.
It asserted: “No individual or any criminal gang should be allowed to hold the state to ransom. No responsible government should let that happen. We, therefore, call on President Muhammadu Buhari not to be hoodwinked by the antics of some sympathizers of the ex-militant leader into an unholy negotiation.”
“We are not unaware of the quest by Buhari to see that Nigeria meets its production quota of 2.2 million barrel per day, mbd, hence his desire to seek peace. Just as we posited in the past, any negotiation must be holistic and should be broad.