The Nigerian Army has dismissed rumours of an ongoing negotiation with militants of the Niger Delta, insisting that it would continue to use force until leaders of resurgent militant groups in the region are arrested.
Represented by Brig.Gen. J. Hamakim, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.Gen. Tukur Burutai said this in Abuja while justifying the Army’s ongoing onslaught in Gbaramatu, Delta State.
During the conference on Tuesday, the Army was accused of failing to explore dialogue with the Niger Delta militants but resorting to the use of force, which the people said could lead to war in the region.
The Army was also accused, during the event, of attacking members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, who were allegedly demonstrating peacefully in Onitsha, Anambra State, on Monday.
Hamakim while reacting claims that the Army has refused to explore dialogue with militants said there was no sign that the Niger Delta Avengers’ members were ready for talks.
According to Hamakim, “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 Nigerian 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 talk with.”
The representative of the army Chief stated that the activities of the group has reduced the nation’s oil production to 1.1 million out of 2.2 million barrels per day.
Hamakim denied the claim that soldiers who were involved in the operations in Gbaramatu were killing innocent residents and raping women.
“We have done our investigation and nothing like that is happening,” he said.
He however, described the demonstrations by supporters of the Biafra struggle that left several people dead and others injured in the South East as violent.
“Remember that lives were lost; policemen were killed; some were thrown overboard and the military has rules of engagement.
“The rule of engagement is that if you feel threatened, you have the mandate to respond. What we can say is that that was not at all a demonstration that you can say was peaceful,” he added.