By Akanimo Sampson
For over 40 minutes on Thursday night, the relative peace of Ezetue (Pennton) in Southern Ijaw Local Government of Bayelsa State was ruptured as heavy explosion of ‘bombs’ and thundrous shootings by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, greeted the arrival of a presidential peace panel into the freedom fighters camp.
From Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, it took the presidential panel; the Senator David Brigidi led Niger Delta Peace and Conflict Resolution Committee, NDPCRC, three hours to sail to the MEND base on double-engine speed boats.
While welcoming the visiting team, the Genaral Officer Commanding the Bayelsa Division of MEND, Genaral Boyloaf, presented Brigidi with a bottle of their polluted drinking water, and a bullet for onward presentation to President Umar Yar’Adua.
Before that, President Yar’adua had expressed his administration’s desire and commitment to put an end to the perennial neglect of the Niger Delta, the country’s main oil and gas basin.
This was part of the president’s message to the people when the peace panel began a tour of Bayelsa State.
Delivering the President’s message, Brigidi appealed for co-operation with the various concerned groups agitating from the region to allow peace a change.
Senator Brigidi said the Federal Government was asking for cessation of hostilities in the region for a period of time to enable the federal Government discuss the Niger Delta issue with the people on ways of ending the long neglect suffered by the region.
The NDPCRC Chairman said the Federal Government was aware that previous administrations compounded the problem by paying lip service to the people, emphasizing that the present administration is willing to dialogue and brainstorm on ways of turning around the fortunes of the region.
Senator Brigidi said the present administration is asking for time to allow it implement the policies, programmes and the developmental agenda it has carefully put together for the region.
He said the responsibility of the committee is to mediate between the t parties involved to create the necessary peaceful environment that would enable all stake holders to dialogue and find lasting solutions to the problems of the region.
He expressed appreciations to the Bayelsa state chapter of the committee for the wonderful results it has achieved within the short period of its existence emphasizing that without the prevailing peaceful atmosphere; the visit of the committee would not have been successful.
The chairman, Bayelsa state chapter of the peace committee, Chief James Jephthah, disclosed that his committee has been involved in extensive discussions with all stakeholders on how to achieve peace which he described as the necessary ingredient for any meaningful development to take place.
Chief Jephthah stated that the visit by the national committee is one of the key points on the road map to achieving lasting peace in the region and commended all stakeholders for their show of understanding and co-operation.
He was speaking while receiving Brigidi and his entourage, at one of the militants’ camps in Bayelsa state, Boyloaf,however, expressed his willingness to give Abuja a chance to execute their developmental agenda for the Niger Delta region.
Boyloaf who operates a camp in Southern Ijaw Local Government area in Bayelsa state, further expressed his commitment to the peace process initiated by the Bayelsa state chapter of the Committee and commended the Chairman and members for their efforts in keeping peace in the state
He also claimed that while the Bayelsa Government was not failing on its part, ”there is a clause with the Federal Government”, stressing that their General Commander, Jomo Gbomo (Henry Okah), was deceived into signing a peace agreement and was arresting afterwards in collaboration with another country.
General Boyloaf clearly stated that if the federal Government can guarantee his return to the country and grant him his human rights, they would observe the twelve months cease fire agreement but warned that anything can happen if the Federal Government fails to comply on its part.
General Boyloaf later presented a sample of the kind of drinking water available in region for human consumption and a piece of ammunition which he said represents violence and urged Brigidi, chairman of the committee to present them to President Yar’Adua.
Speaking also, the CommitteeSecretary, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, assured him that the message will be delivered to the President and commendedn him (General Boyloaf) for granting the committee audience.