The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), has given President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration two weeks to open talks with its “Reach out to ‘Aaron Team’” or face dire consequences.
MEND also responded to a recent piece titled: ‘President Buhari Sharpens Focus On Niger Delta’, authored by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.
Garba had lambasted the Niger Delta Avengers for “killing soldiers and policemen, kidnapping and killing of oil company workers, and asking oil companies to stop operations and pack out of the Niger Delta region”.
In the piece, Shehu had alluded to the fact that: “they blow up oil pipelines, power and other infrastructure. They attack and kill prominent individuals,
ransacking homes up and down the coastal areas, including lately, Lagos and Ogun states. All these for what?”
But in a swift reaction, yesterday, MEND, denied that Niger Delta militants were behind the killings and attacks on some coastal communities in Lagos and Ogun.
The statement, made available to The Tide via email, called on Buhari to act fast in addressing issues it had earlier raised, and listed names of those the government must negotiate with.
It also warned that: “If we don’t hear from the Federal Government, MEND shall safely assume that it is truly not sincere about dialogue on the Niger Delta question, and responds only to the threat of violence or industrial action”.
The statement reads in full: “The attention of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has been drawn to an article titled: ‘President Buhari Sharpens Focus On Niger Delta,” written by Mr. Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity.
“We have carefully studied and analysed the article. We wholeheartedly applaud and welcome President Buhari’s sharpened focus on the Niger Delta, even though, in our estimation, Mr. Shehu’s article ironically did more to obtuse the focus.
“Shehu’s piece was unfortunately marred by sweeping assumptions; hasty generalization; illogicality and poor analysis of the Niger Delta question and, above all, the article merely provided lame excuses for government’s inability to proffer sustainable solutions to the Niger Delta crisis.
“It would tactless of Shehu to arrive at a conclusion in his article that, Niger Delta militants were behind the killings of prominent individuals and attacks on some coastal communities in Lagos and Ogun states. This casual but hasty generalization from a Presidential spokesperson is, to say the least, steeply divisive and capable of sparking a tribal war of unimaginable consequences between the Ijaws (whose youth are perceived to constitute a large number of the rank and file of Niger Delta militants) and the Yorubas.
“Quite apart from the fact that none of the Niger Delta Avengers operatives have so far, been arrested by security agencies to establish Shehu’s sweeping assumption, the comment by Shehu is regrettable and infra dig his office.
“Going forward, three salient issues which clearly reveal the seeming inability of President Buhari’s government to find sustainable solutions to the Niger Delta crisis can be distilled from Shehu’s article.
“Firstly, he made heavy weather about the Punch newspaper editorial of July 1, 2016, as a basis to justify government’s reluctance to negotiate with the NDA and other militant groups. Thereafter, he cited National Security Adviser (NSA), General Babagana Monguno’s alleged encounter with about 14 different militant groups who were all “claiming leadership to the renewed onslaught on the nation’s economic jugular vein.”
“Secondly, Shehu revealed in his article, the reluctance of government to take “the strongest possible military action” against the NDA and other militant groups while appealing to elders and traditional rulers from the Niger Delta region such as HRH King Alfred Diette-Spiff, the Amanyanabo of Twon-Brass in Bayelsa State to beg the militants to ceasefire.
“Thereafter, Shehu informed that President Buhari would take action (presumably, military action) after receiving reports from Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who was interfacing with stakeholders; Special Adviser on Niger Delta/Co-ordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Brigadier General Paul Boroh (rtd); and the new management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
“Thirdly, Shehu, in his article, bemoaned the proliferation of solutions to the Niger Delta crisis while asking rhetorical questions, to wit: “How many of those agreements, joint statements, ceasefires and peace declarations do we have on record so far? Why haven’t they given us peace? What is wrong with those agreements that they don’t last?”
“Shehu failed to proffer answers to his own questions. He also failed to apportion blame on successive governments and the International Oil Companies (IOCs) who have repeatedly reneged on agreements entered with the people of the Niger Delta.
“For instance, Shehu needs to be reminded that government and the IOCs are owing the NDDC billions of Naira in withheld funds. But that is a discussion for another day.
“There is a marked distinction between negotiation with criminals and fraudsters who force concessions from government using the strategy of attacks on oil installations, on the one hand; and dialogue with genuine militant groups such as MEND, who are committed to meaningfully engage government on the vexed Niger Delta question, on the other hand. While the former engage in militancy for their own personal aggrandizement; the latter are patriots who are fighting a just cause and are equally desirous of peace, stability and development of the Niger Delta region for the common good.
“As unfolding events in Nigeria have since revealed, the major challenge of President Buhari’s government lies in its inability to distinguish between NEGOTIATION (emphasis supplied) with criminal elements such as the Avengers, who are sabotaging the nation’s economy and whose demands range from the mundane to the outright ridiculous, on the one hand; and DIALOGUE (emphasis supplied) on the Niger Delta question with a serious-minded group such as MEND, on the other hand.
“The way and manner criminal gangs such as the Avengers hold government to ransom and force concessions; is the same way and manner pressure groups such as PENGASSAN, NUPENG or even the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) oftentimes held government to ransom, regardless of the risks posed by their actions to the national economy and to the lives of ordinary Nigerians. The only difference here is that Avengers ups the ante with their senseless and unprovoked attacks on oil installations. Willy-nilly government must negotiate with them even though their belligerent and bellicose conducts may be inimical to the national interest.
“The government is, therefore, at liberty to negotiate with arm-twisting unions and criminal groups like the Avengers so long as such negotiations were done in the national interest. After all, even in the United States and other Western countries, professional negotiators were often engaged by those governments to negotiate with criminals who may have held innocent citizens hostage; while at the same time, placing snipers on standby to take out the threat to national security whenever the opportunity presented itself.
“MEND is, therefore, not opposed to government’s plan to negotiate with the recalcitrant Avengers through the office of the NSA. However, government must not delude itself into thinking that negotiation with the Avengers was tied to the resolution of the Niger Delta question. Negotiation with NDA is merely a temporary respite, as another opportunistic group is lurking in the shadows. But dialogue and resolution of the Niger Delta question is a sustainable solution for all stakeholders.
“MEND has repeatedly reiterated that the Niger Delta struggle was beyond attacks on oil installations. In fact, destruction of oil and gas pipelines is an elementary course in guerilla warfare which can be carried out by any militant group. MEND, therefore stopped attacks on oil installations more than two years ago when the group unilaterally declared a ceasefire of hostilities on May 30, 2014, against Nigeria’s key economic and strategic interests. Since then, the group had relentlessly sought to engage government in a sincere DIALOGUE (emphasis supplied) on the release of Prisoners of Conscience, including Henry and Charles Okah, as well as addressing the root issues bedevilling the Niger Delta region, without success.
“On January 6, 2015, when MEND realised that former President Goodluck Jonathan – an indigene of the Niger Delta – was not interested in dialogue, on the Niger Delta question, the group endorsed Muhammadu Buhari as its candidate in the 2015 Presidential election; in the earnest belief that President Buhari would sincerely welcome dialogue on the Niger Delta question. MEND, therefore, calls on President Buhari to refrain from being deceived by the recent visit of King Alfred Diette-Spiff to the Presidential Villa under the pretext of a hurriedly formed Niger Delta Dialogue and Contact Group (NDDCG).
“Throughout the 6-year tragic rein of former President Goodluck Jonathan, King Diette-Spiff said or did nothing on record to draw the attention of the former President to the resolution of the Niger Delta question. He and other elders and elites of the region, including Chief Edwin Clark, certain ex- militants, tribal assemblies such as the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) as well as a coterie of so-called Niger Delta activists; embarrassingly kept mute and turned a blind eye during the 6 years of colossal waste, unmitigated corruption, monumental fraud in the unsustainable amnesty programme, environmental decay and neglect, infrastructural stagnation such as the wicked and criminal abandonment of the East-West Road project, among others.
“Regardless of the fact that there is a consensus of opinion that the Federal Government is not sincere about the kind of dialogue advocated by MEND, the group has nevertheless, named an Aaron Team comprised of Henry Odein Ajumogobia, SAN (Rivers) – team leader; Bismark Jemide Rewane (Delta) – awaiting re-confirmation; Senator Florence Ita-Giwa (Cross River); High Chief Government Ekpemupolo (Delta) – awaiting confirmation; Ledum Mitee, Esq. (Rivers); Lawson Omokhodion (Edo); Ibanga Isine (Akwa Ibom); Senator Adolphus Wabara (Abia); Alfred Isename (Edo); and Timipa Jenkins Okponipere, Esq. (Bayelsa) as team secretary.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the MEND Aaron Team shall not dialogue with the NSA given that the office of the NSA lacks executive power; that the root issues surrounding the Niger Delta question are on the exclusive legislative list; and that the proposed dialogue is not an interrogatory session.
“We, therefore, hope that the Federal Government shall reach out to “Aaron Team Leader”, Odein Ajumogobia to signal its intention to commence the dialogue. If after two (2) weeks from the date of publication of this Right of Reply, we don’t hear from the Federal Government, MEND shall safely assume that government is truly not sincere about dialogue on the Niger Delta question and responds only to the threat of violence or industrial action,” it added.
RSG’s Medical Scholarship Producing Quality Health Professionals, Wike Affirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says the medical scholarship offered to Rivers students by his administration was a deliberate policy intended to produce well-trained professionals that would enhance quality healthcare delivery beyond the state.
The governor made the explanation at the 4th Matriculation ceremony of PAMO University of Medical Sciences, Elelenwo in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, last Friday.
Wike stated that in the last three years, 100 Rivers students were awarded scholarship yearly to study medicine and other related courses at PAMO University, which was creating access to education for most indigent students.
He said the state government was impressed with the Founder and Pro-Chancellor of PAMO University, Dr. Peter Odili, for the establishment of the institution that has developed within a very remarkable time to be a centre of excellence in medical education with adequate capacity to produce medical doctors, pharmacists, medical technologists, and other healthcare professionals for the state and the country.
Wike said that such initiative by Odili, and indeed, any Rivers indigene, was worthy of support from the state government.
To this end, he announced additional N500million grant to enable management of the university to put in place the necessary educational infrastructure.
“We have decided to further support the growth and development of this university with yet another grant of N500million only. As we all know; the promise of education is better life just as no healthcare system can be effective without adequate number of qualified and skillful medical doctors and other related professionals, which our state, Nigeria and the world over are in dire need of.
“This was the reason we instituted the special scholarship scheme to cater for not less than 100 indigenous students of this university yearly for five consecutive circle of admissions with effect from the very first set of students.
“This special scholarship programme has covered four admission circles and benefitted 490 Rivers State students who are pursuing various medical courses in this university from inception to date.”
Wike observed that if Odili, a former governor of Rivers State, did not establish PAMO University, all the students that matriculated, last Friday, and others who were already at different levels of their studies, would not have had the chance to pursue their educational dreams due to the admission crisis that continues to plague and frustrate the immediate transition of most youths from secondary to tertiary education.
The governor enjoined all the 490 Rivers State students, who are benefiting from the scholarship and others, to be diligent and committed to hard work in order to achieve academic success.
In his address, the Founder and Pro-Chancellor of PAMO
17, 000 Teachers Write Qualifying
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr Sony Echono, has harped on the need for quality delivery in the education sector.
Echono gave the charge at the 2021 Batch ‘A’ Professional Qualifying Examination for teachers, organised by the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) in Abuja, last Saturday.
The TRCN conducted the examination for 17, 141 candidates in 43 centres across the nation.
He said that the Federal Government, in its effort to ensure an improved education system in the country, had put modalities in place to ensure quality delivery.
He said that one of the modalities was ensuring that teacher sat for the professional qualifying examination before qualifying to teach.
“With time, if you do not have this certification you are not a teacher. You do not have the right to practice.
“We have commenced the process of enforcing and implementing the policy that only qualified teachers would be allowed to teach in our schools across the country.
“We are starting with all the government schools then we move to private schools.
“Right now we are discussing with state governments and school proprietors to ensure this is done.
“This is because the single largest investment one can make for the future generation is ensuring that they get quality education,” he said.
He said that the introduction of technology in the sector, particularly in the writing of the teachers’ qualifying examination had ensured an improved process.
The permanent secretary stressed that, “this year there is additional innovation in terms of Information Technology (IT).
“We now have an application where even the process of verification of identity is done electronically.
“Our ultimate goal in education is to collaborate with relevant agencies.
“We have been doing this with the Ministry of Communication and other agencies that require data.
“We want a situation where from the point where a child registers in any primary school in this country up to death, you have your record.
“You can update it but you will not change your identity,” he said
He added that the database of all qualified teachers had been compiled as part of efforts to ensure only qualified teachers were allowed to teach.
According to him, there are qualified teachers that are not employed across the country, adding that no state had an excuse to keep unqualified teachers in their schools in view of that.
Echono assured teachers of the government’s commitment to ensuring better welfare for them.
He said, “One thing the Federal Government has done is to approve a new welfare package for teachers and this has been encouraging.
“People now want to return to teaching because the remuneration will be higher than the civil service scale and tenure longer than what the civil servant has.
“We have commenced the implementation of this.
“We are working closely with the Head of Service and the Salaries and Wages Commission in computing rural allowances, science allowances, hazard allowances and all of that.
“This is to ensure that teachers get their reward on earth and not in the hereafter.
“We are also working out modalities to ensure that teachers with special needs get required facilities to teach effectively.”
The Acting Director, Certification and Licencing, Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Dr Jacinta Ametepe Ogboso, said the process was seamless across the centres nationwide.
She said that TRCN conducted the examination for 17, 141 candidates in 43 centres across the nation.
She added that of the 17,141, about 1, 300 candidates wrote the examination in Abuja.
“The examination went smoothly from all the centres, thanks to the use of technology.
“The technology is helping with accreditation online, helping with crowd control and impersonation.
“In terms of the number of registered candidates and performance, there is much improvement.
“It is a Computer Based Test (CBT) and when it was introduced there were challenges but today there is much improvement,” she said.
The acting director disclosed that the professional qualifying examination was always conducted in two or three batches, adding that the next batch would likely be in October.
Narrative Of Unsafe N’Delta, A Conspiracy Theory, Wike Alleges
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has accused international oil companies (IOCs) of being part to a conspiracy theory that the Niger Delta was unsafe in order not to relocate their corporate headquarters to the region.
The governor observed that so long as this kind of negative narrative geared at perpetuating injustice was not addressed, the country’s corporate existence and stability would continue to be threatened.
Wike made these assertions at the official commissioning of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) corporate headquarters, sitting on 126,060 square meters of land, in Port Harcourt, the River State capital, last Wednesday.
The NLNG head office is located at Amadi-Ama, on Peter Odili Road.
Wike noted that for several years, multinational oil companies and some vested interest groups have been promoting the negative narrative that Niger Delta was not safe to legitimise their sheer refusal to relocate their corporate head office to the region.
“If Rivers State is not safe, why will NLGN be operating in Rivers State, and have its headquarters in Rivers State? So, those proponents of insecurity, please, try to have a second thought. This state is safe. If the state is not safe, you cannot construct this edifice”, the governor said.
Wike commended the NLNG management for taking a bold step towards strengthening its relationship with the people of Rivers State.
He stated that NLNG’s presence in Port Harcourt City spoke volumes of the company’s respect for Rivers State people, adding that the decision by the company to construct its head office in the state showed that Rivers State was safe for business.
“I am here because NLNG has shown a lot of commitment and support for the host communities and the state. The company has done well and has set an example for other companies to emulate.
“I am happy with what the company has done for the host communities during the construction of the building. That is what is expected. It has a very good relationship with its hosts in Bonny, and in other parts of the state, and I believe it will continue to enjoy a hitch-free business in the state,” Wike said.
The governor said it was morally offensive for oil companies to continue to exploit oil and gas in the Niger Delta and locate their headquarters elsewhere in the country.
According to him, the claim that the Niger Delta was unsafe is not tenable.
“Understand that this conspiracy theory against the Niger Delta is a temporary thing. I can assure you, one day; everybody will come back to their operating base. Nobody can change it.”
Wike challenged the multinational companies to prove if Lagos and Abuja don’t have security issues as the rest of the country, today.
He maintained that the idea of flying in oil workers from Lagos to work in the Niger Delta, and then, fly them back, was detrimental to the nation’s economic wellbeing.
The governor commended NLNG for showing the right example by relocating its corporate headquarters to Rivers State, which is its operational base, and assured the management that the state government would continue to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
Wike further thanked the company for funding the 40kilometers Bonny-Bodo Road project of which the Federal Government was expected to provide counterpart funding.
He said that it was unfair for the Federal Executive Council to approve over N780billion for the Abuja-Kano Highway, but refuse to provide counterpart funding of just N60billion for the Bonny-Bodo Road project.
“There is so much injustice in the country, and if you don’t correct it, there will continue to be problems. Injustice brings insecurity, whether you like it or not. When a people feel they are not part of the sharing of our national cake, what do you want them to do?”, Wike asked.
In his remarks, the Managing Director of NLNG, Tony Attah, said the iconic edifice was intended to convey the company’s bold presence in Port Harcourt and the Niger Delta region.
According to Attah, the building and commissioning of the corporate head office, was in line with its vision of being a global LNG company, helping to build a better Nigeria.
He stated further that the corporate head office has made the company more visible, adding that the office was an unequivocal statement that NLNG remains a committed partner to the people of Rivers State in the sustainable development of the state.
“Nigeria LNG’s resolve to relocate its corporate head office from Lagos, where it was established from inception of its operation was a well thought-out decision that, among other things, demonstrates our strong bond of friendship with Port Harcourt and Rivers State, even as we reinforce our commitment to stand tall as a Nigerian brand in the global marketplace.
By this action, we also attest that Rivers State is not just the ‘Treasure Base of the Nation’ but the home of uncommon hospitality, which we have come to enjoy and reciprocate at every opportunity.
“Beyond building a head office for our business, the beautification of this once remote locality was also in our hearts when we started this project. Earlier in August, 2018, we had opened a part of this complex – an ultra-modern Transit Lounge – to enable a smooth and comfortable sail between our operating base on Bonny Island and the state capital.
“The construction of the facility was actually our first major step at transforming the shoreline, and since then, we have intensified our usual efforts at making the creek a viable waterway for meaningful human activities. Today, we can pride ourselves, even if modestly, as a beacon of modernity in this axis of Port Harcourt. But equally important, we hope that our presence will trigger positive developments in real estate and ancillary businesses in the area.
“The commissioning of this complex is coming at such an auspicious time in the life of Nigeria LNG, a time when we have astutely proven our self as an excellent and reliable player in the global LNG market, with 20 years record and still counting. Our doggedness towards achieving even more success in both the international market and the domestic energy sector has prompted the commencement of our Train 7 project, which has been avidly socialized among all critical stakeholders,” he said.
He stated that one of the signs of the company’s commitment to the people of Rivers State in the sustainable development of the state is the N120billion Bonny-Bodo Road, which NLNG was partly funding.
Attah added that some progress has been achieved in one of the most significant CSR initiatives by any single entity in the country, and that the 40-kilometre road would boost economic activities and ultimately better the lives of thousands of Nigerians in Rivers State.
He expressed delight that the company was driving Nigeria’s gas revolution and investing huge resources in human capacity development in its host communities.
Also speaking, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva; thanked the NLNG for playing a very crucial role in the country’s gas expansion project.
According to him, for decades, the NLNG has demonstrated commitment to the country’s aspiration to be a leading gas producer in the world.
Former managing director of NLNG, Chima Ibeneche, said he initiated the move to relocate the NLNG corporate headquarters from Lagos to Port Harcourt because it was just the right thing to do.
As part of the commissioning, the governor was led on a tour immediately after the ribbon-cutting by the Chairman of NLNG’s Board of Directors, Dr Edmund Daukoru; together with the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Engr. Tony Attah; Deputy Managing Director, Engr. Sadeeq Mai-Bornu; and other members of the company’s Senior Management Team.
The head office is a four-storey complex with cluster buildings occupying 76,000 square metres of land, and equipped with one board room, 121 office spaces, 51 meeting and huddle rooms, smart and ergonomic workstations, a library, a press centre and a crèche.
Other features of the office include a transit lounge for the company’s jetty, warehouse, a dedicated fire station, gym, two banking halls, an ATM gallery, and ample green area.
The governor had in 2015 flagged-off the construction of the building at its ground-breaking ceremony.
NLNG is owned by four shareholders; namely, the Federal Government of Nigeria, represented by Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (49%); Shell Gas B.V. (25.6%); Total Gaz Electricite Holdings France (15%); and Eni International N.A. N. V. S.àr. l (10.4%).
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