Former top leaders of the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) have urged renegade militant groups, among them the Niger Delta Avengers and the Red Egbesu Water Lion, to stop their attacks on oil and gas installations in order to allow President Muhammadu Buhari to fulfill his electoral promises to the region.
The ex-MEND leaders from the Niger Delta states have re-grouped under an advocacy group known as the Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative (LPCDI).
In a statement issued yesterday in Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State, the new group described the actions of the renegade militant groups as an unnecessary distraction to the Buhari administration
The LPCDI, led by Reuben Wilson, known along the Creeks as General Pastor, stated that, while violence was used in the past to attract global attention to the plight of the Niger Delta region, it was now better to utilize peaceful and civil means to generate sympathy towards the region "for more effective results rather than violence.
"We should give President Buhari the opportunity to fulfill his promises to the Niger Delta people by maintaining peace in the region because there can be no meaningful development in an environment ravaged by violence. Therefore the current resurgence of militancy is an unnecessary distraction to the current administration," the statement declared.
The former militant leaders appealed to agitated youth in the region to shun the temptation of resorting to violence. Instead, the youth should channel their grievances through the office of the Presidential Amnesty Committee, the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) or the office of a former militant leader, Victor Ebikabowei, known as Boyloaf for more effective coordination and positive resolution of their grievances.
"We have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to strengthen and properly fund the Presidential Amnesty program in order to stop some of the beneficiaries from going back to the creeks to engage in militant activities owing to hardship and non-fulfillment of the promises made by the Federal Government to them that led to the acceptance of the Presidential Amnesty program. The situation where monthly stipends are delayed for months is not encouraging and could lead to undesirable consequences," the advocacy group stated.
Their statement noted the reduction in funding for the amnesty program, then advised that critics should not blame the program's coordinator for not performing.
The statement asked critics to stop blackmailing the Amnesty Office and its Brigadier General Paul Boroh, pleading that such criticism was detrimental to the interests of the Ijaw.
"All ex-militant leaders should jettison bitterness and should rally round Boyloaf who is working with the Amnesty coordinator to deliver on his mandate," the group stated.
They also urged President Buhari to ensure massive infrastructural development in the Niger Delta, pointing to the region's environmental degradation and underdevelopment despite being Nigeria's major revenue base.
The statement declared that massive development in the region would curb "the recruitment of unsuspecting and vulnerable youths into militancy and other criminal activities by some criminal elements."
On the security action ordered by the Federal Government in Delta State, the ex-militants commended the security agencies for tackling the resurgence of militancy in the region.
"But we implore them to apply the highest degree of professionalism in their operations.They should not engage in arresting innocent people and destroying innocent communities as obtained in the past," the group remarked.
They called on the security agencies to be more effective in their gathering of intelligence in order to apprehend the real culprits. "The mass destruction of communities, properties and arrest of innocent people should be discouraged, as such will only aggravate the already tense situation in the region," the group stated.