Niger Delta crisis: Some militant groups have contacted me —Soyinka

LAGOS—NOBEL Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, has said that some Niger Delta militant groups had reached out to him in their efforts at interfacing with the Federal Government on the current militancy in the region, pleading with the government to genuinely listen to the agitators.
This came as traditional rulers from the region listed the cessation of hostilities by the military, reopening of Maritime University and release of individuals detained, among others, as conditions for enduring peace
Soyinka also said he had passed on the message of what was happening in the region to some international figures in London, but emphasised that no international interventionist group had been formed on the matter.

Briefing newsmen, yesterday, in Lagos at an event convened to update the nation about the activities of  Wole Soyinka Foundation, Soyinka debunked reports where he was credited to have said that an international interventionist group had agreed to meet President Muhammadu Buhari on the crisis. Soyinka, who demanded accurate reportage of the issue, given its sensitive nature, disclosed that the Cedars Institute, Notre Dame University, Lebanon, and the Wole Soyinka Foundation would partner on a programme designed to promote cultural dialogue.
 He, however, said the programme, entitled The Sail Project, was an intensive course for international students, adding that it would assist in bridging the social, racial and cultural gaps inherent in human relations. Begs FG to positively listen to agitators He said:  “I wish to make an appeal to the government to respond positively to the outreach from the militant groups. 
That is the request which has been made by some of the groups. “At the moment, they feel that the government of President Buhari is not seriously responding to them. And I will make a personal appeal to the government to respond positively and let us see where it ends.
 “But I am not part of any international group, I was approached personally and I have been responding personally to some of these groups just as I did when President Jonathan was in power and MEND was the umbrella group of the insurgents. “So, I make that appeal once more to the government to please respond to the efforts of these militant groups to arrive at a holistic and comprehensive solution.
 “When I was ambushed at the villa the other day, I did say that I would answer questions on my visit to the Villa at a press conference that I had already planned, which is this one as a matter of fact. ‘’What I have to say is that today is not the day I will talk about that visitation and the real reason is this, I had a meeting with the House of Lords in London.
 The meeting was not about the main subject that took me to Aso Rock which, among other things, is the problem we have in the Delta.
 “But I used that opportunity to meet a certain number of international figures, parliamentarians, royal heads to pass on a message internationally to prospective interveners in what is happening in the Delta at the request of some of the militant groups. “That meeting was reported in the media and it was badly distorted. Let me make a plea, it is bad enough distorting whatever happens on certain subjects. But on an issue like the insurgency in Nigeria, the Delta, in particular, we have very delicate grounds and the media has a huge role to play in that.”
 N’Delta monarchs list conditions for peace Also, Niger Delta leaders, who made their position known during a courtesy call on the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, in Abuja, urged the  government to urgently commence dialogue on the issue.
 Chief Wellington Okirika, who spoke on behalf of the monarchs, said their condition, among others, include: “The release of the 10 innocent school children arrested by the Nigerian Army on May 28, 2016, in Oporoza and others in detention on trumped-up charges. “Return of the golden sword, being the symbol of authority of Gbaramatu traditional institution,  the return of the three tradition council speed boats in the custody of the Nigerian Army and cessation of hostilities by the military. “Equally important, the Federal Government should make a categorical statement about the opening of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State, for academic activities in the 2016/2017 session.”
 FG can’t fund 2016  budget —Kachikwu Responding, Kachikwu said the ceasefire agreement reached with some militant groups should be honoured to avoid pushing the government to the wall. “Please help me reach out to those who have not supported in one way or the other that this ceasefire must stay.
 Without that, it would be difficult to stop the military from protecting the assets of the country. “The Federal Government has lost over 50 percent of its income. As if that was not bad enough, the militancy itself has brought down production from an average of 2.2 million barrels per day  to about 1.4 million. And if I consider what I am saying here today, we are probably looking at 1.3 million barrels.
 “What it means again, is when you take the cumulative effect of pricing and volume, you are down to more than 60 percent drop in the income of this country.  You cannot even fund the 2016 budget.”

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