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THE GUARDIAN (Jan 21, 2007)

GOVT INSINCERE ON NIGER DELTA MILITANTS, SAYS ACTIVIST
They Failed To Treat Our Proposal Since 2005
By Andrew Iro Okungbowa

“Apart from when somebody is kidnapped, they quickly go and look for a negotiator, who will go and pay the people; and some money is exchanged and the people are released; after that, again some groups are kidnapped… That is what the government has been doing. There has never been a holistic view of all what is happening in the Niger Delta to get at the key officers that are involved in the kidnapping. Even the Niger Delta people are tired of the situation because if the kidnappers are asking for ransom, it is not helping the development of Niger Delta anyway”

Mike Uyi and his Global Peace Movement International, a body devoted to advocacy and intervention work, is familiar name to many people when it comes to challenging violation of human rights both within the shores of the country and outside. Often, this has resulted in brushes with the state authorities, sometimes in controversial cases with Uyi and his men always at the receiving end. The tension being generated by the unabated spate of kidnapping of foreign oil companies workers in the Niger delta has drawn the ire of the body with Uyi, who is the president general fingering the federal government as fueling the crisis and pursuing a dangerous agenda in the region.

“The government is the problem and the devil disturbing the Niger Delta, deliberately anyway, I think they too have some extra gains from the violence that is happening there as a result of security votes”, stated Uyi. Uyi wondered why the government would bluntly refused request to intervene by the international body when it is obvious to everyone that it has lost the initiative to the rampaging youths and kidnappers from the region. He recalled that as far back as 2005, his organization came to the conclusion that it needed to join in the process toward peace. The first thing it did was to hold series of meetings with the various interest groups in the region.

Two years ago, knowing what would happen, I had already told the government what would happen, I set up Niger Delta Coalition Movement of Global Peace Movement in Port Harcourt in August 2005. Giving the names of the officials that government should meet with if there is any crisis in the whole Niger Delta.

“I gave the name of David Agiri, he is an indigene of two states (River and Bayelsa). He is the coordinator of the coalition of all the groups that are there for peace. I mean the militant groups, he is now the coalition president. He is based in Port Harcourt who could come out if there is any crisis there and meet those days boys and say enough is enough and it would stop. The name and the phone number were given to the government, it was given also to Shell to the extent that the public relation officer of shell, Burham, was in Lagos to hold meeting with members of my executive council and me on the 26th of August 2006. We told him all what to do and he said okay and went back.

“But since then, there has never been any action. Agiri is there, they never met him once, neither did they meet with any of the groups to discuss this thing, then the government itself that is crying everyday that they want the militant groups to be wiped out was unable to make a single reply to the letter written to them or to contact Agiri for the past two years”.

Despite not receiving the expected attention from the government, Uyi revealed that he decided to embark on another tour of the region. This he did between November and December last year. And what were his findings? “I discovered the crisis point and realized that the militant youths in Niger Delta could be stopped from any act of vandalism and terrorism because they too are not even interested in it, but it is as a result of what is happening to them.

“And the government itself has never in anyway helped the situation. All what they are telling the world is deceit and paying lip service to the situation. They are not ready to do anything about it, they are not ready to expose those who are responsible for the kidnapping. I even discovered that it is the government through its agents that is giving the timetable for the kidnappings. This I discovered personally and I can say it anywhere in the world.”

Based on his discoveries and talks with the groups, Uyi said he wrote to the Director of State Security Services, Kayode Are on December 19 intimating him of his findings and submitting that the militants could be curtailed; these people and their names are known, these people’s homes are known, their parents are known. And they could be talked to; they are willing to give up this thing. Some of them could even be made to travel out of this country and start a better life.”

Uyi claimed he also took the initiative to write to both the British government and Shell Nigeria Development Company on the prevailing situation and the need to find a lasting solution to it. However, it was only the British government through its High Commission, that wrote back thanking him for the initiative while also expressing a desire to be part of a global effort to resolved the problem.

The letter to Shell Petroleum Development Company dated August 8, 2005 and entitled “Niger Delta Global Peace Mobilisation and Support Programme for Shell Petroleum Development Corporation and the Communities,” stated thus – ”the Global Peace Movement has put in place formidable coordinators to finally nip in the bud all violence activities in the Niger Delta as regards violence negotiations in terms of welfare of the communities in these areas.

The requirements to  bring about this programme will be in partnership with Global peace movement and Shell Petroleum development Corporation. Some of the requirements are as follows:

1. Public address system
2. Stationeries
3. Motorcycles
4. Lifejackets
5. Billboards/Banners

The letter was signed by the president general along with some of the executive council members.

Reviewing development in the region since then, Uyi said it has degenerated to free for all hostage-taking spree. A situation which he said, is encouraged by the deceit on the part of government and the negotiator who see it as a business venture. “I have just discovered that they are not willing to stop these things – because people that negotiate when people are kidnapped – if the oil company gives them 70 million or 50 million they give 7 million to the kidnappers and pocket the rest while waiting to create another room for kidnap so that they again and negotiate and take their share.”

But would there ever be an end to what seems like an endless circle or orgy of kidnappings? Uyi reported. “How will it stop when government has not met their demands and even the ones they have discussed with in the past are in detention facing criminal charges. So, it is now a kidnap –for-cash scenario and it will have no end unless the government decides to do what is right”.

If allowed to mediate, Uyi said. “The agenda is very clear, it doesn’t call for force. It is a dialogue agenda that has nothing to do with exchanging bullets, which of course,, the militant groups are very comfortable with. But the issue now is, has the government created an enabling environment to resolve the issue?

Stated Uyi “Without Global Peace Movement going into Niger Delta, there will be no peace. All these things they are doing they are wasting their time. You are using the language of violence, that would not do anything. The people are ready lying down, they are not falling anymore. They want to even die, how do you kill a man who is ready to die? How do you kill a suicide bomber who wants to die with people? That is the situation in Niger Delta. I have not demanded money from them to go there.” You have seen all my records; I have just told them to tell me to go there.

“I as much as I would not give you all my strategies on the page of the newspapers. First of all I will go to the Niger Delta and ask them to withdraw all the task force and let the place remain how it was before then meaningful negotiation would now come in.

“Get motorcycles, get some speedboats, get us megaphones, get us stationeries, billboards, banners and then we in. it is a campaign, I spent three weeks in Iraq campaigning….. I spent one month in Offa campaigning until the indigenes heard me and allowed the students to come back…It is not might that is right. If they kidnap after I move in there let the government do whatever they ant to do”, boasted Uyi.

His confidence appeared borne out of the antecedents of the body as he said that the Global peace Movement is an organization that goes beyond this kind of situation. E mediated in Iraq situation in which they allowed inspection of the weapon of mass destruction that as never in existence. I was the first team that went to Iraq to inspect the presidential palaces with the permission of Saddam Hussein.”

Given the organization’s pedigree, he asked rhetorically, “so if international society like Iraq invited Global Peace Movement to come in there and mediate, hat is the problem ith federal government of Nigeria in inviting us to talk to fellow Nigerians, particularly when I, myself from Niger Delta?

Insisting that what is playing out is a prelude to the big picture of making the region ungovernable and conducive for oil business, he stated, “Kidnapping is just starting, it has not even started. What they are doing now is just to tell them that we are there.

The next stage is to move into the cities, not kidnapping only foreign oil workers. I have always condemned that in the past. If you are talking of lands, you talk with landlords, you talk to tenants. All the oil companies are tenants and they are paying their rents to the federal government. If there is anybody that they need to kidnap in Niger Delta, it is the governors of Niger Delta region. Not oil workers from Britain or America or Italy.

But why is Uyi insisting on being invited before stepping into the crisis, if indeed he possesses the skill and expertise to resolve the situation as claimed? He retorted.

“I am not a stupid person. I would not do things, which I have regretted thrice. On the invitation of the governor of Edo State, I came all the way from London in 2005 to fight cultism in Edo State. The governor himself ensured that I as arrested even though he invited me to come and fight the situation.

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