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‘Crackdown on the Militants without dialogue will be disastrous’

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MilitantsChief Yerin Ekpedibo Yerin, a Niger Delta community leader and an expert on Counseling and Environmental Economics spoke on the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta and its implications.

What are the security and economic implications of the recent renewed militancy in the Niger Delta?
It has a lot of implications. It will affect the volume of oil production in the Niger Delta and invariably the revenue from oil.

What do you make of President Buhari’s order on crackdown on the Niger-Delta Avengers?
Any crackdown on the Avengers without dialogue will be disastrous. The avengers are nomads with no permanent base for now. They operate from the high seas around the Niger Delta. It will lead to the death of innocent civilians. Economic activities will come to a halt and the military meant for the crushing of Boko Haram in the Sambisa Forest will be dislodged.

What similarities and differences do you make of the Niger-Delta Avengers (NDA) and the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND)?
The NDA as a group will be more deadly than the MEND because majority of NDA members are not enjoying the current Presidential Amnesty Programme. It seems some frustrated intellectuals are solidly behind them. MEND leaders were more profit-oriented than NDA. The NDA boys believe the Northern oligarchy used Boko Haram to politically chase President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015.

In what ways can maximum peace be entrenched in the region?
Maximum peace is still possible. The Federal Government should set up an independent Committee to critically examine the demands of NDA. For me, the demands look reasonable. The Federal Government should improve the condition of living of the people by carrying the youths along and creating infrastructures to sustain the impoverished environment across the Niger Delta area.

What do you think is really the motive behind the action of the Niger Delta Avengers?
The main motive of NDA is economic and political – one, the corruption war should be all embracing and two, if the federal government did not respond adequately to the demands, there will be full blown war that can lead to secession of the Niger Delta. Once they consolidate on their international supports, moving out of Nigeria would be a reality.

The NDA’s spokesman, Mudoch Agbinibo, placed blame for the attack on oil facilities at the footsteps of ex-militant leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, How would you react to that?
NDA is telling Tompolo that his era is over and they are looking at him as a businessman cum politician, not a reliable freedom fighter.

The NDA’s spokesman also alleged that the latest attack was in line with a three-day ultimatum to Tompolo to apologise to the group for allegedly insulting them, what do you make of this?
They want to use that to intimidate him into silence and take absolute control of the region. Tompolo’s reaction was intentionally to absolve himself, and be a good citizen before the government of the day.

Why did the NDA launch attack on oil installations within Tompolo’s enclave in Gbaramatu Kingdom?
The concentration of the attacks in Gbaramatu is to keep Tompolo continuously in the hideout and draw more soldiers there so that they can move to other areas.

How do you view the NDA’s threat that they would deal a deadly blow on oil and gas production in the country?
It is real because Nigeria has a mono-economy. Once the oil facilities are bombed, the country will suffer two things- low sales and with the falling oil prices, instability will set in.

There was a clear warning to all Niger Delta politicians, traditional rulers, community leaders, and the likes of Tompolo to mind their business and leave the liberation of the Niger Delta people to the Avengers. How do you react to this?
NDA is right because part of the problem in the Niger Deltan was caused by those mentioned. They are very selfish and arrogant. They introduced the carrying of arms in the Niger-Delta and are still controlling the Amnesty Programme.


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