Militants list 16 fresh conditions on 3 hostages

THE Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), which freed, Wednesday night, six of the nine foreign oil workers it took hostage February 18, has handed out 16 conditions to the Federal Government for the release of the remaining three hostages in its custody and proper negotiation between the Ijaw and the Federal Government on the way out of the emergency in the region.

The remaining hostagesare Coydy Oswalt, Rospel Spell (Americans) and John Hudspith (Briton) and the militants said they would not start any negotiation with the Federal Government until the conditions were met.
However, Secretary to the Delta State Government, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, led the state government delegation at several meetings, yesterday, with the Ijaw leaders and groups that facilitated the release of the first six suspects to get the remaining three out.

A top government source said of the high-level consultations: �There is no much problem. There are certain things that we have to sort out. Once we finish with them, they will go back to bring out the remaining hostages.�
The first three conditions were contained in a letter, dated March 1, to President Olusegun Obasanjo by the president of the Federated Niger-Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), Chief Bello Oboko, who was contacted by the Delta State Government to talk with the hostages. He was specially asked by MEND to convey the position to the President and the letter was handed over to Governor James Ibori at the Governor�s lodge in Warri.

Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, who spoke to Vanguard, yesterday, on the fate of the remaining hostages said what should be done by the Federal Government to checkmate the disturbance in the region was explained at a recent conference that was convened at Yenagoa. Top of the demands was the immediate release of Alhaji Asari-Dokubo. He said the problem was that the Federal Government did not want to implement the resolutions.
He said there would be no need attending such conferences if decisions were not being implemented, adding that often times, government officials make provocative statements about the Ijaw and the struggle of the people and all these fuel the problem.

The Ijaw leaders say the Federal Government should reciprocate the gesture of the militants in releasing six of the hostages towards dialogue by �creating truly enabling atmosphere that has been lacking; that the Federal Government should provide relief materials for victims of the invaded communities; that a bill be sponsored and law to be made to clarify that the invaded Ijaw communities are no refuge disposal dumps for further barges� bombardment.�
Chief Oboko, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, Mr Kingsley Otuaro, Mr George Timinimi and Comrade Dan Ekpebide signed the letter.

Others which were disclosed to newsmen in Warri, yesterday, by a member of the group were that the United Nations should set up a commission of inquiry to look into the Niger Delta problem; the United States and United Kingdom should stop oil companies from further exploration of oil in the region until solutions to the problems were proffered and the demilitarisation of the region.

The source said �negotiation between the government and MEND has not started and that six hostages were released unconditionally to tell the government that we are ready for discussions. It is only if they fail us this time around that we will start the mother of all destructions.

�So far, the attacks have been on oil installations in the riverside communities. If they refuse to respond to our kind gesture, we will throw the bombs in Warri and all you journalists that have been writing that we destroyed this and that oil installations when we did not do anything will have a feel of how soldiers bombarded Ijaw communities,� he said.

Chief Oboko�s FNDIC in the letter told the President that for proper negotiations to take place, the Ijaw people would not discuss with him in chains. He listed 10 pre-conditions for dialogue.
They are disbandment of the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta; stoppage of further devastation, oil pollution and extinguishing of gas flares; sufficient authority to the government negotiating team to take far-reaching decisions to peacefully resolve the situation.

On the part of the Ijaw, the FNDIC said the Ijaw would set up a negotiating team of elders, women and youths; any discussion with the Ijaw should take place in an acceptable place and not places that remind the people of Ijaw impoverishment; that the Ijaw would chronicle their demands for consideration when and only when there is sufficient willingness on the part of government to dialogue and their negotiating team put in place.

As part of the pre-conditions, they said vendetta/reprisal/witch-hunting be ruled out; the peace process be coordinated/facilitated by neutral world recognised peace builder organisation and international observers should be accredited and allowed to observe proceedings.

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