•This path’ll take our region backwards –Lokpobiri
By Philip Nwosu, Tony John, Port Harcourt and Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Minister of Defence, Brigadier General Mansur Dan Alli (retd) said yesterday that the military is strategising on the most potent way to handle militant groups blowing up pipelines in the Niger Delta.
Ali said the Nigerian Navy has been empowered to deal with militant groups in the Niger Delta and that the military generally has mapped out strategies to find a most potent way to deal with them.
The minister said this at the International Maritime Conference of the Nigerian Navy held to mark the force’s 60th anniversary celebration recently.
The minister, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the conference also called for intensified international collaborative commitment to find a lasting solution to maritime security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea.
He said the challenges of maritime threats had become critical to the nation as it had gone beyond the scope of capability of the nation to deal with.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri has appealed to militant groups, especially the Niger Delta Avengers, Red Egbesu Lions and similar groups to drop their arms and “follow a path of peace in resolving issues relating to the Niger Delta.”
The resurgence of violence, he said, will take the oil rich region many years backward.
In a statement issued in Abuja yesterday by his Senior Technical Adviser (Policy), Donald Ojogo, Lokpobiri said renewed hostilities in the region were capable of distracting plans the current administration has for the region just as he appealed to the armed groups to engage in meaningful dialogue with government.
In a related development, the Nigerian Army has vowed to track down NDA members and any other group attacking oil installations in the Niger Delta region and killing soldiers.
Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai reiterated this vow yesterday, while commissioning a building at the 2 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Buratai described members of NDA as criminals, saying they were not fighting for the people, but their own selfish interest, adding that they (service chiefs) came to assess the security situation in the state.
“Whatever these criminals are doing is a criminal act. We will deal with them accordingly. We are here to assess the situation in relation to the security issue/bombings by Niger Delta Avengers…”
Also, former militant leaders from the nine states of the Niger Delta again yesterday warned politicians to stop meddling in the affairs of the Federal Government amnesty programme
The warning is coming amid mounting pressure on the Presidency to sack Chairman of the Implementation Committee, Brigadier General Paul Boroh.
The former militant leaders after a meeting in Yenagoa said the meddlesome attitude of politicians in the amnesty programme was generating tension and had become a distraction that could derail the programme and escalate the tension in the region.
Chief Reuben Wilson known along the creeks and waterways as General Pastor led the meeting, held under the aegis of the Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiatives (LPCDI).