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BREAKING: Tension As MEND Releases Statement Denouncing Niger Delta Avengers

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A first-generation Niger Delta militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, has weighed into the renewed restiveness in the oil-rich region of southern Nigeria.

In a statement, which resurrects its famous spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, MEND criticised the new militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers, waging a campaign against oil production in Nigeria and warned “communities harbouring” members of the Niger Delta Avengers to immediately stop collaborating with the militants.

MEND warned the communities to realise that they are not protected by “the extant principles of international and or municipal law during a conflict” and said that the Avengers attacks on pipelines were “unprovoked”.

The group commended President Muhammadu Buhari, whom it endorsed in the 2015 elections, for taking a first step to cleaning up the devastated Ogoniland and slammed  former President Goodluck Jonathan saying even though he is from the Niger Delta, his six years in office did not benefit Ogoni.

This statement, released on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 comes a day after Nigeria’s minister of state for petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu announced that the federal government had set up a committee to negotiate with the Niger Delta militants.

“The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) notes with grave concern the recent renewed spate of unprovoked and persistent attacks on Nigeria’s oil installations by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA),” Gbomo said.

“What are 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.

“However, we hereby remind our communities, which harbour criminals such as members of the NDA that their communities are not protected by the extant principles of international and/or municipal law during a conflict.”

The MEND Factor

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, is believed to be a defunct guerrilla militant group and one of the largest of the groups which waged a campaign against oil production in the Niger Delta region that successfully crippled the nation’s economy from 2005 till 2009.

Some of the leaders of MEND were Henry Okah, who is currently serving a 24-year jail term for the October 1, 2010 bombing in Abuja; Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo who is in a running battle with the Buhari government and has called on the Avengers to embrace dialogue with the federal government;  Ateke Tom, whose Niger Delta Vigilante merged with MEND; and Ebikabowei Victor Ben, also known as Boyloaf who recently named Tompolo as the sponsor of the Niger Delta Avengers.

At the height of the war, the late President Musa Yar’Adua declared Tompolo as the most wanted man in Nigeria. The Niger Delta restiveness only ended when the late President Musa Yar’Adua successfully negotiated a cease-fire and launched the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme in 2009.

Leaders of MEND took the presidential amnesty and ended the conflict.

Who are the Niger Delta Avengers

Niger Delta Avengers is a new militancy group that is operating in the oil-rich region of Southern Nigeria.

The militants say they are waging a war for a free Niger Delta Republic in what it tags, Operation Red Economy, with a view of halting crude oil production in Nigeria to force the government to grant the group’s demands.

The Avengers claim it has reduced oil production in the country to less than one million barrels a day. An analyst at VOA News corroborates the militants’ claims saying that oil production has dropped below one million barrels a day due to the waves of attacks on pipelines and oil installations.

The militant group has released its rules of engagement and says that it doesn’t kill anybody or attack oil workers or soldiers. The Delta Avengers called on all other groups operating in the region to abide by these rules of engagement. “We need God now, more than ever,” the group said in a statement.

The Niger Delta Avengers has presented an 11-point demand to President Muhammadu Buhari and the first is the implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference. [Download Conference report HERE.]

Pro-Biafra secessionist group, Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, has pledged “total allegiance” to the Niger Delta Avengers extolling the militant group for supporting the cause of a free Biafra. MASSOB embraces the tenets of nonviolence. It is led by Ralph Uwazuruike, a lawyer.

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