• Tony Igele

Niger-Delta: Who Is Advising Buhari?

President Muhammadu Buhari is privy to information on many issues concerning the country from varied sources, which no ordinary Nigerian is privileged. Therefore, the way he sees and comprehends matters are expectedly to be pertinent.

One of the most key issues before the President at the moment is the Niger Delta catch-22 vis a vis the militants, who have chosen the objectionable path of bombing oil installations to draw attention to the supposed neglect of the region by government.

Since Buhari is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the country, the buck logically stops on his table, but the quality of advice he gets and who are advising him matter in the resolution of the problem, which could either define or ruin the country, as oil that flows from the region is the stronghold of the nation’s economy.

The President has a Minister of Niger Delta, who runs the Ministry of Niger Delta, specially created by the former President, late Umaru Yar’Adua administration, Special Adviser on Niger Delta and Co-ordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, and coterie of other advisers to counsel him. The service chiefs and heads of other security agencies also give him briefs on the region.

Buhari and Clark

He directed them, last year, to identify the militant groups in the region, their leaders and locations and some advised him to go all out against the militants, while a few cautioned him to employ a carrot and stick approach.

Recommendations to Buhari

However, events in recent times have brought to question the worth of recommendation the President is getting on the Niger Delta crisis. Is he getting the right advice, Is he disposed or not disposed to the guidance? What is the way out of the sticky situation?

At a time, last year, it was thought that the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who from nowhere, endeared himself to the people with his practical ideals to the problematic, had the matter already figured out, but after the visit of PANDEF to the President Buhari, last year, in Abuja, it was not clear what happened to his template. Sources said it was either that those bigger than him dumped his template or they kept it in view.

Troublesome development

The most worrisome development in the region, during the week, was the decision of two militant groups, Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, and Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, NDRC, which had ceased bombing of oil installations to announced their intention to restart hostilities. Others are also spoiling for a showdown.

NDA through its spokesperson, self-styled Brig General Mudoch Agbinibo, concurrently declared “Operations Walls of Jericho” and “Hurricane Joshua” , last Saturday, to finally knock out oil operations in the country, while NDRC’s spokesperson, W O I Izon-Ebi, on Monday, voiced its plan to recommence bombing with the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, as a principal target.

The reason for the sudden turn was the failure of the Federal Government to begin to address the immediate problems of the area especially after the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, a body of monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of the coastal states of the Niger Delta region, formed last year, to chart a new course for the region succeeded in getting the militants to stop vandalising oil installations and piplines.

The Avengers and all other militant groups that were on rampage in the region, except the Niger Delta Greendland Justice Mandate, NDGJM, hearkened to the voice of the leaders in August, 2016, to suspend hostilities.

Presidency cancels visit

The immediate knock-on effect of the fresh declarations by NDA and NDRC was renewal of tension in the combustible region and the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, who was to lead a Federal Government team to the Niger Delta on Tuesday, January 10, aborted the confidence-building tour three days after the Avengers threatened.

Avengers

Tompolo’s stamping ground

The appraisal tour put in place by government after it sidelined PANDEF, has, however, been rescheduled for Monday, January 16. So, barring any other interference, Osinbajo and his team will storm Gbaramatu Kingdom, the home base of runaway ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, for first hand information on the troubles of the region. His team will stop over at other parts of the region during the visit.

Cause of disagreement

What really sparked off the latest confusion between the Federal Government and PANDEF, led by former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, was the comment by the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Mr. Femi Adesina that the Presidency was still searching for credible leaders of region with control over the militants, two months after President Buhari met with the forum, November 1, 2016, at Abuja.

Mr. Femi Adesina, who spoke in an interview monitored on AIT, while responding to insinuations of a disconnect between the President and the Niger Delta, asserted: “The President told the Niger Delta elders that visited him that it was important to get these militants under one umbrella because after you might have talked to this group, another group would come up.

With this kind of arrangement, you won’t get to know the real people. This is why the President has given an assignment to certain people to determine how many these groups exist. They should speak with the leadership and ascertain what they want and how government can meet with them. The President has given out that assignment.”

“Do not forget that there was a major meeting with Niger Delta elders and leaders, traditional rulers and the second day after that meeting, there was sabotage of pipeline. Now, if the leaders had a meeting with Mr. President today and pipeline was sabotaged the following day, it shows something is wrong. And that is why Mr. President said everybody needs to come together under one umbrella and it is very critical and very important that they come under one umbrella so as to move these issues forward,” he said.

The new position of the Presidency, related by Adesina, came as a shock to PANDEF and its promoters, who had taken upon themselves to organize the region and call the militants to order following the severe loss to the economy.

To insiders, who knew how difficult it was for PANDEF leaders to get Avengers and other militant groups to listen to the voice of their fathers, it was quite hurting. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, which did not initially want to submit to the leaders of the region later bowed. It was only the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate that refused to submit to PANDEF until date, and for elemental reason.

“Chief Clark spoke to leaders of many militant groups in his search for peace and spent his money to win them over, so you can imagine his consternation at such a statement from the Presidency,” a source familiar with the matter told Saturday Vanguard.

“Even the NDGJM, which refused PANDEF’s plea to cease hostilities, Clark sent emissaries to speak with their leaders, at one moment, they said they would stop bombing and give the leaders the chance to dialogue with government,” the source added.

PANDEF made us stop bombing- Avengers

President Muhammadu Buhari is privy to information on many issues concerning the country from varied sources, which no ordinary Nigerian is privileged. Therefore, the way he sees and comprehends matters are expectedly to be pertinent.

One of the most key issues before the President at the moment is the Niger Delta catch-22 vis a vis the militants, who have chosen the objectionable path of bombing oil installations to draw attention to the supposed neglect of the region by government.

Since Buhari is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the country, the buck logically stops on his table, but the quality of advice he gets and who are advising him matter in the resolution of the problem, which could either define or ruin the country, as oil that flows from the region is the stronghold of the nation’s economy.

The President has a Minister of Niger Delta, who runs the Ministry of Niger Delta, specially created by the former President, late Umaru Yar’Adua administration, Special Adviser on Niger Delta and Co-ordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, and coterie of other advisers to counsel him. The service chiefs and heads of other security agencies also give him briefs on the region.

Buhari and Clark

He directed them, last year, to identify the militant groups in the region, their leaders and locations and some advised him to go all out against the militants, while a few cautioned him to employ a carrot and stick approach.

Recommendations to Buhari

However, events in recent times have brought to question the worth of recommendation the President is getting on the Niger Delta crisis. Is he getting the right advice, Is he disposed or not disposed to the guidance? What is the way out of the sticky situation?

At a time, last year, it was thought that the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who from nowhere, endeared himself to the people with his practical ideals to the problematic, had the matter already figured out, but after the visit of PANDEF to the President Buhari, last year, in Abuja, it was not clear what happened to his template. Sources said it was either that those bigger than him dumped his template or they kept it in view.

Troublesome development

The most worrisome development in the region, during the week, was the decision of two militant groups, Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, and Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, NDRC, which had ceased bombing of oil installations to announced their intention to restart hostilities. Others are also spoiling for a showdown.

NDA through its spokesperson, self-styled Brig General Mudoch Agbinibo, concurrently declared “Operations Walls of Jericho” and “Hurricane Joshua” , last Saturday, to finally knock out oil operations in the country, while NDRC’s spokesperson, W O I Izon-Ebi, on Monday, voiced its plan to recommence bombing with the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, as a principal target.

The reason for the sudden turn was the failure of the Federal Government to begin to address the immediate problems of the area especially after the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, a body of monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of the coastal states of the Niger Delta region, formed last year, to chart a new course for the region succeeded in getting the militants to stop vandalising oil installations and piplines.

The Avengers and all other militant groups that were on rampage in the region, except the Niger Delta Greendland Justice Mandate, NDGJM, hearkened to the voice of the leaders in August, 2016, to suspend hostilities.

Presidency cancels visit

The immediate knock-on effect of the fresh declarations by NDA and NDRC was renewal of tension in the combustible region and the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, who was to lead a Federal Government team to the Niger Delta on Tuesday, January 10, aborted the confidence-building tour three days after the Avengers threatened.

Avengers

Tompolo’s stamping ground

The appraisal tour put in place by government after it sidelined PANDEF, has, however, been rescheduled for Monday, January 16. So, barring any other interference, Osinbajo and his team will storm Gbaramatu Kingdom, the home base of runaway ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, for first hand information on the troubles of the region. His team will stop over at other parts of the region during the visit.

Cause of disagreement

What really sparked off the latest confusion between the Federal Government and PANDEF, led by former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, was the comment by the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Mr. Femi Adesina that the Presidency was still searching for credible leaders of region with control over the militants, two months after President Buhari met with the forum, November 1, 2016, at Abuja.

Mr. Femi Adesina, who spoke in an interview monitored on AIT, while responding to insinuations of a disconnect between the President and the Niger Delta, asserted: “The President told the Niger Delta elders that visited him that it was important to get these militants under one umbrella because after you might have talked to this group, another group would come up.

With this kind of arrangement, you won’t get to know the real people. This is why the President has given an assignment to certain people to determine how many these groups exist. They should speak with the leadership and ascertain what they want and how government can meet with them. The President has given out that assignment.”

“Do not forget that there was a major meeting with Niger Delta elders and leaders, traditional rulers and the second day after that meeting, there was sabotage of pipeline. Now, if the leaders had a meeting with Mr. President today and pipeline was sabotaged the following day, it shows something is wrong. And that is why Mr. President said everybody needs to come together under one umbrella and it is very critical and very important that they come under one umbrella so as to move these issues forward,” he said.

The new position of the Presidency, related by Adesina, came as a shock to PANDEF and its promoters, who had taken upon themselves to organize the region and call the militants to order following the severe loss to the economy.

To insiders, who knew how difficult it was for PANDEF leaders to get Avengers and other militant groups to listen to the voice of their fathers, it was quite hurting. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, which did not initially want to submit to the leaders of the region later bowed. It was only the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate that refused to submit to PANDEF until date, and for elemental reason.

“Chief Clark spoke to leaders of many militant groups in his search for peace and spent his money to win them over, so you can imagine his consternation at such a statement from the Presidency,” a source familiar with the matter told Saturday Vanguard.

“Even the NDGJM, which refused PANDEF’s plea to cease hostilities, Clark sent emissaries to speak with their leaders, at one moment, they said they would stop bombing and give the leaders the chance to dialogue with government,” the source added.

If the militants listen to PANDEF this time around and remain calm, perhaps, the tension over fresh resumption of hostilities in the region will ease out and consolidate the dialogue process, but if otherwise, breaking of the truce is clearly unwarranted, as the federal government has not put forward any reason it should not dialogue with the group, which, comprises leaders of the region, who, unquestionably have the mandate of the militants to dialogue on their behalf.

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