Nigerians with deep roots in the restive Niger Delta are
expected to begin a protest march in the commercial capital Lagos, today
(Tuesday) to press home their demands for an end to clashes in the region. This
comes after President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua met Monday with governors in the
area to assess the security situation in the Delta State. The planned protesters
are demanding an end to what they described as a continuation of government
onslaught on the innocent civilians in the region. The government has
reportedly mobilized two Air Force bombers and 15 gunboats in pursuit of
militants blamed for the insecurity in the Niger Delta.
Annkio Briggs is a
human rights activist in the Niger Delta. She told VOA that the clashes have
left scores injured and an unspecified number of people killed.
in Lagos, there would be a protest organized by Ijaw women with sympathizers
for the Ijaw struggle and the genocide that is going on in Ijaw land right
She said the federal
government prohibits protests in the restive region.
"We can't really organize
such a protest anywhere in the Niger Delta because we won't be allowed to
organize such a protest and it will draw attention to what is happening to the
people of Ijaw nation," she said.
Briggs described as
unfortunate the ongoing clashes in the region between the government and the
militants which she said are having an adverse effect on the ordinary civilian
"Here is a government that
is waging war on its own people that is waging war on the people that is
providing the wealth of this nation. The vice president is an Ijaw and since
this thing started he was in Sweden and he has not been able to reach the
president and he has not seen the president," Briggs said.
She expressed shock at the
meeting between President Yar'Adua and some governors to assess the security
situation in the restive region.
"I am amazed to hear that
the president has a meeting with all the six governors," she said.
Briggs said the heavily
armed national army has been launching attacks on the defenseless population in
"Nigerian soldiers have
descended on Ijaw in that area and are using all kinds of arsenals on them, jet
fighters on the hapless people of the Niger Delta," Briggs said.
She claimed the meeting
between the president and the governor would not solve the problems in the
"I don't think meetings need
to be held by the president or by the governors for people to be able to know
what is going on and what they should do to stop it," she said.
Briggs said the area has
been deserted following the attacks by the national army.
"The whole place is
completely abandoned there are dead bodies all over the place and it is
appalling," Briggs said.
She sharply denied that
residents of the restive oil rich region have been reluctant to hold
negotiations with the government to address their concerns.
"The people of the Niger
Delta have been suffering from neglect and abuse and looting of our resources
for over 50 years. So, to say that Ijaws don't want to sit down and dialogue is
not true Ijaws want dialogue and they want it very desperately," she said.
She was skeptical about
holding discussions with people she described as occupiers.
"How do you dialogue with
someone whom you are occupying? The Niger Delta, particularly the Ijaw
territory of the Niger Delta is completely over run by one form of
militarization or the other," she said.
were initial reports suggesting that the Movement for the Emancipation of the
Niger Delta (MEND) was planning a massive counterattack on strategic economic
interests and government forces positions in the Niger Delta.
Meanwhile, the main militant group (MEND) said it has
destroyed two oil pipelines in the southern Niger Delta during the region's
worst outbreak of violence in months. In a Statement the group also said it has
ordered the blockade of key channels for oil vessels as part of its campaign to
cripple the country's multi-billion-dollar oil and gas industry.
The group accused
Nigerian troops of indiscriminate use of missiles and bombs on several
defenseless Ijaw communities in Delta State.
Militant groups in
the Niger Delta have often claimed they are fighting for a better control of
Nigeria's oil resources, although they are accused of operating like criminal
observers say militant incessant attacks and bunkering on oil pipelines in the
Niger Delta have cut Nigeria's output by around a fifth, helping push world oil
prices to record highs since the beginning of 2006.