The Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, has taken a swipe at the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) over the latter’s diatribe on his recent televised interview conducted by an independent outfit, ’60 Minutes With Angela.’
The group on Friday, 23rd May, 2014 issued a statement criticizing Kuku’s comments in the interview on Boko Haram’s insurgency in the northeast and the role of some individuals in the Niger Delta agitation prior to the Federal Government’s offer of amnesty to former militants as a way of ending the restiveness in the region.
Kuku, who is also chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), spoke to journalists in Abuja, alongside a Niger Delta leader, Elder Timi Ogoriba.
He wondered when MEND became Boko Haram’s mouthpiece as to know the real reason the terrorist’s group spurned the government’s offer for dialogue.
“MEND wants to create panic and fan the embers of disunity not only in the Niger Delta but also in the country. Has it now become the mouthpiece of Boko Haram or is it trying to please its paymasters? Whose interest is the new MEND claiming to serve or has it abdicated its self-appointed role of defending the Niger Delta?
“I have no apologies to offer MEND for my comments on Boko Haram and the commendable and patriotic role of the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, since the Chibok schoolgirls’ abduction saga commenced. If it angers MEND, then I wonder whose interest they are fighting for,” he said.
The Presidential Adviser particularly upbraided the shadowy militant group for trying to write a negative and skewed history of the Niger Delta agitation in order to discredit some individuals, particularly President Goodluck Jonathan, Chief Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo) and Mujahid Dokubo-Asari.
“Some of us who played significant roles in ending the agitation in the Niger Delta cannot be silent when some persons try to foist a skewed history of the crisis on us. The persons that claim to be behind MEND are in no position to write the history of the Niger Delta agitation. I challenge whoever is claiming to be MEND now to controvert the fact that President Goodluck Jonathan, at the time he was Vice President, played a significant role in ending the insurgency in the Niger Delta.
“Where were those behind MEND now when our late beloved President Umaru Yar’Adua, who because of his concern for the peace of the region, sought to end the conflict and destruction of oil facilities, the kidnapping of expatriates on the Niger Delta waterways and the proliferation of arms, then dispatched his Vice, Dr. Jonathan, to Tompolo’s Camp 5 in Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State?”
Kuku said in furtherance of this, Dr. Jonathan on June 28, 2007 held a meeting with Tompolo at Okerenkoko, after which he (Tompolo) was invited to Abuja. But rather than Tompolo going alone, he called a meeting of Ijaw leaders and stakeholders, who converged on Gbaramatu. A 10-man team was then put together to dialogue with the Federal Government on the way forward.
“The government accepted the initiative and the following persons on behalf of the Ijaw nation went to Abuja, namely Ogoriba, who led the team, Isaac Osuoka, Kime Engozu, Patrick Akpobolokemi, Oboko Bello, Oyinfie Jonjon, Dr. Chris Ekiyor, Dan Ekpebide, Opaks Harry and Elfrida Olungwe.
“Among other demands of the team were the declaration of development emergency in the Niger Delta; rebuilding of communities destroyed by the military; the visit of President Yar’Adua to the Niger Delta to see things for himself; the unconditional release from detention of the former Bayelsa Governor, Dr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and Mujahid Dokubo-Asari as well as amnesty for all those detained as a result of the Niger Delta agitation.”
Kuku described Dokubo-Asari as the leader of the modern-day Niger Delta struggle, whose incarceration brought a new dimension to the agitation as those who hitherto were under him became leaders on their own.
He also paid tribute to the former Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, for his role in ensuring the quick disarmament of ex-militant leaders in the state such as Boyloaf, Joshua McIver, Africa, Ogunbos and others.
Kuku, who was at the time secretary of the Senator David Brigidi-led Presidential Committee on Niger Delta, further disclosed that on July 10, 2007, the delegation first met with the government team comprising Chief Mike Oghiadomhe, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, Alhaji Ahmed Yayale, Gen. Godwin Abe, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke as well as Engr. Wills Numipre.
“The government team equally gave some conditions before the demands of the Ijaw nation delegation will be looked into. These included the release of all hostages, stoppage of kidnapping, ceasefire by the militants as well as free movement on the Niger Delta waterways.
“I, as the then secretary of the Presidential Committee on Niger Delta, was part of the team that put together the template for the amnesty programme. Others were Ogoriba, Selekaye Victor-Ben and Richard Akinaka. I challenge anyone in MEND to controvert these facts.
“Those who accepted amnesty are now free and no longer under the manipulation of just one individual, who is still claiming to be MEND leader when he is not and never was,” Kuku asserted.
Elder Ogoriba, who led the Ijaw nation dialogue team, corroborated Kuku.
He said the government, having been satisfied with the work of the 10-man committee towards resolving the crisis, on August 24, 2007 constituted an enlarged FGN/Ijaw Representatives Joint Committee on Roadmap to Peace with the mandate to examine the conditions for dialogue and peace in the Niger Delta.
According to Ogoriba, the committee went to work and on March 13, 2008 Dr. Jonathan was present at its meeting at the Bolingo Hotel in Abuja when it completed its assignment.
“One of the key recommendations of the committee was the granting of amnesty to repentant militants in the Niger Delta. Unfortunately, some hawks in the Yar’Adua government did not want the committee’s report to see the light of day and this resulted in the ill-advised attack on Gbaramatu Kingdom by the military on May 13, 2009 in which some soldiers lost their lives. President Yar’Adua, who was not pleased with the outcome of the attack on Gbaramatu, then decided to offer amnesty to the militants, which he proclaimed on June 25, 2009,” Ogoriba stated.
He said in the bid to frustrate the work of the committee, those hawks attempted to use some elements in MEND to hijack the peace process.
“This was what led to the so-called Aaron Team of MEND, which was actually not acceptable to all the key leaders in the group. The Aaron Team idea was promoted by one of the major backers of MEND for his selfish business and pecuniary interest. He was not a militant leader.
“So, those claiming to be MEND now cannot take the credit for the committee’s work and the roles played by President Jonathan, Tompolo, Sylva and several other key leaders, which ensured that Yar’Adua granted amnesty to the militants and paved the way for the tremendous peace we enjoy in the Niger Delta today,” Ogoriba said.