Militant group of the Niger Delta in Nigeria are pressing newly sworn-in President Goodluck Jonathan to kick-start talks on their demands for local communities to benefit from a greater share of the oil wealth. The rebels have threatened a fresh wave of potentially crippling attacks on Nigeria’s oil industry.
“We should be looking at weeks for Goodluck (Jonathan) to begin addressing an issue that has lingered for over 50 years. When he begins the process for resource control, then we will be sure he is serious… He has very little time to address the demands of this region before the fighting erupts,” a statement from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) reads.
While the rebel groups demand that President Jonathan- a native of the Niger Delta acts quickly, coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group rights body Joseph Eva, a leading activist for the Ijaw, the main ethnic group in the Niger Delta Region has cautioned against expecting too much from Jonathan’s presidency.
“His coming to power does not translate to peace in the Niger Delta. If injustice persists, there will still not be peace. One year is not enough for him to turn Nigeria into the envy of Dubai, Ghana or South Africa,” Mr. Eva is quoted by reporters.
“He is our kinsman and we are prepared to give him a chance to do what is right in Niger Delta but our patience is not elastic,” Eva added.
One of the main achievements of late President Umariu Yar’Adua was granting amnesty to thousands of militants in return for laying down their weapons. And according to MENDs leader, Henry Okah, the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua’s could hamper a peaceful resolution of the Niger Delta crisis.
Yar’Adua had a good understanding of the problems of the region and was determined to address the injustice in the region. His death has dealt “a huge blow on a possible peaceful resolution of the situation in the Niger Delta,” Okah was quoted by AFP.
Analysts argue that the problems of resource distribution, environmental degradation, equal opportunities and jobs, must be resolved for peace to return to the troubled region. The peace process has unraveled as promised jobs, education, cash and infrastructure development failed to materialize quickly for the former militants.
“Only time will tell if Jonathan is a blessing or a curse to the region… Jonathan has to prove himself with the actions and decisions he will be making in the coming days and weeks and that will help us determine if he is the Messiah or not,” Eva is quoted as saying.
According to reports, a lesser-known militant group in the region, the separatist Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC), issued a statement on Friday calling on Jonathan to convene a sovereign national conference of all the ethnic groups in the country saying it is “the only peaceful way to the resolution of the crises in Nigeria.”