Nigerians can heave a temporary sigh of relief with the decision of the dreaded Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) to suspend its plan to renew attacks on the nation’s oil installations in the oil-rich region.
It was learnt that some elders and opinion leaders in the region, after various appeals and discussions with the group, have secured an extension of the existing ceasefire by three months to allow the federal government to demonstrate its sincerity.
While the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) said it had not rested on its oars in its efforts to bring lasting peace, stability and development to the region, the Pan-Niger Delta People’s Congress (PNDPC) said it had interfaced with the agitators and successfully secured a commitment from NDA to extend its ceasefire for three more months.
Also, Gbaramatu Kingdom, which had taken the brunt of NDA’s hostile actions since it was launched, has sent an appeal to the group to give peace a chance, warning against bringing violent acts near the kingdom.
National Coordinator of PNDPC, High Chief Mike Loyibo, in a chat with our correspondent in Warri yesterday, said although the agitators had their reasons for calling off the initial ceasefire, the elders and leaders interfacing with them hammered on reasons why peace must be given a chance.
Loyibo added that the three-month window was meant to allow government prove that it is sincere about its commitment to the region.
Loyibo, who said the group is not a gang of criminals but a body made up of some of the people he holds in high regards, added that he would wash his hands off the search for peace should the federal government waste this last chance.
He said: “We have been concerned because the Niger Delta problem is a Nigerian problem. When the Niger Delta is in crisis, Nigeria is in crisis. If we don’t handle it well, it can consume the entire country the same way the leadership of the northern Nigeria, particularly those of the North-East, did not come out to handle the Boko Haram problem, which has now gone international.
“That is why we as leaders of the Niger Delta area came together to say we must stop this.
“This last threat did not come from criminals, it came from some of them that I hold in very high esteem, and in the last three days, we have been working day and night; myself, Elder T.K Ogoriba and a few others, to see that we discourage bombing.
“We have just secured a three-month extension of ceasefire to enable government prove its sincerity for the last time. But if they fail us this time around, someone like me will pull out; I will no longer be involved in this peace process.
“The boys have said now that we’ve prevailed on them, they will listen again. I can assure you that you will not see bombing or destruction of pipelines and facilities because we have secured extra three months of ceasefire.”
Stating the efforts so far made by PANDEF, the Coordinator of PANDEF’s secretariat, who is also a member of its Central Working Committee (CWC), Dr Alfred Mulade, said talks were still on with the critical stakeholders, including the Avengers, adding that there was really no need for the group to resume hostilities.
According to him, “the most important thing is that, just like we accessed them before and they kept to their words and gave PANDEF their mandate to go on to dialogue on their behalf, PANDEF will continue to access them.
“Avengers are not spirits; they are human beings and indigenes of the Niger Delta. So, if anybody says PANDEF does not know how to access them, that can’t be true.
“Efforts are being made. PANDEF is not resting on its oars. It is living up to the expectations of Niger Delta people by ensuring that there’s permanent and sustainable peace and to fast-track development in the region, based on equity and justice.
“As a follow up to all I’ve said, PANDEF is hosting an extraordinary general assembly, particularly to address this security situation. The meeting is coming up on Friday 17th of this month at the PTI Conference Centre, Effurun, Delta State.
“The meeting is very important because people need to come together to articulate views and find ways of trying to see how this whole matter can be resolved.
“This is to tell you about the importance PANDEF attaches to peace in the region.”
Meanwhile, the spokesman of Gbaramatu Traditional Council, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, has appealed to the NDA and all other groups that are agitating to give peace a chance, expressing the hope that the federal government would be moved to act on the Niger Delta issue, especially now that all regions are talking about it.
He also appealed to the Nigerian armed forces not to see Gbaramatu Kingdom and its people as criminals but as partners with whom they should achieve their task of bringing peace and security to all parts of the country.
He said: “We are only pleading with the Niger Delta Avengers and all other groups that are agitating that they should still give peace a chance.
“Rome was not built in a day. We will still live our lives plus or without the federal government. We still believe that the federal government is going to do something.
“They have made their statement and everybody is talking already; from the north to the south, to the west, to the east, everybody is talking that government’s inaction is causing a lot of anger that is enough for a group.
“That awareness alone is enough for the Niger Delta people. Let them give this government a chance to do what government has not done in a very long time.
“Meanwhile, we have also instructed in our communities that since we don’t want any federal government activity to be focused in our area, we have told the community chairmen and our youth leaders and everybody to be on red alert.
“Should they see suspicious movements or elements around them, they should call the law enforcement agents.
“Military should look for a way to partner us to see how we can solve this problem and not criminalise us.
“We are ready to work with the military, provided they don’t criminalise us and then come to destroy our area.”