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DAILY SUN (Jun 14, 2007)

NIGERIA IN TROUBLE IF N’DELTA CONFERENCE FAILS
By Razaq Bamidele

Dr Mike Uyi, president, Global Peace Movement, an international Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), recently visited to broker peace between the authority and the Niger Delta militants.

In an interview with Daily Sun, the towering activist, who claimed to have visited all the stakeholders on the crisis, disclosed that the key to a lasting peace in the region was in the hands of the Federal Government and the oil companies in the area.

According to him, the militants were ready for peace if all conditions that would lead to the emancipation of the Niger Delta people were met, regretting however, that the oil companies seemed not to be showing much concern over this.

While expressing optimism that the new government, under the leadership of Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua, would cooperate to put an end to the crisis, Uyi warned the oil companies that their failure to attend June 19 roundtable conference in Port Harcourt could escalate the already volatile situation, revealing that the militants have raised suicide squad that would not shoot and run away, but bomb and die with the people.

Mission

I am playing a mediating role in the Niger Delta militants’ activities. I am brokering peace between the Federal Government and the militants. And when I came from London, I went straight to the creeks in delta, River and Bayelsa states.

I met with all the stakeholders, like the security agencies and the commanders of all the militants. We have about eight militant groups. Mentioning their commanders’ names is not so important to this project for security reasons. I have also met the directors of the Sate Security Services, (SSS) as well as police commissioners of all the states mentioned. I also wrote the joint task force for Niger delta and commanders of MOPOL 19 of River State.

All of them were happy that someone eventually surfaced to take the bull by the horns, practically, to create an alternative for peace, which has not happened since the Niger Delta crisis started.

Grievances

The grievances of the militants are numerous. For example, they are talking much about how their land had been destroyed and people can no longer farm. They don’t have money to feed because their major sources of income are farming and fishing. They are also complaining of lack of infrastructure, lack of social amenities, like electricity and drinkable water. And they say they own the economic resources that are being used to feed the nation. They are complaining that in spite of that, they are not being catered for, they are not being appreciated and they are being looked down as people who have no sense. And these are issues they say they are trying to address at all cost.

Government angle

On the part of the government, they have said continuously that they are doing everything possible to address the issues. They cites example of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which as a matter of fact, is working well. Timi Alaibe is doing his best in NDDC. But what is on ground in Niger Delta today is not what NDDC alone can do. And the government has said it has created a master plan. This is not going down well with the militants and that is why the militants have started to go violence and kidnapping people since 2005.

Mediating role

The objectives of my coming in, in practical term, is to ensure that the militants come out physically from wherever they are to dialogue with the government on what they actually want done. I want to ensure that they cease-fire and stop violence.

And by the grace of God, the militants have given their words. They have agreed to dialogue but the oil companies representatives failed to turn up.

Oil companies factor

I have met all the oil companies and I have evidence to show for that. I have contacted all of them between the month of April and now, two times. They did not respond. The only oil company that responded is AGIP. Others did not. They were hiding under protocol or other things, like security. When militants strike, these oil companies can go to any length. They can pay any amount to solve the problem and sort themselves out. Practically that is blackmailing the whole nation.

I now discovered that some of their officials are collaborating in the criminality going on in Niger Delta. It is not all the companies I visited in the creeks that are working exactly for the emancipation of the Niger Delta. It has become a blackmail, it has become hostage taking and demand for ransom.

Level of reconciliation

We have reached a level where the people now say they want to come out for the first time in the history of the crisis to meet with the government through the mediation of Global peace Movement.

The meeting was expected to be in May, but due to the failure of the oil companies and the stakeholders to turn up, the process was scuttled. It has now been rescheduled for River State instead of Lagos. The conference will now come up in Port Harcourt on June 19. All the commanders of the militants will physically come out to meet with the press, the people and the government as well as with whoever is interested in bringing peace to the Niger Delta.

There has been never been such a meeting. Meetings before this proposed one were mismanaged. The meeting that has ever been held was with the Niger Delta communities in Abuja. No militant commander has ever been invited and who has ever showed willingness to appear. None of the conveners of the earlier meetings has ever thought of bringing the parley home in any of the Niger Delta states. None has ever convinced any militants’ commander to come out physically to state his grievances. Nobody has ever been practically involved in Niger Delta crisis as it is now.

On Dokubo

It is not a matter of the militants telling me that Mujahid Asari Dokunbo’s release is a condition for the dialogue. The Global Peace Movement has been fighting for his release and not for just mere release.

The Global Peace is fighting for Dokubo’s release with responsibility. When Dokubo was really in control of the Niger Delta Volunteer Forces, there was never a time we had criminality of small groups calling themselves militants and coming out to kidnap people and demanding ransom and turning the whole exercise into money making venture.

His arrest was ill-timed. That created mushroom militants. The proposed conference is calling for a situation where those truly fighting for the emancipation of the Niger Delta people will have to crush the minority criminal groups that call themselves Niger Delta militants who are never what they call themselves. That is the difference.

Warning

I have said it in several interviews that the oil companies and other stakeholders fail to honour this last invitation to a dialogue, all efforts and all testimonies on ground would be against them. They would have nobody to cry to after this, if they are attacked.

And certainly when there is any attack on them, I will also come on air to support it. I will come up to encourage it. I can’t leave London for Nigeria to help a situation that is so volatile and then allow anybody to frustrate it.

My initiative was not hijacked because it is risky. Nobody would want to hijack a risky program because nobody wants to die. The program is between life and death. People talk on pages of papers, but they don’t go to the creeks. They never met the militants’ commanders. I spoke with the commanders and told them to come out for dialogue.

I was with Dokubo’s wife in Port Harcourt and she was ready to bring members of her husband’s family to the conference.

Russian and Germany fought and lost over 14 million people from each side. Today, even the Russian ambassador is using a Mercedes Benz, product of Germany. So, we cannot continue to sigh and say we would stay primitive level and that we would not move to social level where we can have access to settlement. Everyone must come to a round table discussion.

We want to believe he would work with the people and cooperate with the people to do the work he has promised to do.

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