The former military Governor of Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Umar (retd), has tackled President Muhammadu Buhari on a very sensitive national issue charging him to tread the path of caution to avoid a political crisis and another armed conflict in Nigeria.
The former military governor warned that the planned treatment of Niger Delta militants particularly the Niger Delta Avengers like Boko Haram terrorists or the planned use of force against the militants was not the best option and added that it will never resolve the problem it is meant to resolve.
Umar argued that the militants unlike Boko Haram are not terrorists who have killed no fewer than 20,000 Nigerians and could , therefore , not be labelled as terrorists warning that bombing the militants will spark off a collateral damage.
In a statement credited to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media Affairs, Mallam Garba Shehu, in Nairobi, Kenya, President Buhari was quoted to have said that he would treat Niger Delta agitators the same way he dealt with Boko Haram if they failed to negotiate. But the former governor in a statement entitled, ‘War in the Niger Delta: A most dangerous option,’ argued that the militants could not be treated like Boko Haram insurgents that had killed over 20,000 Nigerians in the North-Eastern part of the country.
Umar said, “I am really frightened by the sudden escalation in the Niger Delta Region from where there are some reports of skirmishes between our security forces and the Niger Delta militants. “This is happening after the President was quoted as vowing to deal with the militants as he did to Boko Haram. “All factors considered, the use of military force in an attempt to resolve the lingering crisis is not a good option and must therefore be discarded. “As a retired general, Mr. President is well aware of the serious and daunting challenges any military will face in its operations in the most difficult and densely populated Niger Delta region. “The creeks are so heavily polluted with oil, rendering them highly inflammable.
It will take the firing of a few high explosive shells to set the whole area on fire, resulting in the inestimable collateral damage among innocent civilians. “It is also difficult to see how an armed conflict can secure our oil and gas assets in the region. Instead, it will aid the destructive activities of the militants and lead to the total shutdown of all oil and gas operations in the area.” The ex-governor stated that, “Besides, the Niger Delta militants cannot be said to be terrorists in the real sense of the word.
I believe they are amenable to meaningful dialogue. “I need not to remind the President that a war in the Niger Delta will be opposed by most objective Nigerians and the international community as unjust and merely aimed at the control and exploitation of the region’s oil and gas resources. “I therefore beseech you, Mr. President, in the name of all that is good, to continue to explore peaceful means of resolving the Niger Delta crisis as painful as you may find this. May God direct and guide you on the path of justice.”
Meanwhile, Some Niger Delta groups including the Ijaw Youth Congress and the youth wing of the Urhobo Progress Union (Ighelle r’ Urhobo), have faulted the statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari that he would treat militants like the Boko Haram sect if they failed to embrace dialogue.
The National President of Ighelle r’Urhobo, Mr. Ovie Igho, who spoke with one of our correspondents on Sunday in Warri, described the statement as anti-peace, adding that it could jeopardise the peace process being championed by the leaders in the region.
A statement credited to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media Affairs, Mr. Garba Shehu, in Nairobi, Kenya, quoted Buhari while discussing with the Japanese leader as saying that he would treat Niger Delta agitators the same way he dealt with Boko Haram if they failed to negotiate.
But the Urhobo youth leader said, “If the President at this stage is threatening to use military might when leaders in the region are already appeasing the youths and they had agreed for a dialogue, such statement is condemnable. We will resist such threat from Buhari because we own this country together.
“What the President said runs contrary to what the Petroleum minister told us on Friday when he visited Chief Edwin Clark that the Federal Government was looking beyond a ceasefire. This kind of statement should not be coming from a President who desires a lasting peace in a region that feeds the entire country.”
Igho stressed that it was also important for Buhari to reel out similar threat to Fulani herdsmen who were alleged to be killing people across the country.
Also, the IYC described the statement as unfortunate, adding that the President antagonistic posture contributed to the renewed militancy in the region.
IYC in a statement issued by its spokesman, Eric Omare, the group said the Federal Government had made up its mind to use force against the people knowing that the militants who were destroying oil facilities were not residing in a particular community.