Membership of negotiating team tears Avengers apart

Chidi Samuel

The enormity of the challenge confronting those entrusted with the responsibilityof brokering the much need peace and de-escalation of violence in the troubled  Niger Delta region came to the fore on Sunday as two militant groups claiming to represent the Avengers issued conflicting statements on the membership of the team that will represent them in the proposed negotiation with the federal government.

In a statement earlier in the day, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka and a former Governor of Abia, Dr. Orji Uzo Kalu, were listed among a seven-man team to lead the negotiation between the Niger Delta Avengers and the Federal Government.

They are to be joined by Prof. Steve Odi-Owei, Etubom (Dr.) Anthony Ani, Nalaguo Chris Alagoa, Chief (Mrs.) Alice Mobolaji  Osomo, and Mr. Inienimi Ballantyne Agiri, the interim spokesman for the group. According to the statement issued by Agiri, they are expected to negotiate for and on behalf of the central and eastern faction of the militant group.

However, a few hours after Agiri’s statement, the Niger Delta Avengers  refuted the claim. In statement by  Mudoch Agbinibo, the groups spokesman,  the Avengers described the claim as the work of mischief makers, keen to derail the group’s struggle.

The group said the claim “by enemies of the Niger Delta” might be because of Soyinka’s “belief that the government of the day should understand the need to restructure and listen to the Niger Delta agitation positively.

“That we, the NDA, have named Prof. Wole Soyinka and some incredible names to advise and lead any group is the Lie of The Century,” it said.

“Putting the records straight; the name/names parading as factions of the Niger Delta Avengers are just the figment of some persons protecting their jobs and hell bent on derailing the wheel of progress in the history of Nigeria and the Niger Delta agitation”, it added.

The militant group declared: “Our strike teams and command structures have not at anytime contacted these Nigerians at any time to advise or lead any contact with the government of Muhammadu Buhari on the Niger Delta agitation.

“We have shown our respect and restraints to personalities that have been too fixated to impress Abuja in the name of the Niger Delta struggle since the beginning of “Operation Red Economy ” ignorantly or willingly.

“We are not unaware of the creations of the Nigerian Intelligentsia community and security apparatus to sustain the Niger Delta struggle to bloat their pocket and credibility.”

It, however, said that the group supported the Chief Edwin Clark-led Niger Delta Elders and Stakeholders Conference committee to lead a Pan-Niger Delta Negotiations/Dialogue Team whenever the Federal Government was ready.

With the apparent confusion and distrust within the Niger Delta Avengers, the commencement of military operation by the army in the region and the threat by President Buhari to the militants to negotiate or be treated like the Boko Haram terror group in the North East, there seem to be no peaceful and  quick end to the crisis.