By Emma Amaize,Â Albert Akpor, Ebun Babalola & Tosin Adejuwon
LAGOS â€” THE Senator Ibrahim Mohammed Ida-led Senate Committee on Defence, yesterday, in Lagos, described Sundayâ€™s attack by the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) on the Atlas Cove as a further slap on the Federal Government which was already toeing the path of peace by granting amnesty to the militants.
The committee which was at the Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre (NAFRC), Oshodi, on a tour of facilities told newsmen that the National Assembly was greatly disturbed by the attack which came on the heels of the Federal Governmentâ€™s amnesty offer.
Senator Ida noted that the oil facilities that were destroyed belonged to Nigeria which the restive militants are natives of.
Those killed, according to him, were Nigerians, like the militants, adding that the olive branch waved by the Federal Government should be embraced as a lasting solution to their agitations.
â€œThe issue is not about this committeeâ€™s impression about the attack, the issue is that the National Assembly and by extension, the entire country is worried by the continued destruction of oil facilities by these militants. Again, this is coming at a time when the Federal Government has granted amnesty to them. My view is that they should embrace this olive branch and let there be peace.
The oil facility that they are destroying belong to all of us including the militants. Those naval personnel that lost their lives were Nigerians just like the militants too. This is a further slap on a government which meant good for the Niger Deltans. My position is that we should toe the path of peace and live together,â€ he advised.
Already, the Navy high command, through its Director of Information, Commodore David Nabaida, said it has commenced in-depth investigation into the attack which claimed the lives of its personnel including Commander Kolawole Aweh, the officer in charge of the facility.
The Navy assured that further line of action would depend on the outcome of its investigation. Meanwhile, the destroyed Atlas Cove Jetty has been cordoned-off by armed naval personnel.
Senator Ida assured that his committeeâ€™s visit would ensure that most of the problems of NAFRC were presented before the relevant authorities with a view to proffering solutions to them.
â€œOur visit is not about sight seeing. We came here to have first hand knowledge of some of the problems confronting the Centre and how to proffer solution to them. From what we have seen, we want to say that a lot need to be done here if this Centre is to continue providing the services for which it was established.
It is our resolve that all our service men and women will be able to have something to fall back on when they finally leave the service. The only way we can achieve this is to ensure that all the obsolete equipment are replaced with new functional ones,â€ he said.
Tompolo not responsible for attack â€”Group
The Warri-Ijaw Peace Monitoring Group (WIPMG) in Delta State, yesterday, dismissed the claim by the Ijaw Youth Campaign for Peace that leader of Camp 5, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, was responsible for Sundayâ€™s attack on the Atlas Cove Jetty in Lagos.
Chairman of the WIPMG, Chief Patrick Bigha, in a statement in Warri said â€œThe blame on the attack of the Atlas Cove by the mischievous Ijaw Youth Campaign for Peace group is another ploy to smear the good name of the foremost Ijaw freedom activist, Chief Government Ekpemupolo.
â€œHe (Tompolo) is a man that has commanded respect from prominent Ijaw sons and daughters over the years because of his integrity and humble disposition in the struggle for the liberation of the down-trodden Niger Delta people.
â€œIt is meaningless and senseless for the so-called peace campaign group to have linked Tompolo to the attack, as MEND has already claimed responsibility for the attack,â€ he said.
His words, â€œThe group is a paid body to sabotage the on-going peace process. If we may ask, where was this group when the military destroyed and displaced the Gbaramatu people? We want to advise these political jobbers to beware so as not to be used to destroy the good Ijaw people for we know there is no such group in the Ijaw nationâ€.
MEND regrets civilian deaths from Lagos attack
MEND on its part, yesterday, expressed regret over the death of civilians in its Sunday attack on the Atlas Cove Jetty.
Its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, in an online statement said, â€œOn the attack on the Atlas Cove Jetty in Lagos, some newspapers have been giving speculative figures on the number of attackers and boats used for the Atlas Cove attack on Sunday, July 12, the fact is that only two gunboats were used with a total of eighteen (18) well-armed and experienced commandos.
â€œThe naval resistance was weaker than anticipated because after the first shots were fired by them, we responded with heavy calibre machine guns which made them to flee,â€ he asserted.
â€œWe regret any civilian loss of life that may have occurred from the attack.â€
Attack irresponsible â€” CDHR
The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, CDHR, has condemned the attack on the Atlas Cove Jetty in Lagos and the killing of a naval officer and two ratings describing it as an irresponsible and reprehensible act.
In a statement by its National Secretary, Comrade Gbenga Soloki, the group strongly opposed the threat to the internal sovereignty of the country by the militants for extending their grievances to Lagos in pursuit of their demand for the development of the Niger Delta.
â€œWhile we sympathise with the people of Niger Delta, we are also mindful of the fact that the struggle for the development of Niger Delta should equally not be at the detriment of the socio-political cum economic interest of the people of the South Western Nigeria.
â€œThough we appreciate their right to self-determination, but â€˜MENDâ€™ should be cautious of the rights of their fellow country men and women,â€ CDHR submitted.
However, the group called on the Nigeria Government and the security outfits responsible for the maintenance of law and order and the protection of oil installations nation wide, to restructure its security measures so as to meet with future challenges of this nature. This will go a long way to restore the confidence of the Nigeria people in them.
Oodua group condemns attack
Similarly, the Coalition of Oodua self- determination Group, COSEG, has also described it as an unacceptable act capable of creating unnecessary tension across the country.
This was disclosed yesterday in Lagos by the Coalition of Oodua Self-Determination Groups (COSEG) in a release signed by its Director of Media and Publicity, Comrade Gbenga Soloki, stressing that the development portends danger to the existing collaboration between the people of the South-West and their Niger Delta counterparts.
According to COSEG, â€œwhile we understand the rights of the Niger Delta to self-determination, which we have always defended, we believe they should realise that their struggle for self-determination exists within geographical and cultural boundaries, and to that extent, we donâ€™t expect them to take actions that will infringe on the territory and interest of the Yoruba people, talk less of their commercial nerve centre, Lagosâ€