WARRI â€” THERE are indications that operations of Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) in the Niger-Delta are under serious threat of being grounded, following the onslaught from militants who have blown up several of its facilities in the last few days, even as the company insists that output remains unaffected.
All through yesterday, there was fresh apprehension in the Niger-Delta,Â as MEND fighters, despite the claim by the JTF that it was on top of the situation, struck again at about 1:40am yesterday, destroying a pipeline at the Abiteye flow station, operated by the Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL).
The militants, in their dozens, engaged the security operatives in a heavy gun duel that lasted several hours before they were repelled.
Confirming the attack, the JTF Coordinator, Joint Media Campaign Centre, Colonel Rabe Abubakar said â€œthe hoodlums were over-powered by our troops and forced to flee in disarray with various degree of gun shot wounds while there was no casualty on our side and the facility was securedâ€.
He however declined to confirm the arrest or death of four of the militants.
Witnesses at Abiteye told Vanguard that there was heavy shooting and the facility was actually blown up against the JTF claim, though the facility remains in the control of the JTF operatives now guarding the flow station.
In a message, Femi Odumabo, Chevronâ€™s General Manager in charge of government and public affairs confirmed that the Makaraba-Utonana-Abiteye pipeline was breached and Makaraba Jacket 5 on fire as at Friday night, adding that efforts to contain the fire was in progress.
â€œThe facilities were shut in prior to the incident. All personnel are safe. The safety of our workforce, both employees and contractors, remains our highest priority,â€ Odumabo said.
Meanwhile, Armoured Personnel Carriers, APC, have been deployed in Warri to ensure peace in the oil city.
Four of the new state-of-the-art APCs were seen patrolling the major roads of Warri and its environs yesterday, blaring sirens giving signals to would-be trouble makers to give peace a chance.
Col. Abubakar told Vanguard that the armoured personnel carriers were on patrol to ensure security and not intended to intimidate or harass anyone.
In a statement, MEND disclosed that its current war against the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger-Delta and devastation of oil facilities dubbed, â€œHurricane Piper Alphaâ€ would move to five more states â€” Bayelsa, Rivers, Ondo, Edo and Akwa-Ibom.
All through yesterday, there was fresh apprehension in the Niger-Delta over the development, particularly as MEND fighters, despite the claim by the JTF that it was on top of the situation, struck again at about 2.00 am, yesterday, destroying a pipeline at the Abiteye flow station, operated by the Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL).
Minutes after the militants destroyed a pipeline in the Abiteye flow station, the militants struck again, blowing up the Abiteye Jacket 1 & 11 facilities belonging to Chevron Nigeria Ltd with explosives.
The facilities were still on fire yesterday morning and a source who spoke to Vanguard on the condition of anonymity said, â€œWith the way things are going, Chevron would be grounded in the next one month or more.
â€œThere are more than 5,000 persons working in our Escravos-Gas-to-Liquid project in Delta and their jobs would be threatened with what is going on now, the main operation in Delta state at the moment is Chevron and they are destroying all our facilities, this is very bad for us.
â€œSome of the contractors working on that project took money from the bank to do the job and you can imagine what will happen if the company is forced to stop operation in the state,â€ he lamented.
JTF reviews situation
Commander of the JTF, Major General Sarkin Yarkin-Bello met with his top officers yesterday to review the situation and adopt more measures to contain the situation.
Vanguard learnt that given the intensity of the destruction by the militants, the troops may become more brutal in their approach to the Cordon and Search operation.
The task force has also deployed more men and materials to some strategic oil locations in the region while the Defence Headquarters, it was learnt, was also closely monitoring the situation.
Residents flee Letugbene
Following last weekâ€™s violent attack on the Joint Task Force by suspected militants in which four persons, among them a community leader was killed, residents of Letugbene, a coastal settlement in the Bayelsa West Senatorial District have fled their homes.
Vanguard gathered that the fear of the natives might not be unconnected with the rumour that a militant leader, General Boyloaf was planning to attack the community over claim that he was set up by the community.
The militants from the camp of General Boyloaf and the Joint Task Force were last week locked in violent clash at the community waterfront.
Some sea pirates were arrested, last Friday, in Letugbene by some locals and handed them over to the JTF.
But those who managed to escape to safety later called for assistance from Boyloafâ€™s camp that came and engaged the JTF operatives in a gun duel in an attempt to rescue their colleagues.
Vanguard reported that the militants killed a Letugbene chief and two others in the process with a threat to destroy the village that have remained peaceful and law-abiding and have been working in collaboration with the security outfit to ensure that the Letugbene axis is crime-free.
Troubled by the mass exodus of the natives in the wake of the alleged plan by the militants to invade the community in retaliation for last weekâ€™s incident, the chairman of Letugbene, Prince Jude Boukeme, has pleaded with the Joint Task Force to come to the aid of the community.
Prince Boukeme also called on the state and federal governments to send relief materials to cushion their suffering.
Ateke Tom opts for amnesty deal
Militant leader, Ateke Tom, has offered to surrender all his arms and ammunition and that of members of his group to the Federal Government in the spirit of the amnesty offer extended to militants by the federal government.
Tom who spoke through his counsel in Port Harcourt yesterday, Ikenna M. Enekweizu also urged the Federal Government to make public, details and conditions of the proposed amnesty to militants in the region. He said he was now willing to return to his Okrika home town in the state to participate in the development of the area and the state in general.
â€œChief Comrade Ateke Tom hereby declares on behalf of himself and all members of the Niger Delta Vigilante, the Niger Delta Patriotic Forces, that he is prepared to hand over all arms and ammunition in the hands of himself and his boys, preparatory to handing them over to the Federal Government, the moment the modalities for the grant of the amnesty is completed and announced by the Federal Government.
Chief (Comrade) Ateke Tom hereby calls on the Federal Government to immediately make public the conditions for the said amnesty and put in place all necessary frame work (both legal and otherwise) for the facilitation of the grant of the said amnesty.â€