The Nigerian Army said on Tuesday that dialogue with the militant group, Niger Delta Avengers, whose operations in the oil rich region have cut down daily oil production output, was not yet an option.
The Army, justifying its recent operations in Gbaramatu, Delta State, said the use of force was for now the only available option until leaders of the militant group were apprehended.
Representing the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, Brig.-Gen. J. Hamakim, said this at the ‘State of the Nation Conference’, organised by the Nigerian Bar Association and held in Abuja on Tuesday.
During the conference on Tuesday, the Army was accused of failing to explore dialogue with the Niger Delta militants and resorting to use of force which could lead to a war situation in the region.
The Army was also accused of attacking members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, who were allegedly demonstrating peacefully in Onitsha, Anambra State on Monday.
But Hamakim, in his response, said there was no sign that the Niger Delta Avengers’ members were ready for dialogue.
He said, “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 can also force such a person.
“I think that is what the Nigeria Army is trying to do. Yes, we don’t know the group’s leader, for now; that is the only option, possibly we have to bring the people out to know who you can dialogue with.”
He said the activities of the group were affecting Nigerians as the nation’s oil production had recently further plummeted to 1.1 million barrels per day.
He debunked the allegation that soldiers, who were involved in the operations in Gbaramatu, were killing innocent residents and raped women.
“We have done our investigation and nothing like that is happening,” he said.
He also said the demonstrations by IPOB, leading to a clash between the protesters and security forces which left two policemen and 30 others dead in Onitsha, Anambra State on Monday, were not peaceful.
Hamakim said, “Remember that lives were lost, policemen were killed, some were thrown overboard and the military has rules of engagement.
“The question is how peaceful is the peaceful demonstration. How peaceful was the demonstration at that time? If it was that peaceful, how come we lost security agencies.
“The rule of engagement is that if you feel threatened, you have the mandate to respond. What we can say is that was not at all a demonstration that you can say was peaceful.”