Uneasy calm has engulfed the South-South part of Nigeria following renewed violence in the region and the vow by a faction of the Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND,to avenge the killing of Southerners in the North by threatening to bomb mosques even though the Joint Military Task Force has dismissed the threats, saying MEND no longer exists.
MEND for instance claimed responsibility first, for the killing of twelve policemen in Bayelsa along the Azuzuama waterways in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state after an earlier threat that security operatives did not take seriously; and second , for the destruction of Oil Well 62 belonging to the Shell Petroleum Development Company in Ewellesuo, Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. The group claimed the destruction of the oil well was part of its Operation Hurricane Exodus to oil companies in that area.
Many also believe the renewed attacks have everything to do with the prison sentence given to Henry Okah in South Africa.
MEND’s spokesman, Gbomo Jomo had recently announced the group’s readiness to commence fresh hostilities to save Christians from Boko Haram violence in an operation codenamed Operation Barbarossa, which he said would begin on May 31 and would target mosques and Islamic clerics.
MEND’s statement read:
“On behalf of the hapless Christian population in Nigeria, The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta will from Friday, May 31, 2013, embark on a crusade to save Christianity in Nigeria from annihilation.
“The bombings of mosques, hajj camps, Islamic institutions, large congregations in Islamic events and assasinations of clerics that propagate doctrines of hate, will form the core mission of this crusade code named Operation Barbarossa”.
But the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta codenamed Operation Pulo Shield debunked these claims by the MEND that it was responsible for renewed hostilities in the region. The JTF statement signed by the JTF’s Media Coordinator, Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu read:
“It must be made clear that the authentic MEND as we all know went into extinction since Yar’Adua’s amnesty and quite a good number of former members are partnering with their various states and communities for development.
“Those attempting to christen themselves MEND today are impostors and a bundle of “never do wells” who want to be accorded undue recognition at the expense of the peace currently savoured in the Niger Delta. The lack of focus and genuineness of intention of this gang seeking to hide under the name of MEND is apparent in its statements.
“As it continues to contradict itself, you’d recall that it had earlier claimed to be acting under the directives of Henry Okah and now it refers to the same person as just one of the respected leaders of the Niger Delta.
“Now they are seeking sympathy and acceptance of the public by claiming to want to avenge Christians. Niger Deltans should not be deceived by the tricks of the devil. Lawlessness is never a solution. Obviously, their aim is to engender panic and a sense of insecurity in the region using MEND’s name, but we assure them that their cup is full and will soon be caught up with by the law.”
In another reaction sent to Saturday Vanguard, the national coordinator of Ijaw Monitoring Group, Comrade Joseph Eva said that those who killed the policemen in Bayelsa State are criminals. “MEND did not kill the policemen. In fact, there were some robbery incidents that took place in the North under the cover of the Boko Haram.
“There is no doubt that the prison sentence given to Henry Okah will generate anger in some quarters among our people because Henry Okah is a leader. But the incident was purely criminal. How can you kill security men and most of them are Ijaws and you claim you are fighting for Ijaw nation? That is madness. The Ijaw nation has not abandoned Okah for the problem he is facing. Americans cannot abandon their citizens no matter the condition of that citizen outside America.
“How can any group claim it is fighting for Niger Delta when they told us they want to bomb mosques and muslim worship centres? MEND is not a confusionist group. Are you saying that MEND wants to defend religion? That is rubbish. Did Boko Haram attack Niger Delta? Is MEND telling us they want to help Jonathan and Dr. Namadi Sambo to fight Boko Haram? The threat is senseless. I’m not denying that MEND exists. Look, MEND is faceless the way Boko Haram is faceless. We have MEND and the real MEND is faceless and principled and any confusionist and unprincipled character you see is the fake MEND in Niger Delta.”
Meantime, Northern youths recently threatened to fight back should MEND attempt to carry out it’s threats. The youths through the National President of the Arewa Youth Forum, Alhaji Ibrahim Gambo Gujungu in Abuja sent a warning message to MEND not to be too boastful, as violence does not belong to just one group. Gujungu said the northern youths are ready to fight back should the militants make real their threat.
The group’s leader said:
“The most recent threat by MEND is indeed unfortunate, callous and counter productive, especially coming at a time when patriotic Nigerians are making strident efforts and sacrifices to resolve the current security challenge.
“MEND, as usual, is putting spanners in the works for unpatriotic selfish economic benefits. It is painful that these elements are threatening more violence despite the colossal amount being paid their leadership and the training of Niger Delta youths abroad by the Federal Government to the obvious disadvantage of other Nigerian youths outside the region.
“MEND and its members are hereby warned that they do not have monopoly of ideas, strength or ability. The youths of the North and other Nigerians are united and shall face them to truncate any of their threats which are aimed at separating Nigerians along religious or ethnic divides for their selfish economic goals.
“It is very sad and mind-boggling to note that instead of supporting and ensuring that President Jonathan succeeds in finding a lasting solution to the present security challenge in the North, MEND has re-opened another insecurity theatre in the Niger Delta to cause distraction and make him fail.
“The obvious disrespect, which MEND shows to President Jonathan as not being among those they respect enough to intervene in the ongoing debacle, is food for thought, to say the least,” Gujungu said
What Nigerians worry about is what would become of Nigeria should MEND carry out it’s threat and Northerners react? Will our country survive religious uprising of such a magnitude?
Okwudiri Ikenna who reportedly lost relatives in Maiduguri said the threat by MEND will teach the Boko Haram terror group and its sympathizers that no one has monopoly over wickedness.
“Since the insurgency started, some of us have lost relations, friends but none of the Northern elders and clerics have condemnedBoko Haram. All they are calling for is amnesty. If MEND goes ahead with its threat, we shall see who will condemn them.”
However, Elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, earlier in the week was quoted to have urged security services to provide security in both Christian and Muslim places of worship. He said that: “Anyone parading or masquerading himself as Jomo Gbomo is not operating from Nigeria.
It may be the voice of a mischievous and an unpatriotic Nigerian operating from outside Nigeria.
I therefore appeal to all the ex-militant leaders and their followers not to allow themselves to be used and they should also ignore and openly condemn the so-called voice of Jomo Gbomo” .