September 19, 2008

Military Won’t Be Intimidated in N’Delta

The Nigerian Armed Forces will not be intimidated by militants operating in the Niger Delta to abdicate its responsibility to defend the country, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshall Paul Dike, has said.
Dike said the military was committed to its constitutional duty of defending the territorial integrity of the country, particularly in the Niger Delta, “and nobody can intimidate the military forces into abdicating that responsibility.”
The CDS made the remarks yesterday while on a working visit to the headquarters of the Joint (military) Task Force (JTF) in Warri, Delta State.
He was accompanied on the visit by military top brass which included the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Adbulra-hman Bello Danbazau.
Also yesterday, former Delta State Governor James Ibori sued for peace over the escalation of hostilities in the Niger Delta
He said: “If there is a season for everything under the sun as the Bible says, there being a time for war and a time for peace, then this is the time for cessation of hostilities in the entire Niger Delta.”
Militants operating in the Niger Delta have declared an all out war, attacking and destroying oil facilities.
In the offensive launched last weekend, two flow stations in Rivers State believed to be operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and Agip were attacked, leaving the militants and men of the JTF to trade accusations over the attacks.
The attacks on the oil facilities, which have allegedly resulted in more oil shut-ins were carried out as Dike visited military installations in Rivers State to assess the security situation.
Dike, who reaffirmed the position of the armed forces, however, admonished all military personnel to adhere to their professional disciplinary norms in order to effectively deliver on their constitutional obligation.
In a subtle but firm response to the reported threat of “full-scale war” on the country’s security personnel in the area by militants, the CDS stressed that the military would continue to work for the restoration of peace in the area.
He also charged the officers and men to respect the people especially the civilian population in their area of national service, but avoid any act that could tarnish the image of the armed forces.
He, however, expressed satisfaction with the level of performance by the JTF personnel, saying the on-the-spot assessment of the troops’ battle-readiness was the primary reason for his visit.
In his statement last night, Ibori said: “Having heard the anguished cry of the people of the South-South, President Umaru Yar’Adua is determined to end the suffering of the people, and has therefore approved a large scale intervention in the form of the Niger Delta Ministry to reverse the decades old under-development which the area has suffered.
“So, what is called for now is discussion over the activities and funding of the ministry and how best to make it meet the aspirations of the people. Owing to this, I call on all persons of goodwill to join in this peace effort. Hostilities must cease to give the development process the Federal Government has put in place now the chance to succeed.
“War is like malignant cancer; it usually spreads uncontrollably to other areas. Therefore both sides must listen to the voice of wisdom and stop the conflagration - now.”
Ibori called on the angry youths of the Niger Delta to have faith in the President and his new initiative.
According to him, “The Niger Delta and Nigeria need their energy re-channelled into really productive ventures. The educated among them should be encouraged to contribute their talents to the needed battle of speeding Nigeria and Africa on the part of swift development and global respect, and themselves towards personal fulfilment and glory. “The uneducated must face intellectual and skill acquisition to enable them compete in the national and global space.
“Fortunately, the focus of the new ministry is two-pronged. While one corrects the abysmal lack of infrastructure in the area, the other faces the task of upgrading the intellectual and talent pool of the area.”
According to Ibori, the youths of the area must take advantage of this by ending the hostilities; emerge from their camps and exploit the opportunities that now beckon.
To the militants, he said: “You have made your point. The whole world now knows that your grievances are genuine, and for the first time, the Federal Government is truly addressing them. In every journey, there is always a place to stop. Your predecessor in arms, the late Major Isaac Adaka Boro realised this, came out from the bush, and reintegrated himself into the society – after leading the first Niger Delta uprising in the 1960s. You too must do like-wise.”
In Port Harcourt yesterday, Dike also expressed satisfaction with the performance of JTF, though he said there might be some areas needing improvements.
The CDS thanked Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi for providing a conducive environment for their men to operate in addition to helping out with some logistics.
He called for further cooperation between the state and the armed forces, pointing out that such cooperation had existed right from the time of the civil war.
Responding, Amaechi pleaded with Dike to do everything possible to improve on the present security situation in the state.
He regretted that those he called criminals masquerading as freedom fighters had unleashed terror on the state, but expressed happiness that JTF was working to restore normalcy.
In Bayelsa, the state Governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, asked the Federal Government to urgently consider the establishment of a military command in the state.
Sylva made the call when Dike and Dambazau paid him a courtesy visit at the Government House, Yenagoa.
He said the call became imperative due to the strategic position of Bayelsa as a border state and one of the highest producers of oil, the mainstay of the nation’s economy.

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