MEND Faults VP On Amnesty Claim


By Kelvin Ebiri, Port Harcourt
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) yesterday described as untrue Vice President Goodluck Jonathan's claim that criminal barons were frustrating the implementation of the Federal Government amnesty for insurgents in the Niger Delta.

MEND has, however, cautioned that the multi-billion Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline project expected to supply natural gas from the region to Europe, risks being sabotaged, unless the root issues on the Niger Delta crisis were addressed and resolved.

However, the military Joint Task Force (JTF) has denied MEND's claim that it (JTF) forcefully abducted a traditional ruler, Isaac Thikan, from the oil-bearing community of Egbema in Delta State.

MEND's spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo, yesterday blamed perceived government's insincerity on the Niger Delta question for the lingering unrest in the region.

He said: "The government's insincerity is the major cause where one sees the Interior Minister travelling from Abuja to Port Harcourt to talk to fake representatives of militant commanders but cannot travel the shorter distance to see Henry Okah, who is dying and needs urgent medical attention."

Gbomo said Professor J.P Clark's suggestion on armistice, as against amnesty for freedom fighters, was what MEND and Tompolo were favourably disposed to for adoption as the next step to take towards resolving the crisis.

According to him: "While the government is talking about amnesty on the one hand, the JTF on the other is still carrying out punitive scorched-earth policy on communities around oil facilities, as a way of permanently relocating the people from their ancestral homes and turning the area into an oil-mining area."

MEND said Mr. Government Tompolo had denied a report in one of the national dailies (not The Guardian) that he was requesting, through Chief Edwin K Clark, for the amnesty proposed by the government to militants.

He said Thursday's attack on the Abiteye community in Delta State by the JTF would be revenged by the group.

"We want to use this opportunity to warn the remaining companies still operating in the region, namely Agip, Total, Shell and Exxon Mobil to leave while there is still time because within the next 72 hours, Hurricane Piper Alpha will be upgraded to Hurricane Moses," he said.

The militant group alleged that a traditional ruler from the oil-bearing Egbema kingdom, Isaac Thikan, the Agadagba of Egbema and a staunch critic of the military excesses in the region, was forcibly abducted on June 24, 2009 by the JTF and taken to its headquarters in Effurun.

Gbomo warned of dire consequences should the chief die in the custody of the military, which has since denied the allegation.

The JTF spokesperson, Colonel Rabe Abubakar, told The Guardian yesterday that the JTF, in compliance with the Federal Government directive, would not even arrest a known militant now, let alone a chief.

Abubakar said: "MEND is lying. The amnesty is in place. Why should we arrest the chief now that the Federal Government has declared amnesty? We cannot even arrest MEND members. We don't have permission to arrest anyone."

C. Guardian

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