From FEMI FOLARANMI, Yenagoa
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has announced that it has concluded plans to commence attacks in the Niger Delta region. MEND, few hours after a South African court sentenced its leader, Henry Okah, to 24 years imprisonment over the October 1 Independence Day bombing in Abuja said the incarceration of its leader would not affect its activities.
The spokesman of MEND, Jomo Gbomo, in its latest statement, said the militant group would commence attacks from midnight on Friday, April 6 in sustained attacks code-named “Hurricane Exodus.” According to Gbomo, “Hurricane Exodus is a direct repercussion of a forged threat letter contrived by the Nigerian and South African governments purporting to have originated from MEND,” which he said contributed to the jail term handed Okah by the court.
MEND vowed that “the attacks will be sustained until an unreserved apology is offered to MEND and the Nigerian government shows their willingness to dialogue, the same way they are willing to dialogue with Boko Haram.” The Joint Military Task (JTF), Operation Pulo Shield, in its reaction said it got wind of the statement before it was issued and advised those parading themselves as MEND members to desist from any action that could disrupt the peace in the Niger Delta.
The media coordinator of the JTF, Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, in a statement, said the people of Niger Delta were not in any bondage that would warrant their emancipation. “The JTF Operation Pulo Shield has caught wind of this threat prior to the issuance of the statement today by some persons parading themselves as MEND. Niger Deltans are not in any bondage and therefore do not require armed struggle or emancipation as claimed by this threatening gang. What Niger Deltans are in a dire need of now, is peace for sustainable development having emerged from the dark days of turbulence in the region. Informed by this development we have effected some redeployment to tackle any upheaval.
This set of people are advised to toe the path of law and order in addressing whatever grievance they have and to desist from any action that will upset the peace and development of the Niger Delta. “The good and peace loving people of the Niger Delta are enjoined to dissociate themselves, their communities and leadership from this unwholesome approach as portrayed by this group. Meanwhile, the leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteers Force (NDPVF), Alhaji Mujahid Asari- Dokubo in an interview has dismissed opposition to the jailing of Okah, describing his sentence as God’s judgment. Asari-Dokubo who decried the refusal of people to comment on Okah’s sentence because of fear of repercussions said Okah was a merchant of death that corrupted the Niger Delta struggle.
He explained that no matter the demands he was making from the Federal Government, his killing of innocent people was a dark spot in the Niger Delta struggle. “People don’t know Henry Okah. I know him and he knows me. He is just a businessman, a merchant of death. Yes, he wants oil blocks. That is his right but does he need to kill innocent people? It is not in consonance with Ijaw tradition of war to kill innocent people. Henry Okah was a dark spot on the pages of our struggle.
The South African court was even lenient. If Ebiware who was just an accomplice was given life sentence, why should Okah get 24 years? “You know, people are afraid to speak against Okah apart from myself because I know him. His sentence is God’s own judgment against a man who is insatiable, who corrupted our people, introduced robbery, kidnapping and other vices unknown to our struggle.”