- Buhari expected in Ogoni land today
- Militants attack Chevron facility in Delta
- Military vows to flush out economic terrorists from region
There was security alert across Niger Delta states yesterday following expected arrival of President Muhammadu Buhari in Ogoni land, Rivers State to launch the clean-up of a project which his government initiated last year.
Ogoni came into international focus due to horrendous oil pollution perpetrated by oil companies operating in the area over several years. Ahead of the visit, new militant group, Niger Delta Avengers had threatened mayhem should the President or anyone who identifies with his scheduled visit enter Ogoniland.
This visit is coming on the heels of yet another oil facility attack by new militants, Niger Delta Avengers, whose armed campaign for equity has caused the blow up of facilities of oil companies in the last two weeks by them.
Against the foregoing backdrop, there were speculations in the presidency last night that details of the visit may be reviewed depending on further intelligence reports on real security threats in the area.
Although Defence headquarters has vowed to decisively cut short their campaign by invading the area with armed security personnel, prominent leaders in the area have condemned in concise terms, both the campaign by the militants as well as tough threat by Nigeria Armed forces to raise down a greater part of the Niger Delta region as a way of flushing out and exterminating the militants through massive arms engagement.
Nigerian Pilot gathered that Buhari is expected to perform the ceremony on today at Bodo in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers in line with the report of the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP.
According to the National Publicity of Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People MOSOP, a frontline pressure group from Ogoni land, Mr Fegalo Nsuke, “Ogoni is agog; we are really ready for the flag-off of the clean-up by President Muhammadu Buhari tomorrow (Today),’’ Nsuke said.
He said already, leaders of MOSOP in various communities in Ogoni land had met and consulted to ensure that the right atmosphere was provided for the president to perform the exercise.
“I can assure you that for this particular event, Ogonis are ready. Definitely, there will be peace in Ogoniland for the exercise. In fact, whoever would want to create problem tomorrow, is simply somebody who do not want the progress of Ogoni people.
“I can assure you that the entire Ogoni is prepared for the president. I don’t think that there is any honest and sincere Ogoni person, who would not want the president to come and launch the clean-up. I don’t want to believe that there is anybody thinking in that way,’’ Nsuke said.
Speaking on the significance of the exercise, Nsuke said it was the fulfilment of the struggles and sacrifices made by Ogoni sons and daughters over the years.
“For me, it is a fulfilment of the sacrifices and pains over the years. It is actually an acknowledgement by the government and even the polluters that indeed, what we have been saying all the while is just true. You know they try to deny all of these issues. The UNEP report shows that our claim is right and for us, it is a fulfilment for us that indeed, the government is actually acknowledging that our struggle was justifiable,’’ he added.
Militants attack Chevron oil facility in Delta
Meanwhile, in a shocking but daring move again, Niger Delta Avengers blew up two important oil wells belonging to Chevron Nigeria limited, in Egbema kingdom, Warri North local government area of Delta state despite warnings and threats by the military.
It was reported that the militants carried out the attacks on Wednesday morning when they reportedly broke through the heavy military presence in the area, before executing its plans.
Affected pipelines were identified as Chevron Bibi Oil Well RMP 23 and RMP.
It was gathered that Chevron noticed the incident at about 4am following a drop in pressure during production. The wells have since been shut down.
At press time, it was gathered that team of engineers had been sent to assess the damage and to stop further spread of the spillage.
Military vows to flush out economic terrorists
In a swift reaction following the attacks, Defence Headquarters, Abuja, has assured that the Nigerian Armed Forces would not relent in their efforts to flush out economic saboteurs masquerading under whatever guise to perpetrate evils in the Niger Delta.
The military high command stressed that as part of the constitutional mandate of the armed forces, the military would not jettison the confidence reposed in it by the good citizens of Nigeria in ensuring that peace and security prevailed in the land.
The acting director of Defence Information, Brig-Gen. Rabe Abubakar in a statement he issued yesterday noted that the military was not unmindful of the campaign of calumny against the Nigerian soldiers by paid agents claiming that soldiers were harassing members of the public while performing their constitutional responsibility.
The defence spokesman said, “It is pertinent to state that it is the same group of people that are wreaking havoc on the critical national assets that are blackmailing the Armed Forces and other security agencies to divert attention.
“The military and other security agencies will continue to discharge their lawful duties in the Niger Delta and any other part of the country in a most professional manner devoid of the claim by the criminal elements of harassment, intimidation and arrest. Our job is to secure infrastructural facilities and property of innocent citizens as well as containing the activities of criminal.”
Abubakar assured the blackmail by sponsored persons would not deter the military from being focused and committed in its effort to fish out the vandals, “as the whole world is seeing what the so-called militants are criminally doing in the attacks on oil pipelines.
“The security measure put in place is not meant to intimidate any innocent individuals but to bring normalcy to our land. We urge the communities and well meaning Nigerians to cooperate with the security agencies in their bid to apprehend the perpetrators. The military would respond decisively in a professional manner at appropriate time.”
Meanwhile, the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, General Gabriel Olonisakin has assured that the military would intensify its counterterrorism offensive in Sambisa Forest until the area was completely rid of terrorists.
The CDS gave the assurance at the inauguration of some projects at Navy Town, Ojo, Lagos, when he said that the ‘Operation Crack Down’ recently launched into Sambisa was yielding positive results.
“The operation is progressing and part of the benefits was the rescue of the two Chibok girls. The operation is ongoing and we will continue until we rid that place of all terrorists,” he said.
The military chief said that Boko Haram had been decimated, adding that it had become increasingly difficult for the insurgents to carry out their nefarious acts.
“We will continue to step up our game with the multinational task force,” he said.
He commended the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Ibok Ibas, on the projects which were initiated to improve the welfare of personnel.
The projects inaugurated by the CDS were the refurbished Intensive Care Unit at Navy Reference Hospital, Ojo, as well as residential and administrative buildings.
Ijaw leader denounces military solution crisis
In another development, former president of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, and the secretary of a
committee set up by the Delta State government to consult and dialogue with militants bombing oil facilities in the Niger Delta, Dr Chris Ekiyor has cautioned that the military approach being adopted by the federal government was not the solution to current bombing of oil pipelines by the Niger Delta Avengers.
He appealed to the federal government to join hands with the committee set up by the Delta State government with a view to using diplomacy to fishout the suspects.
Speaking to newsmen in Benin City, Ekiyor also warned that the current manhunt on former militant leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo), over allegation of being the mastermind of current violence in the creeks might be misplaced, as he urged the federal government to also look at other options in order not to exacerbate the current crisis in the region.
“The military grand standing in the Niger Delta is worrisome and I think it is more of trade than patriotism. If the military advises their high command properly they should know that Niger Delta people are homely and welcoming people.
“A bunch of handful of Niger Delta Avengers cannot be equated to the entire Niger Delta people or the entire Ijaw people. The Ijaw people are threatened by the activities of Niger Delta Avengers because when you blow up pipelines the entire fish and farm products are gone. Our people have to depend on ice fish from Warri and pure water from Warri. Those people in the creeks are victims and when JTF comes they will secure only the pipelines and deal with the people, saying they are the Avengers.
“No Avenger will blow up a pipeline and sit in the community and wait for you. So government needs to reorganise its military to reflect a people friendly military, gather intelligence and prosecute the right people. Experience has also shown that the network of pipelines in the Niger Delta cannot be policed by these gun throttling approach; it has to be policed by a diplomatic call, committed understanding by a people who are ready to do it as a family,” he said.
On the belief in some quarters that Tompolo may be behind the crisis, Ekiyor said “people thought Tompolo is behind this but if he was behind it he will put a face to it. He will not be cowardly enough to hide under pseudo names and his media show will be different from this. I knew when he was in charge of MEND; they will actually tell you the time and date they will hit a facility and they will tell the JTF to go and wait for them; yet they will hit the facility.
“They were that organised. That was seven years back. For those of us who understand the terrain, Tompolo may necessarily not be involved in what is happening but aggrieved persons will be; but those persons are unknown to us and that is why we went to the creeks. We were basically struggling to win confidence of these elements and asking government to create a platform for discussion. Nobody knew MEND until we confronted them in the creeks and when they found out that we were genuine they came out in their numbers and surrendered their weapons.
“But I believe that if government allows and create an enabling environment for trust, which is the core issue that does not exist, whoever is these Avengers will come out. Government should engage them and whatever is their demand government will accept or not. The issue of policy trust is key; government should retrace its steps,” he warned.