The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has commended the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for showing political will by starting the Ogoniland, as recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The group, which lists the clean-up of Ogoniland as one of the reasons for its agitation, said successive governments-civilian and military-as well as international oil companies have done little to protect and sustain the environment since oil was discovered in the region.
MEND's position was contained in a statement made available to SaharaReporters.
The group was particularly critical of former President Goodluck Jonathan, a Niger Delta indigene, whom it branded a spectacular failure over his handling of the region's numerous environmental challenges.
"It is in the light of this premise, but particularly because of the colossal failure of former President Goodluck Jonathan-an indigene of the region who was at the helm for six (6) years - to address the remediation of our environment, that the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), for and on behalf of the good people of the region, sincerely and warmly commend President Muhammadu Buhari for his political will and sagacity in tackling the vexed issue of the clean-up of Ogoniland with the June 2, 2016 launch and implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), one of the cornerstones of our agitation over the years," the group said.
MEND also expressed concern over the resurgence of attacks on oil installations by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), many of whom, it said, were its commanders and fighters, who benefitted from the Presidential Amnesty Programme. It expressed disappointment that the region's leaders have been reticent in the face of the renewed violence.
"What is more worrisome to us is the ungodly conspiracy of silence of the region's elite and their tacit support of the NDA's conduct under the pretext of a so-called 'Niger Delta struggle,' which went to sleep in luxury hotel suites in Abuja and around the world for the entire duration of the six years of Mr. Jonathan's binge and unmitigated disaster as President," said MEND.
The group, however, expressed displeasure with what it considers the "disproportionate use of force" by the military in the offensive against the militants. This, MEND reckons, will be attended by collateral damage to the political, social and economic lives of the ordinary people, especially in the Ijaw communities. It also called on the international community and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to urgently provide for relief materials to the region.
"While we commiserate with the affected persons, families and communities, we seize this opportunity to call on the international community as well as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to dispatch relief materials to the region, as a matter of utmost priority.
"However, we hereby remind our communities who harbour criminals such as members of the NDA that their communities are not protected by the extant principles of international and/or municipal law during a conflict; even as we urge the Nigerian military high command to stick to the rules of engagement and international best practices," warned MEND.