Avengers accept dialogue, reject Soyinka, Kalu as negotiators

The Niger Delta Avengers on Sunday said it was ready for negotiations with the Federal Government.

The group said this in a statement on its website by its spokesman, Mudoch Agbinibo, titled, ‘The NDA is ready when Nigerian government is ready.’

Niger Delta Avengers

It, however, rejected the nomination of Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka; a former Abia State governor, Mr. Orji Kalu; and five others to negotiate on behalf of the group with the Federal Government.

The spokesperson for the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, representing the eastern and central parts of the Niger Delta region, Mr. Inienimi Agiri, had on Saturday said Soyinka and others would speak with the government.

The NDA’s declaration came barely 24 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari called on militants unleashing violence on the Niger Delta to enter into dialogue with his government or risk being dealt with the same way the nation’s military dealt with members of the Boko Haram sect.

The NDA on Sunday explained that it was concerned by the insensitivity to the plight of the Niger Delta agitation by successive governments of Nigeria.

The group added, “The NDA cannot be teleguided by Charles Okah and Henry Okah from their respective prison cells using disorganised characters of the All Progressives Congress from the Niger Delta to impress Abuja. We are not unaware of the creations of the Nigerian intelligentsia community and security apparatus to sustain the Niger Delta struggle to bloat their pocket and credibility.

“The NDA (members) have unequivocally given our tacit support to Chief Edwin Clark, Niger Delta Elders and Stakeholders Conference Committee to lead the Pan-Niger Delta negotiations/dialogue team, whenever this wicked entity called Nigeria shows readiness.”

‘You’ll get B’Haram treatment’

Buhari had told the Niger Delta militants unleashing violence on the area on Saturday to dialogue with his government or risk being dealt with the same way the nation’s military dealt with Boko Haram sect.

He said he was fully aware of his government’s responsibility to secure the country for economic activities to thrive.

A statement on Sunday by Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said the President spoke on Saturday at a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on the sideline of the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Nairobi, Kenya.

He told the Japanese leader that with the defeat of the Boko Haram terrorists by the military, the attention of the administration would be focused on stopping the destruction of the country’s economic assets by militants in the Niger Delta region.

Despite the violence in the region, Buhari assured existing and prospective foreign investors that their investments in Nigeria would be fully protected.

He said several steps were being taken by his administration to secure Nigeria and ease the process of doing business in the country.

“We are talking to some of their (Niger Delta militants’) leaders. We will deal with them as we dealt with Boko Haram if they refuse to talk to us.

“As a government, we know our responsibility, which is to secure the environment. It is clear to us that lenders won’t fund projects in an insecure environment.

“We realise that we have to secure the country before we can efficiently manage it,” the President said.

Buhari also told the Japanese Prime Minister that security in the Gulf of Guinea, which had been greatly affected by piracy and armed robbery at sea, was a priority for the Nigerian government.

He said, “We have provided funds to our Navy to buy new platforms, train and effectively organise the personnel to protect the area. We are looking forward to support from developed nations for satellite surveillance covering the Gulf.”

Recalling his audience with G7 leaders in Germany, which was attended by the Prime Minister, Buhari thanked Japan for responding positively to the requests by Nigeria for the rehabilitation of victims of Boko Haram sect and rebuilding of infrastructure in the north-eastern part of the country.

The President, however, said there was still more to do on education, health and other infrastructure to ensure quick and voluntary return of displaced persons to their native communities.

In his remarks, Prime Minister Abe congratulated President Buhari “for courageously tackling Boko Haram terrorism.”

He said Nigeria and Japan must work together to improve the investment climate in view of the many Japanese companies wishing to invest in Nigeria.

Soyinka, Kalu, won’t speak for Avengers’

The NDA, however, said the nomination of Soyinka, Kalu and five others to negotiate with the Federal Government would not work.

Others nominated by RNDA are Prof. Steve Etubom, Anthony Ani, Nalaguo Alagoa, Chief Alice Osomo and Agiri, who has been acting as the spokesman for the group.

The spokesman for the NDA said Clark-led Niger Delta Elders and Stakeholders’ Conference Committee remained the sole negotiating team known to the group.

The NDA stressed that whenever the Federal Government was ready, it should go ahead and negotiate with Clark’s team.

“Putting the records straight, the name/names being paraded as factions of the Niger Delta Avengers are just the figment of some persons’ imagination in protecting their jobs and they are hell-bent on derailing the wheel of progress in the history of Nigeria and the Niger Delta agitation.

“We are amazed that Prof. Wole Soyinka has been taken on the jugular by enemies of the Niger Delta because of his belief that the government of the day should understand the need for restructuring and listen to the Niger Delta’s agitation positively.

“That we, the NDA, have named Prof. Wole Soyinka and some incredible names to advise and lead any group is the lie of the century,” a statement by the NDA read.