NIgeria: Niger Delta Rebels threaten Cease-fire breach after Henry Okah’s release

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The Nigerian government and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has disagreed over conditions for truce declaration. The Nigerian government has insisted that the military will remain in the country’s oil-rich Niger Delta to observe the sixty day cease-fire declared by the rebels, but MEND insists that a partial pullout of troops was a condition of the truce.

The group has threatened to call off its truce immediately because a Nigerian military gunboat had been sighted near one of its bases. “Barely 12 hours into our ceasefire, the military Joint Task Force (JTF) has dispatched seven gunboats with heavily armed troops from Warri and are headed towards one of our camps located around the Delta/Ondo state border. If this information from a very reliable source within the JTF happens to be true, the ceasefire will be called off with immediate effect,” a statement released by MEND, read.

MEND has promised to monitor its own ceasefire, and has also called for further talks with the Nigerian government.

MEND declared ceasefire after its leader, Henry Okah, was released from jail, Monday July 13, under an amnesty. Military spokesperson Col. Rabe Abubakar has reiterated that the army was implementing faithfully its amnesty deal – which included a pledge to make no troop movements, even though the army would continue to provide escorts for oil workers and tankers.

Commenting on the 60-day ceasefire declared by MEND, Ufot Ekaette, minister for the Niger Delta region, is quoted as saying “it’s a good time for us to work with the rebels, chat with them and come out with some conclusions”. According to the minister, a lasting peace could be framed within the next 60 days.

The Niger Delta rebels have been fighting to ensure that the oil wealth is benefited by the locals, but their battle for justice has been coated with violent kidnappings of civilians, vandalism and oil theft.

The Nigerian government offered the rebel groups an amnesty three weeks ago, promising a rehabilitation program, including education and training opportunities, but critics say that an amnesty was not enough to ensure peace in the troubled region.

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