By Emma Amaize
WARRI â€” CONTRARY to the claims by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) that it was responsible for the bombing of Chevron flow station at Utunana, on Tuesday night, Vanguardâ€™s investigations yesterday revealed that the militant group lied, as residents of the area disclosed that the fire was caused by a mechanical fault in one of the systems, a position also earlier held by the Joint Task Force (JTF).
Meanwhile, seven persons, including four children, an elderly man, woman and driver from Kurutie and Kunukunma communities, who were escaping to Warri for safety from their hideout in the creeks, met their tragic end, Tuesday, near Kangbene community, when their speedboat ran into the troops of the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta.
7 killed in fresh attack
A relation of the deceased persons who spoke to Vanguard gave the names of the boat driver as Aaron Ebimor and the man as Pa Idumubinaiye Okoro. The woman was identified as Mrs. Beauty Amaokosu.
Also, twenty-eight days after the war in the creeks began, the whereabouts of the traditional ruler of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Godwin K. Bebenimibo and his wife is still unknown. His palace at Oporoza in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State was bombed by the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta, which accused him of fraternising with wanted militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo.
Coordinator of the Joint Media Campaign Centre (JMCC) of the task force, Colonel Rabe Abubakar, told Vanguard when contacted, yesterday, that he was not aware of the death of the seven people.
Our source, nevertheless maintained, â€œTwo days ago (Tuesday),Â a speed boat was carrying four little children with one elderly man and a woman, coming to Warri through a hidden creek from the Chanomi Creek, but,Â the JTF ambushed them and opened fire on them, killing the driver, the four little children,Â the elderly man and the woman.â€
He lamented that the driver who was merely helping the people that were trapped in the bush to relocate to safety was also shot dead by the task force.
An independent inquiry by Vanguard has revealed that the fire on Chevronâ€™s flow station at Utunana was caused by a mechanical fault in one of the systems.
A community leader from Omadino community in Delta State and member of the Delta Waterways Security Committee (DWSC), Mr. Austine Oniyesan, who spoke to Vanguard, yesterday, said, â€œwhen the incident occurred, it was a fire outbreak, Chevron called us (community leaders) to inform us and said the matter was being handled, it is not militants that struck there, we should say the truth at all timesâ€.
Mr. Oniyesan said it was wrong for MEND or any other militant group to be attributing an incident it knows nothing about to its fighters to the discomfiture of the people of the area, who would be the first victim of possible backlash from soldiers as a result of false claims.
According to him, the people of Gbaramatu kingdom have suffered enough for the unsubstantiated claims of MEND and should not be made to suffer more.
Coordinator of the Joint Media Campaign Centre (JMCC) of the JTF, Colonel Rabe Abubakar had while reacting to the MEND claim on Wednesday said the fire incident was caused by â€œsystem failure of a platform in the flow station.
â€œIf any militant group and their collaborators want a show of force, we are ready, if they want to test their strength; they are welcome as we do not engage in media war and cheap popularity. Therefore, this claim and all other claims by any militant group should be disregarded in its entiretyâ€, he said.
Chevron, speaking through its General Manager, Government and Public Affairs, Femi Odumabo also said there was a fire incident at the Utunana production facility in Delta state, which had been shut down before the Tuesday incident.
In a related development, management of the company has clarified that contrary to an earlier report published on Sunday, June 7 purporting that the company declared a force majeure last month following attack on a pipeline facility, only a shut-in of 100,000 barrels per day was declared.
Gbaramatu monarch still missing
The traditional ruler of Gbaramatu kingdom, Godwin Bebenimibo, a retired Superintendent of Police and his wife are still missing, 28 days, after his palace at Oporoza in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State was bombed by the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta.
His son, Prince Meshack Bebenimibo who confirmed the development to Vanguard, yesterday, said, â€œI want the Federal Government and the JTF to produce my father and mother who are missing since the day when the bombardment of the palace took place.
â€œI donâ€™t know if they were kidnapped by the JTF or still in a faraway bush, I have not seen them nor heard from them since the bombardmentâ€, he said.