The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has come out hard on former President Goodluck Jonathan and other Niger Delta leaders, accusing them of “ungodly conspiracy of silence” over recent wave of attacks on oil facilities in the region by the group called Niger Delta Avengers.
Before a government amnesty between in 2008, MEND was the umbrella groups for all armed youth groups in the Niger Delta agitating for increased control of the proceeds from the exploitation of country’s oil resources.
The Avengers recently started attacks on oil and gas installations in the region, cutting Nigeria’s daily oil production from about 2.2 million to 1.7 million barrels.
The new group has vowed to reduce Nigeria’s oil production to zero until the federal government concedes to its demand of a sovereign Niger Delta state.
In a statement on Tuesday, MEND called the attacks “unprovoked”, saying many perpetrators were former MEND commanders who embraced the previous governments’ amnesty programme “without knowing why they took up arms in the first place”.
The group noted the sustained neglect of the region by successive administrations in the country since oil was discovered in commercial quantity in 1958, saying “Nigeria has short-changed the Niger Delta region and pillaged the commonwealth generated from the region in association with International Oil Companies who have not done enough to protect and sustain the environment”.
The statement, signed by Jomo Gbomo, said the group was concerned about the situation in the region “particularly because of the colossal failure of former President Goodluck Jonathan – an indigene of the region, who was at the helm for six years – to address the remediation of our environment”.
It however commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his commitment to clean up Ogoniland.
“What is more worrisome to us is the ungodly conspiracy of silence of the region’s elite and their tacit support of the NDA’s conduct under the pretext of a so-called ‘Niger Delta struggle’ which went to sleep in luxury hotel suites in Abuja and around the world for the entire duration of the six years of Mr. Jonathan’s binge and unmitigated disaster as President,” MEND said.
The group said it was equally concerned about the “disproportionate use of force and the sheer unimaginable dimension of the on-going reprisal” by the Nigerian military which it said had done serious damage to the socio-political and economic lives of the people of the region.
While commiserating with the affected persons, families and communities, MEND called on the international community as well as the National Emergency Management Agency to dispatch relief materials to the region, as a matter of utmost priority.
It warned communities against harbouring criminal elements, and also urged the military high command to stick to the rules of engagement and international best practices in their attempt to enforce rule of law.