FG Prepares for fresh MEND attacks

The government may have instructed the Joint Task Force (JTF) to respond forcefully to the threat by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) to resume hostilities on oil facilities on September 15 when its self-declared ceasefire expires. A Presidency source disclosed on Tuesday, four days after the threat was issued, that the government is strategising to stop the “criminal militancy” in the

Niger Delta once and for all.

There is more to the silence with which the government has welcomed the threat, he added.

“The government does not want to join issues with the MEND until the amnesty period lapses,” the source stressed, just as the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) expressed concern over the hijack of real struggle for the development of the Niger Delta by unscrupulous elements.

The MEND vowed “not to enter into talks with Governors from the Niger Delta who have tainted the amnesty programme with politics and monetary inducements.

“Many of the boys who have received money today will at best squander it on material things and what happens next can best be left to the imagination.

“Our solemn pledge to the people of the Niger Delta still remains to emancipate the region from the forces that have held it down for over 50 years with divide and rule, monetary inducements and treachery.”

Nonetheless, SPE Chairman, Bayo Ojulari, reiterated that the destruction of oil facilities would adversely affect development in the region.

When the MEND issued the threat, it picked holes in the money-for-arms programme of the government.

“This ‘deceit'”, it declared, “would not solve the region’s problem.”

Ojulari, who spoke in Lagos, maintained, however, that “violence will discourage foreign investments and create instability in the oil sector as people are not ready to work in the region for fear of being attacked. They go to other areas or change their line of business.

“There are three militant groups – those clamouring for development and want the oil companies to implement certain things. The second group is made up of people using the struggle for their political gains to cause instability, while the third comprises poor criminals.

“The criminals specialise in attacking oil wells, stealing crude, and destroying pipelines.”

He accused the third group of being the masterminds of the quit-notice to oil companies, which have spent about $1 billion on the development of the zone.

“Annually, each company spends between $100 million and $250 million on each community for development.

“In all, the joint venture gives about 90 per cent of income generated from the oil-rich communities to the federal, states, and local governments.” Ojulari said it is difficult to notice any development in the area because the money was released to the people to execute projects.

“The monies given to them go into micro-credit, construction of schools, water, empowerment programmes and sponsorship of students within and outside the country.”

In any case, last Saturday, a crowd of young men gathered in Yenagoa as police officers unloaded a small arsenal from the bed of a truck: buckets of bullets, boxes and boxes of machine guns and rocket launchers.

Militant leader, Ebikabowei “Boyloaf” Ben pledged commitment to dialogue.

The scene played out to cheers as 1,000 militants and their commanders laid down their arms in exchange for the amnesty programme that promises them a pardon and a job, a scheme which has been in place since August 6.

The government held up that public surrender of weapons — the biggest so far – as a sign that it is proceeding successfully.

Abuja hopes that, before the amnesty runs its course on October 4, it will earn the co-operation of thousands of other armed groups that have cut oil production to its lowest levels since 1999.

But missing from the amnesty ranks is the MEND, an umbrella organisation for many of the armed groups.

It has declared the drive a charade and accused the government of purchasing the weapons.

“In the midst of such sheer deceit, the MEND will be compelled to resume with ferocious attacks on the oil industry at the end of our cease-fire on September 15, 2009,” it said.