Despite the deployment of troops to the Niger Delta to curtail the growing attacks on oil and gas facilities by militants, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), in the early hours of wednesday blew up two more oil wells operated by Chevron Nigeria Limited in Delta State.
THISDAY gathered that the incident took place before 4 am around Egbema creek in Warri North Local Government Area of the state.
NDA, which had claimed responsibility for several attacks on oil installations in the wake of recent hostilities in the region, also claimed responsibility for the attack via Twitter.
It described the attack as a major feat for the group to prove the federal government wrong following last Saturday’s invasion of Gbaramatu communities.
The affected oil facilities were identified as Chevron Bibi oil well RMP 23 and RMP 24.
NDA, hours after the incident tweeted: “With the heavy presence of 100 gunboats, four warships and jet bombers, NDA blew up Chevron oil well RMP 23 and RMP 24 at 3.44 am this morning.
“This is to show the whole world that the Nigeria military is good at harassing innocent civilians. RMP 24 and RMP 23 are the Chevron swamp highest producing wells.”
When contacted, Mr. Sola Adebawo, Manager, Communications Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Chevron Nigeria, said in an email: “Thank you for your inquiry. However, we will not comment on security matters. The safety of our people remains our number one priority.”
But a coalition of youths drawn from oil and gas producing communities in Delta State condemned the violent activities of the NDA.
The youths drawn from Urhobo, Isoko, Itsekiri and Ndokwa in the state, said the militant group does not enjoy their blessings, warning them to desist, as the region does not belong to the Ijaw ethnic nationality alone.
In a joint communiqué issued yesterday by Terry Obieh, Esimaje Awani, Benjamin Onwubodu and Egbo Okemena, Presidents of Urhobo, Itsekiri, Ndokwa and Isoko youths, condemned the recent attacks on oil facilities in the region.
“We also know that the so-called Avengers do not represent the reasonable Ijaw ethnic nationality whom they try to muddy through their shadowy disposition.
“The Ijaw ethnic nationality has since submitted to and continues to benefit from the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
“Their various associations have also issued statements to this effect. We therefore find it preposterous for a band of misguided fellows claiming God knows what nationality, to be unleashing daylight violence on the entire region while giving the entire region a very bad and unprintable name,” they stated.
The communities added: “You cannot engage in one wrong to cure another wrong, and to that extent the purported Avengers’ struggle is actuated by an over arching ambition with which we will not be identified.
“There are more peaceful ways to draw the attention of government to a cause, however germane, and not through the unconscionable and mindless destruction of the facilities that serve the entire nation.”
DHQ: We’re After Criminals
Coming on the heels of wednesday’s bombings, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) in Abuja denied reports that security forces are harassing, killing and arbitrarily arresting the people of Gbaramatu Kingdom in Delta State following the destruction of oil facilities in the Niger Delta.
Gbaramatu is the hometown of Mr. Government Ekpemupolo (also known as Tompolo), an ex-Niger Delta militant, who has become a fugitive of the law after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) declared him wanted for corruption charges.
Security agencies have linked the resurgence of militant activities in the Niger Delta to the federal government’s attempt to prosecute Tompolo for corruption.
He has however distanced himself from the activities of the NDA and condemned their attacks on oil and gas infrastructure.
DHQ spokesman, Brig-Gen. Rabe Abubakar, in response to THISDAY inquiries yesterday, said troops of the Joint Task Force (JTF) did not arrest any innocent civilians, contrary to the allegations made by residents of Gbaramatu.
Abubakar clarified that security forces were only deployed to the kingdom and other parts of the region to maintain peace and order.
He said that there was no way the military would stand by and allow the Avengers, whom he referred to as criminals, to destabilise the country through its activities, saying the military’s goal was to apprehend the militants.
He said: “What is happening right now needs to be clarified because we don’t arrest innocent people. Let’s put sentiment aside, we need to ensure the security of the country and secondly, we know what has been happening around that general area (Gbaramatu).
“Also, any other place where there is a security threat, a place where there is a breakdown of internal peace and order in this country, the security agencies have no reason to close their eyes when things go wrong.
“So what we are doing in essence is to ensure that there is adequate protection and enough presence of security forces who will protect the innocent citizens because not all Niger Delta people are part of the Avengers.
“We are not arresting but only protecting those innocent individuals. We are only focused on those who are criminally minded to ensure that we apprehend them in a professional manner.”
The DHQ spokesman stressed that those crying and making the allegation of arrest and molestations are the criminals bent on destroying the economic infrastructure in the Niger Delta.
He vowed that the military would continue with its operations with the primary aim of protecting innocent civilians and apprehending those behind the attacks on oil facilities in the region.
Legal Backing to Quell Pro-Biafra Rallies
On the involvement of the military, which led the charge against pro-Biafra sympathisers who were celebrating the 49th anniversary of the declaration of the Republic of Biafra on Monday, Abubakar said the military was drafted to quell the rallies organised by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) as part of its constitutional mandate to maintain law and order in every part of the country.
According to him, “The essence of government is the provision of peace, security, as well as protection of lives and property.
“And that is what the constitution says. We were therefore not going contrary to what the constitution provides.”
The attempt to stop the rallies, which took place in at least seven states across the South-east and South-south geopolitical zones, led to the deaths of three policemen, dozens of pro-Biafra protesters, and several others sustaining injuries. Scores of protesters were also arrested in the states where the rallies took place.
Following the outcry over the killings, the military on Tuesday said they acted in self-defence while the police moved to disarm suspected pro-Biafra members.
IPOB: We Did Not Fire at Security Forces
However, IPOB, in reaction to the excuse given by the military for the high death toll, denied the allegation that its members and sympathisers shot at security agents deployed to monitor the Biafra Day rally, which led to the killings and arrests of several of its members in the commercial city of Onitsha.
A press release issued yesterday by the organisation and signed by its spokespersons, Mr. Emma Nmezu and Dr. Clifford Chukwuemeka Iroanya, stated that the allegations were unfounded and targeted at labelling them as an arms bearing group so as to find a reason to nail its leader, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, who is still in detention.
The group also took on the Inspector General (IG) of Police and the Nigerian government, saying that no amount of cajoling and hounding could stop it from pressing for the actualisation of Biafra Republic, just as it instituted a case against the IG at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, Netherlands, for mass killings.
It said: “How can the police disarm people who are not armed in the first place? We challenge the IG to provide any proof that Biafrans attacked police personnel and at what point in time did this happen?
“We think he is probably trying to make the job easier for the Department of State Services (DSS) which has been looking for the smoking gun with which they will convince the trial judge, Hon. John Tsoho, that IPOB is a violent organisation so that the Judge will uphold charge number two in the case against the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu.“
IPOB went further to challenge the IG, saying: “You can tell all the lies in the world and try to manufacture evidence for your colleagues in the DSS so that they can use it against the leader of IPOB, but the incontrovertible fact is that nobody can stop the restoration of the nation of Biafra.“
The group also stated that it duly sought the consent of the Anambra State Police Commissioner, Mr. Hassan Karma, for the Biafra Day rally, and also requested security coverage through a letter signed by its head of directorate of state, Uchenna Asiegbu, and as such could not have shot at them.
The letter dated May 23, 2016, read: “As a follow-up to our telephone conversation, the Indigenous People of Biafra hereby officially inform the Commissioner of Police Anambra State that a remembrance rally for the victims of the Biafran genocide will hold on the 30th of May 2016 in Anambra State.
“The rally seeks to remember, recognise the sacrifices made and honour those past and present that laid down their lives for the collective good of Biafrans.
“The Directorate of State of the Indigenous People of Biafra is desirous of holding a hitch-free May 30th Biafran Heroes Remembrance Day as was the case in Enugu State in 2014 and Abia State in 2015, and is confident that Anambra State Police Command will provide the enabling environment for a peaceful May 30th 2016 Remembrance Rally.”
Ultimatum for Release of Corpses
Meanwhile, militants in the Niger Delta have given the federal government up till tomorrow to release the corpses of pro-Biafra agitators allegedly killed on Monday, or risk more uprising from them.
They also said they had declared a total revenge against security agents, following what they described as “unprovoked massacre of peace-loving Biafra people” in Onitsha, Anambra State.
In a statement issued online, the militants said the decision was taken after an emergency meeting of leaders of the various militant groups in the region.
Arrow heads of Niger Delta People’s Democratic Front (NDPDF) and Concerned Militant Leaders (CML), Precious Iyoyo (General Playboy) and General Ben, respectively speaking on behalf of their colleagues, said it was disheartening the level of insensitivity of security men against the citizens.
The Niger Delta militants, in the statement, claimed that many of them, who are sympathisers of Biafra, witnessed how members of MASSOB, IPOB and the Biafra Independent Movement (BIM) were killed in unprovoked circumstances.
“The Nigerian government killed many innocent people. So many Niger Delta militants witnessed what happened in Onitsha. We are too pained to keep quiet.
“If the federal government fails to release them by Friday, June 3, 2016, they will hear from us from Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Edo States,” General Playboy declared.
Similarly, he stated that what the federal government did by the activities of soldiers and policemen last Monday, was a clear declaration of war on innocent and helpless Nigerians.
“It is now war between the militants and security men. Since innocent and helpless citizens, especially from the South-south and South-east have been marked out for extinction, we will defend our people.
“We will go after security men in an unprecedented manner both at sea and land. The federal government should expect more attacks from us.
“We’ll tell the federal government that the Niger Delta region is our terrain and no amount of military troops and their armoury will dampen our spirit.
“The federal government should know that the more attacks on Biafra, the more aggressive we become. This is war that involves all of us,” General Ben stated.Culled from thisday.