From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The leadership of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) has admonished the Federal Government not to take the threat issued by the militant group; Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) with levity.
It also declared that there was no agreement with the Federal Government during its recent meeting that would stop agitation from the people of the region.
NDA had announced Operation Humble which it said would crippled the economy over failure of the Federal Government to address the issue of underdevelopment in the region.
The Presidency said NDA’s threat was unnecessary because he had met with the INC leadership and responded to issues raised especially on restructuring and inauguration of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
However, President of the INC, Prof Benjamin Okaba in a swift reaction to the statement by the Presidency which alluded to its recent meeting while replying the threat issue by the Niger Delta group said the delegation did not have a meeting for discussions.
He said listening to the President after they made their 10-point demands did not mean they accepted what he said. Okaba in an interview said the reason the Ijaw leadership went to Abuja was to avert actions such as the one by NDA.
He implored the Federal Government to move swiftly to fulfil its promise made at the Oporoza meeting on the inauguration of the NDDC board, stressing that forensic audit should not be used as an excuse not to inaugurate the board.
“Our position is that what are the issues, why would Niger Delta Avengers want to bomb oil installations? Is it not the same issue of underdevelopment and the NDDC? There was an agreement at the Oporoza meeting and we believe the federal government should go ahead to fulfil its agreement. That is the only way to avert any problem. We did go there to accept what the federal government told us. We made our demands and he responded. We were not given the opportunity to respond. One of the reasons we went to Abuja was to avert situation like this because we believe by discussing, a lot of issues can be resolved. The issue of forensic audit cannot be the reason why the NDDC board cannot be inaugurated. I think the federal government should listen particularly when you made a minister say do this for the region. The Federal Government should take Avengers threat seriously.
“The Federal Government made reference to us that they have spoken to us, they should also be kind enough to tell the public whether we accepted what they told us. It was not a meeting, it was a session where we told the Federal Government our needs and they told us what they think. There was session for discussion and agreement. We dropped our points and left. So alluding to the fact that they discussed to with us is unfair to us and that should not be taken. That we listened to them should not be taken as acceptance. The same way they listened to us and we took it that they did not accept all our demands, so they should also realise that we sat down and listened to what the man said does not mean we accepted what the president said.”