Thursday, September 18, 2008

Clark Says Don't Panic Over Militants' Declaration of War

Clark: Don’t Panic over Militants’ Declaration of War

From Omon-Julius Onabu in Warri, 09.17.2008
Nigeria ThisDay

Ijaw National Leader, Chief Edwin Clark, yesterday said Nigerians need not panic over the reported militants' declaration of hostilities against the country's security forces, particularly the Joint Task Force (JTF).

He said the situation need not degenerate to a bloodbath, but could be salvaged, if the Federal Government could accede to taking the political, rather than the military option to dealing with the problem.

Addressing newsmen yesterday at his country home in Kiagbodo, on militants' alleged declaration of "full-scale war" against the JTF, Clark advised government to declare a ceasefire, assuring that the Ijaw militants would call off their declaration of war, should the Federal Government announce a truce.

He expressed worry over the worsening situation of insecurity, adding that government needed a congenial atmosphere to execute its programme of development in the Niger-Delta region.

Clark urged the Federal Government to declare a truce in the region between now and the end of the year, to pave way for new dialogue with the people, so that "massive infrastructural development could be effected in the battered region," he said.

The ex-information minister, however, condemned the continued secret trial of one of the militant leaders, Henry Okah, saying it was incompatible with the search for peace in the Niger-Delta.

The septuagenarian also took a swipe at the JTF, which he said has engaged in extra-judicial killings of innocent and defenceless Ijaw people in the Niger-Delta, particularly in recent times.

"Recently, the JTF in Delta State attacked an innocent Agge Community and burnt over 150 houses.

I have the compact disk (CD) and other evidence to buttress this statement; yet they lied that they did not attack Agge and claimed they were looking for their guns when they were attacked in Bomadi on a Saturday.

“We sympathized with the Army when their base was attacked in Bomadi by some few militants, but we have also observed that each time it appears that peace will return to the area, the JTF will always launch an attack without any reason, in order to give reason for their stay in the Niger-Delta where most of them engage in illegal bunkering," he said.

Clark, nevertheless, poured encomiums on President Umaru Yar'Adua for creating a ministry exclusively for the Niger-Delta, but urged him to take a step further by ensuring adequate funding of the new ministry, to meet with the yearnings of people of the area.

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