FG set to meet some conditions given by MEND militants

THE Federal Government has reportedly accepted to meet some of the conditions given by the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger-Delta (MEND) for the release of the remaining three hostages: Coydy Oswalt and Ruspal Spell, both Americans and John Hudsptich, Briton. But it was not confirmed, yesterday, which of the conditions President Olusegun Obasanjo was willing to comply with.

President of the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), Chief Bello Oboko who the militants handed over five of the six hostages to, Wednesday, and gave a power of attorney to present and discuss their conditions with President Obasanjo told Saturday Vanguard in Warri that he had received signals that the federal government was now ready to meet the conditions for dialogue with the Ijaw.

Chief Oboko who handed over the March 1 letter containing the demands and conditions of the militants, addressed to President Obasanjo to the Delta state governor, Chief James Ibori while surrendering the hostages to the governor, Wednesday night, at the Governor�s lodge in Warri revealed that the militants as at yesterday, were waiting for clarification on the conditions the federal government was complying or not complying with before deciding whether to free the hostages or not.

He revealed that information reaching him indicated that the federal government was going to set up a negotiation team, adding that as soon as that is confirmed, the Ijaw would set up their own negotiation team and appeal to the militants to release the remaining hostages.

Meantime, efforts by the Delta state government to get the militants to release the aforesaid hostages without the conditions for release being met by the federal government was rebuffed, Friday morning, by the MEND.
The Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Emmanauel Uduaghan had met with Chief Oboko and other linkmen to the militants, Thursday, 24 hours after the release of six of the nine hostages to perfect a deal for the release of the remaining three.

Governor Ibori�s position, which he passed over to the linkmen was that the remaining three hostages should be released while arrangements for discussion with the federal government were being made.
The meeting rose on Thursday with the linkmen asking for time to consult with the militants on the governor�s request but by Friday morning, a message came that the militants rejected the appeal.

It was gathered that the Ijaw leaders President Obasanjo contacted to assist in the release of the hostages had advised him to respect the wish of the militants to create the necessary atmosphere for negotiation as the boys were not prepared to release the remaining three hostages except the federal goverment was willing to address the problem of the NIger-Delta region.

They were said to have told Mr. President that the militants have shown that they were not heartless by releasing six of the hostages unconditionally and urged him to reciprocate their kind gesture by hearkening to their requests.

But President Obasanjo was said to have queried how the militants expect him to order oil companies to suspend work in the region until the solution to the Niger-Delta problem was found but he was told that the first thing first was for the federal governmetn to accept to discuss with the Ijaw people and from that point, other things would be ironed gradually.

Governor Ibori gave a dark hint of this, Wednesday, when he told Chief Oboko that between him (governor) and the national leader of the Ijaw, Chief Edwin Clark, the feasible options among the conditions stipulated by the militants for the release of the three hostages would be made known to President Obasanjo.

Dr. Uduaghan and the Commissioner for Inter Ethnic Relations and Conflict Resolution, Mr. Ovouzorie Macaulay told Saturday Vanguard that discussions between the state government and the facilitators for MEND were going on the way it should be.

�You cannot say that the negotiation has broken down. What I can tell you is that government is still meeting with everybody that is relevant and important to the release of remaining three hostages and we are committed to it�, Dr Uduaghan stated.

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