The Nigerian Army has ruled out any dialogue with members of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), a new militant group that has claimed responsibility for the several attacks that have put oil production output in the Niger Delta region in shambles.
The Army said on Tuesday in Abuja that holding talks with the militants was not 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.
Brig.-Gen. J. Hamakim disclosed this at the ‘State of the Nation Conference’, organised by the Nigerian Bar Association and held in Abuja on Tuesday.
He represented the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai on the occasion.
Participants at the confetence had accused the Army of failing to explore dialogue before military action, but Hamakim retorted that there was no sign that members of Niger Delta Avengers 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 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 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 denied the insinuations that soldiers, who were involved in the operations in Gbaramatu, killed innocent residents and raped women.
“We have done our investigation and nothing like that is happening,” he said.
On the accusation that the army killed and arrested pro-Biafra activists, indiscremately on Mnday, he 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, 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.”