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» » MEND FINALLY AGREES TO DIALOGUE WITH FG
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The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) monday pledged its allegiance to the Edwin Clark negotiation team.

But MEND, which had earlier threatened to pull out of the negotiations aimed at ending the spate of vandalism of infrastructure in the oil-rich region, resulting in a significant loss of oil revenue, vowed to closely monitor Clark’s group in the next few months.

The group, which also nominated Mr. Ledum Mitee, an environmental activist; Ibanga Isine, a journalist; and Timipa Okponipere, a lawyer, to represent it in the elder statesman’s committee, insisted that the new group must take into cognisance the progress MEND had made in the talks with the government.

Specifically, the group maintained that the concessions it had succeeded in extracting from the government, including the release of those it described as “political prisoners” such as Henry and Charles Okah, who are in prison for their alleged involvement in the Independence Day bombings in Abuja six years ago, as part of the progress.
A statement signed by MEND’s spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, said the group reserves the rights to recall its nominees in Clark’s group within six months if it noticed anything untoward during the negotiations.

MEND had earlier rejected the Clark group, unlike the Niger Delta Avengers, the most violent of all the groups in the Niger Delta region, which had during its ceasefire declaration, picked the Ijaw leader’s group as its only recognised platform for any peace talks with the federal government.

“Thereby effecting the take off of ‘Operation Moses’, which is also hereby suspended. We sincerely thank all the patriots who honoured our invitation to serve and wish them well in their respective endeavours.

“The disbandment became necessary following MEND’s decision to recognise and work with Ijaw national leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, as the leader of a pan-Niger Delta dialogue and peace initiative.

“We have always advocated that the Niger Delta region must speak with a single voice under a single umbrella body, otherwise the much-sought-after peace and development shall elude the region, again.

“Therefore, under the new collaborative arrangement, MEND has nominated Messrs Ledum Mitee, Ibanga Isine and Timipa Jenkins Okponipere to work alongside Chief Clark and other stakeholders.

“MEND shall continue to monitor the pace of progress of the Chief Edwin Clark-led team and reserves the right to recall its nominees after six months.

“Nevertheless, MEND is compelled to categorically warn that it is not yet uhuru. The Chief Edwin Clark-led new initiative should realise that MEND was already in preliminary talks with the federal government as confirmed by President Muhammadu Buhari himself,” the group stressed.

It added: “In fact, we have so far been able to secure a number of concessions, some of which include, but are not limited to the release of political prisoners.
“We expect that Chief Clark and his team shall follow through with the rest of the dialogue and peace process.”

MEND had initially slammed Clark for lacking the moral authority to champion the restructuring of the country, noting that he and other leaders of the region kept quiet during the six-year administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The group also asked the federal government to ignore the resolution reached at a Niger Delta stakeholders consultative meeting held at the PTI Conference Centre Effurun, Delta State, where Clark formally took charge of leading the ceasefire talks.

It said, among other things, that the leaders of the region failed to categorically condemn the criminal and treasonable activities of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), which has claimed responsibility for series of attacks on oil facilities in the region.

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