FG, Militants Seal Agreement

There were strong indications last night that four oil workers in the Niger Delta taken hostage about two weeks ago, by a group called Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), would be released to the Bayelsa Government.
Security sources told THISDAY last night that the militants had indicated their intention to release the hostages to a Non-governmental Organisa-tion (NGO) person and government had dispatched Mr. Ledun Mitee, who is the President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), as emmissary.
THISDAY sources disclosed further that the Bayesla State government whose negotiators had also met with the militants had to meet “other monetary conditions” which were not specified.
An e-mail massage received yesterday (Sunday) from the militants read: “On behalf of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and after due deliberations facilitated by the Ijaw Institute of Strategic Studies (Ijaw ISS) and with the supreme consent and guidance of the Supreme Leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, I Cynthia Whyte, hereby announce that the four hostages will be released any time in the next few hours (Sunday) to the Government of Bayelsa State.”
The statement did not, however, indicate the time the hostages would be released, though by the time of filing in this report last night, the victims were yet to be released.
Whyte continued: �It is our hope that the international community has known by now the grievousness of the Niger Delta question. It is also our belief that those who have chosen to partner with the evil hegemony that lords over the Nigerian state will now recognise the need to give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar.
�Our decision to release the hostages is founded very strongly on humanitarian grounds and bolstered by the brilliance and leadership of key Ijaw stakeholders such as our esteemed and patriotic leader, Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, and the Ijaw ISS.
�Let us state categorically that this decision is not driven by cowardice. Any inclination by the Nigerian state to fall to such beliefs would be visited by the anger of our ancestors. We are capable and able to bring to nought, the dubious exploitation that have been visited on our lands and its resources for the past forty years without just recompense.
�The treachery that has been unleashed on the people of the Niger Delta must be condemned by all henceforth. Those that have collaborated with the dubious Nigerian state to harvest our oil must realise that they are also harvesting the blood of our people.
�We urge all imperialist collaborators and partners in this carnival of despotism to henceforth adopt new ways of working. There is a new consciousness in the Niger Delta and strategic militancy has found a place in our hearts. We will stop at nothing to drive home our demands. A word has always been good enough for the wise.”
Similarly, a message purportedly written by the Leader of the Niger Delta People Volunteer Service (NDPVS), Dokubo-Asari also read: “I, Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, Head of the Central Working Committee of the Niger Delta People’s Salvation Front & Leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force wish to extend fraternal greetings to my comrades and fellow compatriots in the struggle for the liberation, emancipation and freedom of the Ijaw and Niger Delta people.
�After due consultations through my wife, Barrister Inye Dokubo-Asari, Cynthia Whyte and Mama Luta with the leadership and command structure of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), MEND has agreed to release the four hostages [Patrick Landry-USA, Nigel Watson-Clark-Britain, Harry Ebanks – Honduras, Pat Crawley – Bulgarian on humanitarian grounds as an offer of goodwill to the people of the world and all men and women of goodwill.
�We the Ijaw and Niger Delta people want to remind the people of the world that Great Britain has facilitated the illegal, criminal and inhuman occupation and exploitation of our lands for 112 years. During this period, all sorts of crimes have been committed against us. Depopulation of our towns, villages and settlements such as Odi, Odioma, Umuchem, Ogbia and Ekiye.
“The destruction of our fragile environment, the spread of diseases such as AIDS, the destruction of our cultural and moral values and most of all, the criminal detention and murder of our leaders; Isaac Boro, Ken Saro-Wiwa and Pa Alfred Rewane. We appeal to the people of the world to act now before it is too late. Let us not be on another road to Baghdad. We must act now.
�To my comrades and compatriots, I thank them for this great and inestimable honor done me. I will ever live to cherish the memory of this great day. God is on our side.”
Meanwhile, senior oil workers will hold an emergency session this week to decide on their continued stay in the violence-prone Niger Delta region, following series of attacks on oil companies and threats to lives of workers in the area in the last few weeks.
THISDAY checks reveal that the workers under the umbrella of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), along with their junior counterparts in the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) have become hedgy after series of negotiations failed to secure the release of the four kidnapped foreign oil workers.
It was gathered that already, the oil companies had intensified the pruning of their workforce in the oil fields scattered across the Niger Delta, preferring to maintain strictly essential staff.
“The PENGASSAN Secre-tariat will call a NEC (National Executive Council) meeting this week to deliberate on whether to withdraw our members from the Niger Delta,” a spokesman for the union said.
“We have been monitoring the situation in the Niger Delta through our members and the reports we are getting are not comfortable,” he said.
PENGASSAN along with the umbrella group for junior oil workers, NUPENG, two weeks ago threatened to call off their members if the Federal Government did not immediately check the spate of violence in the Niger Delta.
Should the unions carry out their threat, this may impact seriously on oil production and consequently, Nigeria�s foreign exchange revenue, which forms the bulk of the nation�s income.
NUPENG President, Comrade Peter Akpatason, told THISDAY last night that the unions, had joined in seeking resolution of the crisis through discussions with the communities, but, added that the ultimate resolution of the matter laid with the Federal Government.
�We know that the oil companies have scaled down their operations, to only essential services. We are, however, hoping that the Federal Government will resolve the crisis before it gets out of hand,� said Akpatason.
Since the unions first served the notice, the siege on oil companies is yet to abate. While Nigeria has continued to lose a total of 221,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil production, armed men were reported to have stormed the headquarters of a South Korean oil services company, Daewoo Engineering in Port Harcourt, Saturday, stealing more than N40 million.
The attack came barely five days after gunmen unleashed violence on the operational base of Italian oil firm, Nigerian Agip Oil Company in Port Harcourt, killing eight policemen, although the oil firm said it was an armed robbery incident.
Meanwhile, elders and people of Okerenkoko community in Warri, Delta State have appealed to President Olusegun Obasanjo not to send soldiers to invade their community, saying that neither the victims nor the captors of the four expatriate oil workers kidnapped a month ago were in their community.
Also, the Izon Ke Ebi Ogbo, a non-governmental organisation of the Conference of Ijaw Clubs and Associations in Nigeria and Diaspora, has appealed for the immediate release of the captives in the interest of the Ijaw nation and people.
The Elders Council of the Okerenkoko Community (OC), in a statement made available to THISDAY in Warri at the weekend and signed by Pa Aramisi Sokoto, chairman; Pa Moses German, secretary and Pa Dominic Ejeleba, member, said they were disturbed by reports which identified their community as harbouring the kidnappers and the hostages.
They lamented that such a report was capable of inciting the government to draft soldiers against defenseless people in the community who know nothing about the kidnap or attack.
“Okerenkoko�s undoing is the fact that during the height of the Warri crisis, the community became renowned in the struggle against undemocratic apartheid rule in Warri South West Local Government Area and indeed the entire Warri territory”.
They stressed that while the community had no apologies to give for its no-violence stance in that struggle, adding that the kidnapping was not done by their people as that was never in their character.
According to them, it was because of Okerenkoko emergence as the symbol of Ijaw resistance at the height of the Warri crisis that “security operatives who were used as tools by our enemies and government against our legitimate aspiration covertly declared Okerenkoko as Nigerian�s most wanted community”.
They said that the reason why they were appealing against the invasion by the military was because the community had been completely destroyed by a naval force, which invaded the community in 2002, while in 2003, sporadic shootings by the military into the community left several persons dead and a number of homes burnt.
Meanwhile, the Izon Ke Ebi Ogbo has appealed to the captors of the oil workers to release them immediately without harm.
The group in a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Dr. Timiebi Koripamo; General Secretary, Manigar Seigha, and Publicity Secretary, Presidor Ghomorai, said even though there is no proof that the captors of the expatriates were Ijaw, they had come out to appeal for their release because the act took place in an Ijaw territory.
The group said it was disturbed because the Federal Government might order an attack by the military on defenseless Ijaw people and communities who knew nothing about the kidnap.
According to them, the wounds of the attack and killings at Odi is yet to heal and the Ijaw nation cannot afford another such pain.
“We join other concerned Ijaw citizens to graciously appeal to our young men who have kidnapped these foreigners to please release them in the name of God, the Creator of the Ijaw nation.
This appeal in equal terms goes to the Federal Government of Nigeria in whose territory the kidnap has taken place, not to use force or similar method in the process of their release,� the group appealed.

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