The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) on Sunday announced the formation of 'Aaron Team 2' to dialogue with the Federal Government on the immediate, medium and long-term future of the Niger Delta region.
In a statement signed by its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, the group said the move followed useful exploratory discussions held with high-ranking officials of the current administration.
Members of the team include Henry Odein Ajumogobia SAN (Rivers); Bismark Rewane (Delta); Sen. Florence Ita-Giwa (Cross River); Timipa Jenkins Okponipere (Bayelsa); Ibanga Isine (Akwa Ibom); Ledum Mitee (Rivers); and Lawson Omokhodion (Edo State).
MEND noted that on countless occasions in the past 10 years of the group's existence, it had taken up arms against the Nigerian state and the international oil companies with a view to bringing to national and international attention, the pitiable paradox of the Niger Delta region.
It recalled that on May 30, 2014, in response to former President Goodluck Jonathan's Democracy Day speech of the previous day, MEND unilaterally declared a ceasefire of hostilities against Nigeria's key economic and strategic interests.
“Our message to the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) is simple: The Niger Delta struggle is beyond attacks on oil installations,” it stated. “Indeed, prior to the MEND ceasefire; the group had, among numerous daring attacks, on Thursday, June 19, 2008, successfully carried out the spectacular attack on Royal Dutch Shell's offshore Bonga oilfield which is located at a whooping distance of 120 kilometres (75miles) south-west of the Niger Delta.”
It said it had however learned that after the initial euphoria of each successful attack, the gargantuan problems which confront the region, including environmental pollution and political corruption, increased geometrically.
“If indeed your cause is to avenge the injustice done to the Niger Delta region; then, we urge you to ceasefire and join us to the table of negotiation with the Federal Government; otherwise, the Niger Delta struggle shall be hijacked, once again, by selfish interests for their own personal aggrandizement,” it told the NDA. “One such example is the recent purported NDA demand made through the region's governors that the Federal Government should drop charges of corruption against certain individuals and politicians from the region. This absurd and ridiculous demand, to say the least, is far removed from the Niger Delta struggle.”
MEND explained that while members of Aaron Team 2 who have already accepted to serve are patriotic and selfless men and women of proven track record, integrity and character; and drawn from different parts of the Niger Delta region, they are by no means members of MEND. Other members of the Team shall be made public in due course after due consultations with relevant stakeholders, the statement added.