Militants in Nigeria’s restive Niger Delta region Tuesday attacked a Chevron Corporation tanker, killing a Nigerian sailor and kidnapping an American oil worker and five other foreigners. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) claimed responsibility for the attack.
In an email to news organizations, a copy of which was received by the VOA, MEND said the attack was intended to serve as a disclaimer to what the group said was Nigerian government-sponsored newspaper stories expressing MEND’s approval of the election of Omaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan as president and vice president respectively.
Mark Olise is the general secretary of the Niger Delta People’s Salvation Front. From Port Harcourt in Rivers State, he told VOA the Niger Delta People’s Salvation Front supports the political ideology of the militants but not their hostage taking.
“We as an organization have made our point clear long before that we still maintain and keep to the agreement we had with the federal government of Nigeria in 2004 to pursue a political solution to the Niger Delta question. So we are in no way connected to hostage taking; we are in no way connected to attack on oil facilities; we are no way connected to any form of violence,” he said.
MEND in its claim of responsibility said Tuesday’s attack was intended to serve as a disclaimer to what the group described as the Nigerian government-sponsored newspaper stories expressing the MEND’s approval of the election of Omaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan as president and vice president respectively of Nigeria.
Olise said the Niger Delta People’s Salvation Front shares the political views of MEND.
“In as much as I do not fully subscribe to the methods that they are using, I equally know that the demands that they are making are almost consistent with our own demands. But all the same, we refuse to associate ourselves with any attempt to kidnap, to assassinate, or to use any form of violence in the Niger Delta at the moment. It’s not because we are afraid of violence or because we are cowards, but because we have gone through this stage before. And we have resolved that a new chapter will be opened in the struggle of the Niger Delta, and it’s a chapter which will achieve a better result,” he said.
Olise also agreed with the militants that the election of Omaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan as president and vice president respectively was an extension of the Obasanjo government.
“In fact the current president, Mr. Obasanjo personally mid-wife the manipulation. He single-handedly chose them, and he single-handedly declared them winners through his stooge, Professor Maurice Iwu, the INEC (Independent Electoral Commission) chairman. So they definitely would be a continuation of his regime,” he said.
Olise said Niger Delta militants are not fighting against individuals or personalities but against what he called the calculated attempt by an unjust system to undermine the resolve of Niger Delta citizens to live as independent and progressive people.