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Panic Over Arms Build-up In South-East, Niger Delta Region



by New Telegraph

Amid brewing ethnic nationalism postures backed by a secret arms build-up, especially in the South-East and the oil-rich Niger Delta, the Federal Government is making frantic efforts to stem the tide. A highly placed security official confided in New Telegraph that, indeed, the Federal Government was ‘worried and concerned’ over the situation in both regions even as a fresh religious onslaught, through the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, the Shi’ites, was almost taking its root in North-West. “Some practical and strategic steps have to be taken immediately to circumvent these growing concerns if the government must make any meaningful progress to deliver on its promises to the people,” he said.

While the source blamed some “miscalculated security steps on the part of some agencies” for some of the avoidable concerns, he nonetheless did not rule out direct engagement with concerned stakeholders in the affected areas. The source, who spoke in confidence against the backdrop of the alleged abduction of over 50 members of the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by the military authorities in Anambra last weekend, said fresh security ‘persuasions’ have been tabled before the president to have a holistic review of the government’s stance on certain issues.

He listed such issues as the dropping of the charges against the director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, as well as the need to make a detour in the planned investigation of ex-creek warlord in the Niger Delta, Chief Government Ekpemupolo (Tompolo). It could not be independently confirmed if the silence of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tompolo over the alleged N13 billion Maritime University land deal was in line with the new thinking of the central government.

The anti-graft agency had given Tompolo up till Thursday, December 17 to report at its Lagos office or be declared wanted. But the leader of the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) remained adamant, saying the EFCC was acting a script to lure him to the battlefront. The source described the tension created by the invitation of the ex-militant leader as avoidable.

“Some of us have cause to believe that most of the steps taken security wise in the last six months have been ill-advised and avoidable. We have no reason to be in the news that some MASSOB and IPOB members have been abducted or seized by the military.

“Also, we have no reason to detain for so long, an inconsequential Kanu to the extent that he has become a central point in the ethnic and regional agitations in the East. So, the young man has to be allowed to go. This is not to talk of the EFCC’s miscalculation by inviting Tompolo at this time. “Perhaps, some persons have forgotten that the pain of the loss of Goodluck Jonathan in the last presidential poll still lingers and once you play into the hands of these people, the nation might feel the heat with red eyes. So, we cannot afford to toy with such things.

“We understand that there are some political forces inciting such moves, but some of us have made persuasive moves to the president to allow the sleeping dog to rest rather than stirring up troubled waters that may have collateral damages on the economy. We can’t try that in the face of the consequences inherent in this,” he said. He said the government was aware that there was an arms build-up in the South-East and Niger Delta and that those behind such were merely waiting for opportunity to ‘strike’ and bring the nation’s economy to its knees. “Government is very much aware of this development and the reasons behind some of these provocative moves are what baffle some of us. For instance, there are intelligence reports of how ex-militants took over the electoral process in Bayelsa State.

“It is not as if they love the governor there, they are merely rehearsing with the election to do the ultimate and the avalanche of weapons is a source of concern and worry,” he stated. Only last week, Niger Delta ex-militants threatened war over the Federal Government’s alleged plan to slash the 2016 budget for the presidential amnesty office. The ex-militants, under the aegis of the Presidential Amnesty Phase II, argued that the proposed N20 billion for the initiative was unacceptable because the amount could not cater for their monthly stipends.

On Monday, December 14, the ex-agitators staged a peaceful protest around the major streets of Warri, Delta State, calling on the Federal Government to respect the Memorandum of Understanding it signed with them. The protesters carried placards with inscriptions:

“We say no to the plan to reduce the amnesty budget”, “Buhari, please don’t force us to go back to the creeks”, “Saraki, leave our budget alone”, “Exmilitants reject the 2016 amnesty budget”. Addressing journalists, General Aso Tambo, the national chairman of the 6166 Presidential Amnesty Phase II, expressed dissatisfaction with the alleged reduction of their monthly stipend.

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