- Chief Edwin Clark says militants are ready for dialogue but but the federal government is stalling
- He warned that the military operation in the Niger Delta can lead to renewed attacks
- The negotiator of the Avengers called on the government to show seriousness in dialoguing with militants
Chief Edwin Clark has warned that the ongoing Operation Crocodile Smile can jeopardise the ceasefire announced by the Niger Delta Avengers.
Clark was appointed by the militants to negotiate with the federal government following months of blowing of oil and gas pipelines.
While the federal government has reiterated that it is working to negotiate with militants, mushroom groups have continued the destruction of pipelines which has necessitated the launching of Operation Crocodile Smile to train troops in amphibious exercise.
Vanguard reports that Clark following the decision by the militants to sheathe their swords, it was necessary for the government to work for peace rather than launching a military operation.
He said: “I expected that after the monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of the Niger Delta coastal states were able to get the militants to sheathe their swords, the federal government would take advantage of it to commence genuine dialogue.”
“But, that is not what we are seeing even after the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, came and heard from the people in Warri on the way forward. Suddenly, the Federal Government, which was all along looking for who to dialogue with, is foot-dragging.
“I was shocked when I saw that the Chief of Army Staff, who was in the same plane with me from Benin City to Abuja when I went to Abuja after the consultative meeting that saw militants sheathe their swords was, thereafter, launching Operation Crocodile Smile.
“There is no need to intimidate the people with Operation Crocodile Smile, as the people cannot dialogue under duress. They are creating another problem in the region. One expects that if the government is really sincere with the peace move, it should immediately commence the process for dialogue.”
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“We held the consultative meeting on August 19, nobody contacted the monarchs and leaders of the region to do that, they volunteered themselves from the six coastal states. I want to advise the federal to kick-start the peace process, as there is no need of the military starting an operation that cannot bring solution to the problem.
His words: “I am appealing to President Buhari that Niger Delta people are part of the country and they should not be treated like second-class citizens. Before now, people were saying that the region could not speak with one voice. Now, their leaders have come out and they are speaking in one voice, yet, government is not seizing the opportunity.”
Meanwhile the Avengers claimed that at least 20 soldiers died during the military operation “Crocodile smile”.
The group in a statement signed by its spokesman Brig Gen Mudoch Agbinibo and made available to NAIJ.com offered their condolences to the families and Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, C-In-C of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on the soldiers murdered in the current military operation.