FG in Secret Talks with Niger Delta Militants Despite Failure to Formally Name Negotiating Team- Report

Despite its reluctance to officially set up a negotiating committee to hold talks with militants in the Niger Delta, the federal government has continued discreet talks with the belligerent groups in the region.

It was gathered that at least three meetings had taken place in the last few months between the militants and federal government emissaries coordinated by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Mohammed Moguno (rtd).

The backroom discussions, which have incorporated other smaller aggrieved groups, are continuing, it was learnt, just as there is growing anxiety among elders and leaders in the region over the inability of the government at the centre to formally name its team of negotiators about six weeks after their meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.

All the meetings between the agitators and the office of the NSA, took place in Abuja, after the Joint Task Force (JTF), a special security outfit fighting militancy in the area, cleared and certified the various groups which have attacked oil installations since the beginning of the year.

A source close to the goings-on between the government and the agitators, said government agents reached out directly to the groups instead of going through third parties to learn first hand the underlying reasons for the several attacks on the oil infrastructure aside the ones publicly voiced by the warlords.

To avoid the complaints of exclusion that has continued to trail the amnesty programme, the government was said to have gone beyond only the known violent groups like the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate (NDGJM) two groups that have publicly claimed responsibility, to reach out to smaller groups.

But the source added that to avoid making the meetings an “all-comers-affair,” the security agents subjected the groups to serious scrutiny which ensured that ‘portfolio militants’ were screened out.

According to the source, most of the issues being discussed still bordered on the 16-point demand by the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), led by Chief Edwin Clark.

However, it was gathered that the Iduwini Volunteer Force (IVF),  one of the groups operating along the coasts of South-western Delta State and North-western Bayelsa State, in the last meeting with the office of the NSA, insisted that one of the conditions for peace should be the direct payment of 13 per cent derivation to the source of the oil, the communities, rather than the state government.

The group reportedly told the government negotiators that it was an aberration to pay the derivation funds to the state governors who were hardly accountable to the oil producing communities in the Delta.

The IVF, led by one Commander Johnson Biboye, it informed, maintained during one of the meetings that the part of the constitution that set aside the 13 per cent derivation specifically said that the monies should be paid directly to the source of the natural resource and not the states where they are found.

Confirming the discreet discussions between the parties, the source  said: “We have been meeting and interfacing with the government through the office of the NSA. We have told them that the last amnesty programme did not carry many genuine groups along. So, after clearance, several groups have been meeting with them, though there is no definitive conclusion on the discussions.

“As far as you are cleared by the JTF, and they (security agencies) know you have antecedents, you are allowed to be part of those they are talking to. But we have also told government to be consistent.

“If they want peace, let them follow through with the withdrawal of soldiers from the creeks. They cannot be looking for peace and deploying soldiers to harass innocent people at the same time,” it added.

On how the talks were progressing, it said that though the federal government has not made any particular concession, it had agreed in principle to allow the Marine University in Okerenkoko, Tompolo’s town to continue as originally planned by the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

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Details Of FG’s Readiness To Negotiate Chibok Girls’ Release & Buhari’s Threat To Niger Delta Militants

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday restated the readiness of his administration to dialogue with the Boko Haram sect for the release of the Chibok schoolgirls who are in captivity.

Buhari, who spoke with journalists in Nairobi where he attended the Sixth Tokyo International Conference of African Development (TICAD VI) at the weekend, said the Nigerian government was ready to dialogue with bona fide leaders of the terror group who know the whereabouts of the girls.

“I have made a couple of comments on the Chibok girls and it seems to me that much of it has been politicised. What we said is that the government which I preside over is prepared to talk to bona fide leaders of Boko Haram. If they do not want to talk to us directly, let them pick an internationally recognised non-governmental organisation, convince them that they are holding the girls and that they want Nigeria to release a number of Boko Haram leaders in detention, which they are supposed to know.

“If they do it through the ‘modified leadership’ of Boko Haram and they talk with an internationally recognised NGO, then Nigeria will be prepared to discuss their release,” he said.

Buhari, who spoke on the sidelines of the conference, warned that the Federal Government would not waste resources on “doubtful sources claiming to know the whereabouts of the girls. We want those girls out and safe. The faster we can recover them and hand them over to their parents, the better for us.’’

The president maintained that the terror group, which pledged allegiance to ISIS, has been largely decimated by the gallant Nigerian military with the support of immediate neighbours: Chad, Cameroun, Niger and Benin.

While the president waved an olive branch for the militants in the Niger Delta to sheath their swords and embrace ongoing efforts to dialogue, he said the government would not hesitate to crush them the way it did to the Boko Haram insurgents in the North East.

Buhari’s warning of the militants came against the backdrop of reports of disagreements among leaders and elders from the zone, which the president observed has made discussions impossible for the government.

‘‘We do not believe that they (the militants) have announced ceasefire. We are trying to understand them more. Who are their leaders and which areas do they operate? We also need to understand other relevant issues,’’ he said.

Also speaking at a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, on the sidelines of the conference, Buhari outlined several steps taken by his administration to secure the country and ease doing business in Nigeria, noting that with the defeat of the Boko Haram terrorists by the military, the attention of the administration is now focused on putting an end to the destruction of the country’s economic assets by militants in the Niger Delta.

He said the militants must dialogue with the Federal government. “We are talking to some of their leaders. We will deal with them as we dealt with Boko Haram if they refuse to talk to us.”

But efforts by leaders of the oil-rich region to raise a team to dialogue with the Federal Government is being undermined by the split in the leadership into the camps of Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark and King Alfred Diette-Spiff .

Apparently miffed by an agreement reached at the weekend by the Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), Clark and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, some militant groups, comprising Reformed Egbesu Fraternities, Egbesu Boys of the Niger Delta, Red Water Lions, Egbesu Mightier Fraternity and the Sea Commandoes yesterday lampooned Clark, insisting he can’t lead the pan-Niger Delta development group.

They claimed that during the meeting with the minister, Clark “attacked” their representatives, including monarchs drawn from all the Niger Delta states, elders and youth leaders, and barred them from airing their views.

Credit:

http://guardian.ng/news/federal-government-ready-to-negotiate-release-of-chibok-girls-says-buhari/