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FG withdraws military from N’Delta communities

For several hours on Tuesday, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo met with governors of oil producing states and service chiefs in his office at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Governors who attended the meeting were Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Okezie Ikpeazu (Imo), Dickson Seriake (Bayelsa), Odom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Adams Oshiomhole (Edo). The service chiefs in attendance were General Gabriel Olonishaki (Chief of Defence Staff), Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai (Chief of Army Staff ) and Vice Admiral Ibok Ette Ibas (Chief of Naval Staff). The meeting was believed to be in connection to the threats by the new militant group, Niger Delta Liberation Force (NDLF) to bomb the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, the Defence headquarters, National Assembly among other strategic government facilities especially in Lagos, Abuja and Kaduna. Prior to the emergence of the new group last week, the Niger Delta Avengers had been engaged in serial bombing of oil facilities in the Niger Delta region, reducing oil production per day to less than 1.5 million barrels as against the 2.2 million estimated in the 2016 budget. The meeting was also believed to have discussed the way forward in resolving the knotty issue of the current agitation by militant groups in the oil rich region. President Muhammadu Buhari had threatened in his Democracy Day nationwide broadcast last week that the militant groups whose activities were disrupting oil production would be brought to book. But the Federal Government recanted on Monday when Osinbajo announced a cease fire to allow for meaningful engagement with leaders of the oil producing communities. Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa said, however, that the meeting resolved to have the ongoing military operations in the region distilled, while the communities would be engaged. “We have also agreed that there is a need to distill military operations directly in communities, but the military needs to actually remain on our waterways to ensure that we adequately man the waterways itself while we engage the communities and that engagement process is starting any moment from now.” Okowa also disclosed that the security chiefs briefed them on the situation in the region while the governors also shared their perspective and they agreed on intelligence sharing on the situation, going forward.

“We governors of the oil producing states, security chiefs and ministers who are concerned met with the Vice President and I believe we had a very fruitful meeting. “One thing we identified which is the synergy between the Federal Government and the States which is very important and this meeting has raised a lot of issues and we believe that the collaboration will help us to tackle the issues in the Niger Delta.

“Of course, we were briefed by the service chiefs and the governors also have their own perspectives along with the minister of state petroleum. “We have taken a lot of decisions which will help us mitigate what is going on currently in the states particularly Bayelsa and Delta. We believe we are going to find solution to it.

“One of such is that there is a need for us to share intelligence which is very important and for us to be proactive, working together with the various stakeholders in the states to achieve a better result going forward,” the governor narrated. Also speaking after the meeting, Oshiomhole emphasized the need for government to sustain the amnesty programme so that skills acquired in the training could be effectively utilized. He also cautioned that Nigerians should strive to resolve any differences amicably rather than sing war songs. He said: “Nigeria is not at war and we cannot be at war with ourselves. “If we have conflicts, we will talk through those conflicts.

There are laws that have to be enforced. “I think that in all of these the whole idea is to find peace that is functional, that creates environment for very decent Nigerians to live their lives.” Meanwhile, the Embassy of the United States in Nigeria on Tuesday expressed concern over reports of attacks and other incidents in the Niger Delta. This was contained in a statement issued by the Embassy’s Public Affairs Unit in Abuja.

The Embassy stated that the U.S. mission to Nigeria was monitoring reports of attacks and other incidents in the Niger Delta and it shares the concerns of all Nigerians about these attacks. “The U.S. remains supportive of efforts, including the promotion of dialogue, to address grievances in the Niger Delta,” it stated. It appealed to all parties to resolve their disputes through peaceful means and emphasize that human rights of all Nigerians must be protected. It called on all Nigerians to persevere in efforts to achieve common goals.

It stressed on the need to end violence and curb the activities of criminal elements. It called for the establishment of conditions and mechanisms for profound, positive, and lasting changes in the region. According to statement, there is the need for the provision of economic opportunity and the needed services for residents of the Niger Delta.

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