MEND threatens fresh attacks, gives Jonathan ultimatum

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Sola Adebayo

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has given President Goodluck Jonathan “some weeks” grace to kick-start talks on resource control and other issues affecting the Niger Delta to avoid a fresh wave of attacks on oil installations in the region.

MEND, in an email statement to the Agence France Presse on Saturday, said that Jonathan has only a little time to address their demands for resource control and the development of the oil-rich region.

“We should be looking at weeks for Jonathan to begin addressing an issue that has lingered for over 50 years,” MEND said, adding that “when he begins the process for resource control, then we will be sure he is serious.”

The group said since Jonathan “has very little time to address the demands of this region before the fighting erupts,” he needed to start doing something now.

The President, a Niger Deltan, was inaugurated on Thursday within hours of the death of his predecessor, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua.

Yar’Adua had last year granted amnesty to thousands of Niger Delta militants for laying down their weapons and started a rehabilitation programme for them.

But the promised jobs, education, cash and infrastructure development under the post-amnesty programme have failed to materialise quickly for the former militants.

MEND refused to take part in the amnesty programme , though some of its commanders did.

Angered at what it said was the slow implementation of the plan, it called off a three-month truce in January but has now vowed to unleash a new wave of attacks on oil installations of the kind that last year slashed crude output by more than a third.

”Only time will tell if Jonathan is a blessing or a curse to the region... Jonathan has to prove himself with the actions and decisions he will be making in the coming days and weeks and that will help us determine if he is the Messiah or not,” MEND said in the email statement.

MEND leader, Mr. Henry Okah, had last week said that Yar‘Adua‘s death could hamper a peaceful resolution of the Niger Delta crisis.

Yar‘Adua had a ”good understanding of the problems of the region and was determined to address the injustice in the region. His death has dealt a huge blow on a possible peaceful resolution of the situation in the Niger Delta,” he said.

But the Coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group, Mr. Joseph Evah, cautioned against expecting too much from Jonathan‘s presidency.

“His coming to power does not translate to peace in the Niger Delta. If injustice persists, there will still not be peace. One year is not enough for him to turn Nigeria into the envy of Dubai, Ghana or South Africa,” he said.

”He is our kinsman and we are prepared to give him a chance to do what is right in Niger Delta but our patience is not elastic. Without tackling the problems of resource distribution, environmental degradation, equal opportunities and jobs, ”peace will be elusive in the region,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta on Sunday deployed troops in Effurun, the headquarters of Uvwie Local Government Area as security situation worsened in the town.

It was gathered that their arrival was at the instance of the Divisional Police Officer in charge of the area, Mr. Mohammed Muazu.

The stern-looking troops were seen by one of our correspondents at strategic locations in the city , especially the areas prone to hostilities and along major roads.

It was gathered that the fragile peace in the area collapsed on Saturday night when some armed youths seized the town, especially at Ijakpa Junction and Alaka area, and engaged in a shoot out.

A youth said to be a member of one of sides in the endless crisis in the community was shot on Saturday night.

Security sources said the latest mayhem might have been orchestrated by some youths, who were declared wanted in connection with the crisis in the area.

The arrival of the troops and shootings by the rampaging youths forced residents and visitors to scamper for safety.

The security agents frisked motorists and pedestrians along the various routes in the area, ostensibly to fish out criminals and check movement of prohibited arms.

The Chairman of the council, Mr. Peter Abugewa, said some wanted hoodlums were behind the latest crisis in the area, adding that they were being sponsored by a politician.

Abugewa, however, said sanity had returned to the area due to the intervention of the troops.

When contacted, the Delta State Sector Commander of the JTF, Col. Jamil Sarham, said the troops were deployed to compliment the efforts of the police to restore law and order to the town.


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