Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nigeria: Jonathan Exonerates MEND Again

Idris Ahmed

Abuja — The massive oil bunkering currently going on in the Niger Delta region is perpetrated not by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta [MEND] or other militant groups but by "criminals" who are not in any way related to the militants' struggle in the region, President Goodluck Jonathan said in Abuja yesterday.

It was the second time this month that he was exonerating the militants in his native Niger Delta region of blame for major crimes.

Speaking at the opening of the 16th edition of the Nigeria Economic Summit, Jonathan said the current wave of kidnappings and car bombings in the country is not linked to the Niger-Delta agitation but is an organised crime perpetrated by dissidents. The summit is jointly organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the National Planning Commission (NPC) and was broadcast live by CNBC Africa television network.

The president said, "Government is strengthening the security agencies to meet up with the security challenges and I can assure you that in the next 12 months, we will be in a position to curtail the excesses." He also said the militants are defending the interest of the region because they felt that they are not having enough share of the resources taken from their communities, while the bunkerers are criminals who are after money.

"What is happening now is excessive bunkering and has nothing to do with the Niger Delta. They are criminals and they are not protecting any community", Jonathan said.

He said selfish individuals hijacked the struggle of the militants for criminal activities. "What is happening now is commercial and because it involves money those involved in it would not stop," he said.

According to the President, the recent car bombing in Abuja that killed over 10 persons had nothing to do with the Niger Delta. He said that while the amnesty programme initiated last year by the late President Umaru Musa Yar'adua for the militants to curb their excesses is on still on course, it faces some challenges that the government is trying to tackle. "We have some challenges on amnesty, we are working on that. The amnesty is not perfect but we would reach where we want to go."

The umbrella body of the militants' group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has said it was behind the Abuja car bombings that happened during Nigeria's 50th independence anniversary celebration on October 1. President Jonathan said MEND did not do it, but that some terrorists outside the country did it.

Leader of MEND Henry Okah has been linked to the bombing and he is currently in a South African jail. His young brother has also been arrested.
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President Jonathan said that overall, security is a challenge and that government is setting up a special fund to fund the police to fight crime. "In the next 12 months we will be in a position to curtail that," he said. He also said Nigeria needs a revolutionary leader to move the nation forward, where everyone would do what is right.

He said while it is the responsibility of the President to select competent individuals to head various institutions in the country, their jobs are not directly executed by the President. "Mr. President is not the police officer but Mr. President should be able to monitor the police and if he is not doing well, he should ask him to go," he said. He said the notion of Nigeria being the most corrupt country in the world would wither away in the next five years.

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