• Monday, May 20, 2024
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MEND’s 60-day ceasefire

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After series of violent attacks on oil installations that have cost the nation dearly in terms of lives of servicemen, oil workers, residents of oil producing communities as well as huge drop in oil production, it is gratifying that, finally, a platform is being created for the crisis in the Niger Delta to be addressed.

The granting of amnesty to militants by President Umaru Yar’Adua is a confidence building strategy that could engender sincere commitment to negotiations by the armed groups. The amnesty was predicated on the willingness and readiness of the militants to give up all illegal arms in their possession, unconditionally renounce militancy in all its ramifications, and depose to an undertaking to this effect. According to the Federal Government timetable, a 60-day grace period, which is to run between August and October has been handed down to militants to denounce their armed struggle.
In response to the amnesty offer, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has announced a unilateral 60-day ceasefire during which it hopes that
We welcome the adoption by MEND of ‘armistice’ as against the amnesty, which has also culminated in a 60-day ceasefire declared by the militants on Wednesday. This is expected to pave way for peace talks with the Federal Government.

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MEND, which claimed responsibility for the latest attack on Atlas Cove in Lagos early this week, an attack which was the first outside the Niger Delta, and several other attacks which have cut around 300,000 barrels per day of Nigeria’s oil output since May, had said that its decision is expected to create opportunity for an enabling environment for peaceful dialogue.
However, we will like to sound a note of caution. The Federal Government must not lull into lethargy with the assumption that a positive response to the amnesty off would end the crisis. On the contrary, the amnesty and the ceasefire will only create a platform for meaningful negotiation with all stakeholders in the Niger Delta, especially the militants to commence.
The ceasefire by MEND provides a rare opportunity for government to demonstrate its capacity to positively impact on the lives of Nigerian citizens and its desire to evolve lasting peace in the Niger Delta region. This, we believe, provides platform for government to put its house in order and clear all grey areas that had hitherto raised doubts on government’s sincerity and commitment to lasting peace in the region. Therefore, we call on the government to take all practical steps towards reaching accommodation with the people of the Niger Delta who have benefitted very little from so much that is produced in their land.
Government owes its citizens the obligation to protect their lives and property and to also provide them with basic amenities. In a situation where these are lacking, it becomes unfortunate. But where opportunity presents itself as in this case, it becomes imperative on government to avail itself of the opportunity by demonstrating that it is willing to make amends.
We believe that the positive sign from MEND has provided a fertile ground for meaningful discussions with the ultimate aim of resolving the issues that have made the Niger Delta a hotbed of militancy. In the light of the above, the Federal Government must capitalise on this opportunity to demonstrate its genuine commitment to the improvement of the standard of living of its citizens especially those in the Niger Delta. Allowing this opportunity to slip off its hands may mean a resumption of hostilities in the region. This will further worsen the economic situation in the country.
Consequently, we call on the government to demonstrate good faith by giving the impoverished people of Niger Delta a better deal through derivation that should go beyond the meagre 13 percent that is currently the case.
Indeed, beyond the issue of derivation, the government should evolve an acceptable mechanism on how the resources so generated from the region will be judiciously expended for the benefit of majority rather than allowing a tiny clique to appropriate what belongs to the people.

Consequently, we advocate the adoption of a more transparent approach of constituting credible Nigerians to monitor the use of these resources instead of the old fashion of using state governors and traditional rulers.
Another area through which government can demonstrate its seriousness is through adoption of a multi-dimensional approach with regard to reconstruction and rehabilitation of infrastructure as well as reconciliation to heal the wounds of many years of neglect of the region.