By From Taiwo Adisa and Okey Muogbo:
Worried about reports of the plot by some aggrieved forces to kill Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, militants in the Niger Delta are said to have closed ranks. The militants are said to have been alarmed by the alleged plot to kill the acting president as well as the reports of marginalisation of officers of Niger Delta origin through recent postings in the military, especially the Army.
Sources in the South- South confirmed to Sunday Tribune that members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and other militant leaders in the region, who have been closely monitoring the situation since the emergence of the Acting President were worried by reports that officers from Kano/Katsina axis have taken over key commanding positions in the Army shortly before Jonathan emerged as Acting President.
It was also gathered that the militants were worried that despite the huge spending by states of the Niger Delta on the operations of the Joint Task Force (JTF), officers and men from the North West were favoured for postings on such operations.
A source said that each of the states of the Niger Delta spends between N200million and N300 million monthly on JTF activities yet their indigenes in the forces are not posted on the operations.
Another source said that the recent postings in the Army which ignored federal character is unacceptable to the South South.
“It is a case of double jeopardy for the South South. Despite the huge spending by the states of the zone, their indigenes are not accommodated in the operations, especially at commanding positions, yet they are marginalized in the professional areas.
“These are issues that go beyond resource control. Then the issue of some people plotting against the Acting President. We believe we must take a firm stance,” a source close to the workings of the militants said on Saturday.
The source however, said that the Niger Delta people were ready to work with the rest of Nigeria to tackle poverty and want if sanity prevails.
A source also said:“We are lovers of peace, we, in fact, pray that nothing bad happens, but all these have taught us the necessity of bonding. We want the serving men to realise that we cannot talk of unity where one of the major arms of the country is being subjugated. We love peace as well as we love our dignity.”
A source said that the militants have actually been monitoring events closely since November 23, 2009 when President Umaru Yar’Adua left the country on medical grounds and that they believe that the moment that would define Nigeria’s unity has come.
It was gathered that the militants have actually commissioned think tanks to monitor the situation in Abuja and key government institutions.
A source said of the unfolding situation:“We have reports of their three pronged approach. That those against Jonathan’s emergence had planned to force him to resign, when that failed, they wanted to continue to use the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to portray him as a man that is not wanted by the governors and FEC members too but they were surprised that the civil society and the media including members of the National Assembly rose to insist on the right thing.
“When they have lost out on those two fronts, they are now going for broke. They are ready to deal with the man with whatever they have, but they should not expect the Niger Delta to sit by and continue to get treated as second class citizens in the country. We have entered into crucial talks with our own sons and a solid decision will be made.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has refuted a publication that there is grumbling among its officers and men about the recent postings it made which was said to have favoured some states to the detriment of others.
In a statement released by the Army and signed by Brigadier General A.C. Olukolade, Director of Army Public Relations, it said the story did not reflect the general postings as was recently done.
According to the statement, “the story tried to give the impression of non-adherence to the concept of Federal Character in carrying out postings and appointments in the Nigerian Army. “The report attempted to buttress this position with supposed investigations which it said revealed, among other things, that “90-98% of soldiers in the Guards Brigade are from the Kano and Katsina axis”. This assertion is completely false.
“The report also alleged that officers regarded as “professional” are either posted as Staff Officers or are being retired, adding that postings to the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta are causing concern.
The report further claims that the Commander, Guards Brigade, as well as the Brigade’s Garrison Commander and the Commanding Officer, 4 Guards Battalion are from the same part of the country.
“Indeed, the Army considers it most unfortunate that whereas the report ostensibly covered the entire Nigerian Army, it presented what it called investigations centered only on Guards Brigade and the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta.
Apart from the falsehood of the claims, how could the situation in just two military formations be employed as the yardstick for determining the postings in the Nigerian Army? “Again, it must be pointed out that even in the cases cited in these formations, the statistics, individuals and instances presented are far from the realities on ground.
“The Nigerian Army seizes this opportunity to reassure the Nigerian public that it has clearly discernible guidelines for postings which it follows in carrying out such exercise. It has to be noted that professionalism and merit, among other considerations, are normally taken into account. Indeed, the army has been conforming with the demands of Federal Character to the extent that it guarantees effectiveness and efficiency which remains the priority of the force.
It is therefore, unfair to attempt to engage in any misinformation with a view to unfairly assessing the leadership posture of the Army. “Speculative reports which only project imaginary “grumblings” in the Army could therefore be considered as an act intended to cause disaffection and rancour within the military system while at the same time fanning the embers of hate among the diverse ethnic groups in the country. The Nigerian Army wishes to advise that the paper saves its reputation by desisting from propagating reports such as these as they clearly deviate from facts and ethical conduct.”
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