The Defence Headquarters yesterday said it had commenced an inquisition into recent violence in the Niger Delta region of the country to unravel the rationale behind what it called "unnecessary loss of lives".
The DHQ, in a press statement by its Director, Brigadier-General Felix Chukwuma, said the exercise was born out of the military hierarchy's concern about fresh outbreak of violence in the area.
Chukwuma explained: "The Defence headquarters has observed with deep regrets the recent escalation of violence between our troops at the Joint Task Force (JTF) and the militant youths in the Niger Delta area leading to unnecessary loss of lives. This unwarranted escalation of violence and killing is being investigated by the Defence Headquarters on the directives of the Chief of Defence Staff, General Martin Luther Agwai."
The military authorities added in the statement titled: Escalation of Violence in the Niger Delta", that the Armed Forces were piqued by the resurgence of violence and the resort to arm by some youths in the area.
The service, therefore, reminded Nigerians about the position of the law on possession of arms: "The only group constitutionally vested with the power to legally carry arms in the country are the Armed Forces, Nigeria Police and some Paramilitary Organis-ations."
Consequently, it warned: "Any individual or group that traffics, sells or carries arms and ammunition in the Federal Republic of Nigeria is committing an act of illegality and shall be treated in accordance with the rule of the law."
Offering an olive branch to the youths and to other restive groups across the country, the DHQ restated its preparedness to enter into meaningful dialogue with persons with aggrieved cases to stave off breakdown of law and order.
It stated: "The Defence Headquarters wishes to restate that the Armed Forces have an open door policy, and is willing to work with any individual or group that can help to de-escalate the increasing violence in the Niger Delta.
"Our Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta code-named Operation Restore Hope is being strengthened and reorganised to ensure that the troops gain the confidence of the Niger Deltans. New channels of communications at the Defence Headquarters, the Joint Task Force and the states in the region are being established to network information among all the stakeholders."
Besides, the Armed Forces said: "This Headquarters wishes to reiterate the fact that our troops in the Niger Delta were not deployed to fight war. Therefore, the Armed Forces take special exceptions to any individual or group that use the acronym of "Freedom Fighter" in our democratic environment. The Nigerian constitution, and indeed government have provided adequate platforms and formidable environment for addressing genuine grievances without recourse to violence.
"In line with the vision and action of Mr. President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the Armed Forces are also appealing to all the stakeholders in the Niger Delta area especially the militant youths to embrace peace.
"Having won the peace in the Bakassi Peninsula, the Armed Forces are even more determined to win the peace in the Niger Delta for the socio-economic and political development of our country. Defence Headquarters is, therefore, calling on the media to partner with Nigerians and the government to address the challenges in the Niger Delta."