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VANGUARD (May 10, 2007)

FEATURES
I will bring militants out of hiding
By Albert Akpor

The Niger Delta region which has been a hotbed of violence with its attendant hostage taking and upheavals has remained the proverbial thorn in the flesh of the Federal Government over the years.

Not even series of conferences and peace moves by various concerned bodies in the country and beyond have yielded the desired antidote to the recurrence of incessant kidnappings. However, peace and harmony may soon be restored in the region as a body known as Global Peace Movement, an international Non-governmental organization based in Nigeria has concluded modalities to find a permanent solution to the activities of the Niger Delta militants. The group intends doing this by bring leaders of the militant groups face to face with government representatives, security agents, media professionals and of course, the oil companies who have been at the receiving end. Dr Mike Uyi, recently dared all odds, ventured into their den and even stayed with them for three weeks in the creeks during which arrangements were concluded to unveil leaders of the militants before the general public. For this purpose, a world press conference has been fixed for May 23, 2007, at the prestigious Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria island, Lagos. The project might sound too bogus to those who feel it is impossible to bring the militants face to face with the public but the man behind it all is optimistic that he is poised to bring a lasting solution to the Niger Delta problem on the ground that he was physically with leaders of the militant groups including that of the dreaded Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), Teks Olumo.

Speaking with vanguard Features, Dr Mike Uyi said, “I left Lagos a month ago for the creeks. This was to enable me to personally acquaint myself with what is going on in Niger Delta region, not just to be talking from Lagos. I needed to be involved in the process myself as the president of an international peace organization.”

“So I went to the creeks and what I saw was quite different from what Nigerian people believe is happening. The creek is so militarized that given the armament I saw there, I doubt if the Army, Navy and Air Force combined have such arms and ammunition. And I am of the opinion that these weapons must be surrendered so that the militants can get amnesty. That was my main reason for taking all the risk because I know that if the trend is allowed to continue, a time will come when the country will be plunged into a guerilla warfare like most uncivilized countries.

“Nigeria would then be like Iraq, I have experienced what is going on in Iraq, I was there five times and was the only one Saddam Hussein while he was still alive allowed to speak with him for two hours. So I know what a country engulfed in guerilla goes through. Nobody can win a guerilla warfare. America with all the allied forces has not been able to win the war in Iraq and we don’t want such a war in our country. That is why I went to the creek where I spent three weeks convincing these aggrieved Nigerians on the need to jaw-jaw rather than war-war.

The armament in the creek is too much. The only way to demilitarize the militant youths in the whole Niger Delta is by dialogue. From my interaction with them, I realized that they are not fools, neither are they mad people. They are Nigerians. Through the forthcoming dialogue, the militants would be able to come out physically to tell us if it is more hospitals that they want. They should be able to tell us where they want these hospitals to be sited. If it is schools they want, they should be able to come out and tell us where they want the schools to be established.

“We cannot continue to beat the bush, repeating one thing over and over again. It is not a matter of holding conference in Abuja without the militants themselves. All the conference that had been held were without leaders of the militants; It has always been with their representatives. This is not the type we are organizing, I want the Nigerian press and the diplomatic community to meet face to face with the militants. So that everybody will now know who is worrying who. The militants believe the oil companies have destroyed their land long enough while the oil companies believe they have been traumatized enough by the incessant kidnappings and harassments carried out by the militants. So a meeting point is inevitable. That was why I went into the creeks.

“The creeks are such a dangerous place for anybody to think he want to wage a war. It is not a place where the amphibious unit can survive. It is a place where only unity and dialogue of man to man can work. If we bring the main leaders to discuss and dialogue other dissenting criminal units that are not fighting for the benefit of the people of Niger delta will crumble. That is just the truth of the matter. “There are the main groups fighting for the emancipation of the people of Niger Delta, fighting for their land that has been impoverished and destroyed. Then there are those who are just out to kidnap expatriates for money and even when this money is given to them, it is not as if they are going to use it to build schools, boreholes or even set up a mechanic workshop for the indigenes of the place to benefit from. So that becomes criminality.

“I want to show to the world that this conference is a different one entirely because if you consider it, you would have seen that all other conferences held so far were held in a very elaborate way, praise singing and cock and bull tale without addressing the main issue.

“Like I told you I sponsored myself to the creeks and I have promised that I am bringing three leaders of militant groups face to face with the public. I was in Port Harcourt for three weeks and another three weeks in the creeks. I took pictures with the leader of MEND in agreement. I have involved security agents in the country in this process and even the militants are aware of this. They are like people who are already down and need no fear of falling. A Director of state Security Services (SSS), the Chairman of Joint Task Force, the Commander of MOPOL 19, all showed unflinching support for this project and prayed towards its actualization. All the people notified about this project have expressed willingness to attend. But they fail, I will regard it as a witness against them because if an individual had to come all the from London without being sponsored by anybody, went into the creeks after leaving my job in England, I used my money to send courier to all the organizations with a view to solving the problem and they cannot respond. Let it be against them”.

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