Over recent weeks, the NDA has launched full-scale operations against the oil industry in the Niger Delta, blowing up pipelines and installations. In response, the federal government has flooded the region with troops and began a manhunt for several militant leaders, especially Government Ekpemupolo popularly known as Tompolo.
Several bodies both at home and internationally, have called on the government to eschew the use of force and negotiate with the militants but so far, attempts at talks have been unsuccessful. Yesterday, General Buratai said that force was the only available option for now until the NDA leaders were apprehended.
Represented by Major General John Hamakim at the State of the Nation Conference, organised by the Nigerian Bar Association in Abuja on yesterday, General Buratai said his men would take the militants on. According to the army boss, there was no sign that the Niger Delta Avengers’ members were ready for talks.
He added: “I quite agree that dialogue is very important but where it is not too obvious that the adversary is ready to come out and talk, you cannot force such a person. Yes, we don’t know the group’s leader, so for now this is the only option we have to bring the people out to know who you can talk with.”
According to General Buratai, the activities of the group had cut the nation’s oil production to 1.1m out from 2.2m barrels per day. He debunked the allegation that soldiers who were involved in the operations in Gbaramatu in Delta State were killing innocent residents and raping women.
Various heads of anti-corruption and security agencies, including the inspector-general of police, Solomon Arase, the controller general of prisons Ahmed Ja’afaru and the director-general of the Department of State Services Lawal Daura, were represented by officers of their agencies at the event. Also in attendance were the Nigerian Bar Association president Augustine Alegeh, the chief judge of Kogi State Nasiru Ajanah and chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Anti-Corruption Babajide Akinloye.
A member of the House of Representatives, Linda Ikpeazu, represented the speaker Hon Yakubu Dogara, as the chairman of the event. During the conference, the Army was accused of failing to explore dialogue with the Niger Delta militants but resorting to the use of force, which could lead to war in the region.