Buhari’s response to a question asked in an interview conducted in the US on how he would deal with the Niger Delta amnesty program may have provoked the resuscitation of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, a militant group that was disbanded following an amnesty program implemented during the regime of the late President Umaru Yar’adua.
When asked in an interview how he would tackle the Niger Delta situation, particularly the amnesty program, this was Buhari’s response:
“(Going by election results), constituencies that gave me 97% can not in all honesty be treated, on some issues, with constituencies that gave me 5%. I think these are political realities. While, certainly there will be justice for everybody but the people who voted, and made their votes count, they must feel the government has appreciated the effort they put in putting the government in place. I think this is really fair.”
Following the publication of that interview, an online magazine, The Trent, has published copy of an invitation signed MEND leader, Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo, convening a meeting of MEND.
The invitation was signed with Tompolo’s traditional title, Izon Ibe-Ebidouwei of Izon Nation and made available to The Trent. It reads:
“My dearly beloved Commanders and Leaders of various wings of the Movement of the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), I greet you all.
“It is my pleasure to humbly invite you to a very crucial and urgent meeting as follows:
“Venue: Izon House, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
“Date (of the meeting is) Saturday, July 25th, 2015. Time (is) 2 pm Prompt.”
When contacted, Tompolo confirmed that the meeting was aimed at “deliberating on recent developments in Nigeria as well as the fate of the Niger Delta region in the current political dispensation”.
Comrade Paul Bebenimibo, media aide to the MEND leader, refused to provide more details on the agenda of the meeting, only revealing that MEND would chart a path for the progress of the region.
A top security official, who spoke to The Trent on conditions of anonymity, said that the planned meeting was a source of serious concern for military and the security agencies of the country. Other sources say that Tompolo and other Niger Delta militancy group commanders such as Mujahid Dokubo Asari, commander of Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF), and Ateke Tom, leader of Niger Delta Vigilante, and Ebikabowei Victor Ben, also known as Boyloaf, a MEND commander have been placed under security watch since President Jonathan lost the March elections.
Tompolo who is a staunch supporter of former President Goodluck Jonathan, founded the militant group that waged a campaign against oil production in the region and crippled the nation’s economy from 2005 till 2009. At a point, the administration of late President Musa Yar’Adua declared Tompolo as the most wanted man in Nigeria.
The Niger Delta restiveness only ended when the late President Musa Yar’Adua successfully negotiated a cease-fire and launched the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme.
In the weeks leading up to the presidential elections, this year, Tompolo and other militant group leaders had threatened to make the country ungovernable if Jonathan lost. But, in a surprise move, he appealed for calm after Buhari emerged the winner of keenly contested race.