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Bomb blasts rock Warri amnesty talks

*One dies
*MEND claims responsibility
*Govs, elders scold MEND

Emma Amaize, Dayo Benson, Okey Ndiribe, Simon Ebegbulem, Emma Arubi, Jimitota Onoyume & Festus Ahon

WARRI—GOVERNORS, elders, leaders and stakeholders of the Niger-Delta, yesterday, angrily scolded the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta, MEND, for detonating two bombs some 200 metres away from the Government House Annex, Warri, Delta State, venue of a two-day post amnesty dialogue by Vanguard Newspapers.

The event had just started with a welcome address by the chairman of the occasion, a former Chief of Defence Staff, General Andrew Owei Azazi (rtd) and the Chairman/Publisher of Vanguard Media Limited, Mr. Sam Amuka was explaining the reason for the Vanguard initiative when the first bomb was detonated.

The second bomb, reportedly planted inside a car across the road on Effurun-Nigeria Ports Authority Expressway near the Government House, Warri exploded 30 minutes later, forcing the stakeholders to leave the hall.

Another explosion outside the perimetre fence of the Govt House Annex, Warri

MEND claimed responsibility for the explosions and in fact sent out electronic mail statements before they were detonated.

However, South-South leader and former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, first civilian Governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, presidential candidate of the Africa Democratic Congress in the 2007 elections, Prof Pat Utomi, Second Republic Senator, Francis Okpozo, former Senate Chief Whip, Senator Roland Owie, member of the Niger-Delta Technical Committee, Mr. Tony Uranta, Niger-Delta activist, Ann-Kio Briggs, Barrister Mike Igini, Mike Emakpore, members of the Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. Efe Afe, Talib Tebite and Commissioner for Lands and Survey, Hon Raymos Guanah spoke on the blasts.

It’s shocking
– Clark
Chief Clark who was unavoidably absent but watching the event live on television in Abuja said, “I was invited to the post-amnesty dialogue in Warri today (yesterday) and tomorrow (today) but because I have some other things I am doing in Abuja, I could not attend but I was watching the event live when the programme went off and I started calling to find out what happened.”

He added: “It’s shocking. This is the first time a very serious conference on the post-amnesty programme is being organized to proffer solutions on the way forward and it should be supported.”
The elder statesman said at the time of speaking to Vanguard, he was yet to get information on who carried out the bomb attack and why, stressing that the government should probe the incident to prevent its re-enactment in future.

It’s insulting – Oyegun

Chief Odigie-Oyegun who was at the venue of the conference when the bombs exploded said it was insulting to the people of region for MEND to plant and detonate bombs at an event organized by a media organization like Vanguard to chart a way forward for the region.

He said: “It shows that these people have no respect for the elders and leaders of the region. How can we be gathered for a programme and they are detonating bombs, according to them, to make a statement. What statement? Are they saying that Niger-Delta people cannot meet again?

From Left: Gen. Andrew Azazi, Rtd; Chief Ufot Ekaette, Minister of Niger Delta Ministry representing Acting President Goodluck Jonathan; Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State and Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State at the Post Amnesty programme.

“It’s unfortunate that such a thing happened, those who did this are disgracing Niger-Delta and humiliating themselves because you cannot be fighting for the region and doing all these.”

People won’t be intimidated — Delta govt
Delta State Government, in a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Oma Djeba said, “This morning (yesterday), explosives mounted in two cars stationed at about 200 metres away from the venue of the conference organized by Vanguard, entitled ‘Post-Amnesty Dialogue – Restoring Hope in the Niger Delta,’ were detonated.”

“To protect lives and property, the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, ordered immediate evacuation of participants to a safe location. The event has been put off by the organizers.

“The peoples of the Niger Delta will not be intimidated nor deterred by the cowardly act of a few opposed to a peaceful and non-violent approach of resolving the historic grievances of the region. We assure all that we will not be deterred in our determination to fast-track the development of our people.”

Govs won’t be deterred – Orji
Abia State Governor, Theodore Orji who spoke through his media adviser, Ugochukwu Emezue said those behind the act were enemies of progress. He maintained that governors from the zone would not be deterred in their efforts to better the lot of the people, adding, “The governor thanked God that no life was lost.”

Enemies at work — Senator  Okpozo
“It’s unfortunate that such incident took place when you had dignitaries lined up from all over the Niger-Delta. I was inside when the first one exploded and we felt it was just to herald the coming of the governors. But, when the second one exploded, it shook the foundation of the entire building and we saw smoke everywhere. It is obvious that those who do not want the progress of the Niger-Delta are behind this. They must have seen that we are going to make progress. This matter must be investigated because it is really bad.”

From left; HRM Sideso, Abe I, Ovie of Uvwie; Chief Hope Harriman and Olorogun Felix Ibru at the event.

We should’ve gone ahead with confab — Prof Pat Utomi
“My opinion is that the conference should not have ended. It should only have been suspended for an hour and every body should have come back. And a clean sweep of the neighbourhood would take place because if the object of whoever did it was to disrupt, then you have handed that person victory.

But the person might have a different objective. It could be just the way some people had suggested, to make a statement to signal that look we can still talk.

“Importantly, what the whole thing signals to me, is the need for us to become more intensive or to do more in solving our problems? I am concerned about the future because everywhere you look at in Nigeria you see time bombs. If you look at Kano, five million kids not going to school, begging for alms.

“If you look at twenty years from now when they are adults, and when they will not be able to go to sleep, hungry without doing anything about it, you see a time bomb. Look at Jos, if you look at Jos you will see a time bomb. If you look at the Niger Delta region, you will see a time bomb.

“The interesting thing about these time bombs is that they are all foretold. As Mr. Sam Amuka was saying before the blast went off, the crisis of Niger Delta was foretold in the Willinks Commission report of 1958; it created what is happening now. We did nothing about it. Four years ago, I began passionately talking about the crisis of Jos, and it has come. Why is it that all the crisis were foretold and we allowed it to happen?”

Security agents should beef up security —Senator Owie
“It is sad that what Vanguard suffered to put in place for so long, some people came to disrupt it. This is an event that was well planned to ensure that this post amnesty programme of the Federal Government succeeds. This also calls for sober reflection as regards our security in this nation. An event like this, we expect security agencies to beef up security in that area but what it means is that we have no hiding place in this nation any more.

People running for dear lives after the explosion.

“For such a bomb to be planted at Government House annex where we expect that there will be security, means that the common Nigerian is no longer safe. The incident is very unfortunate and sad and those who perpetrated the act should know that we are all searching for the solution to our problem. They should not have done this at least for the interest of the people of the Niger Delta and Vanguard Newspapers.”

We should not capitulate — Uranta
“Well I do not know about it being right or wrong, but what I want to note is that a few hours earlier, news has been circulated coming from Jomo Gbomo of MEND, saying that they will make statements by 11 00hrs and if you look at the timing, those two bombs went off around that time.

“The first bomb went off on the other side of the road from where the Governors convoy was passing to bring it to the attention of the governors. The second bomb went off outside the venue so you can see that there is no intention to hurt people but possibly angry elements still complaining about the failure of the process of amnesty and I think those elements may need to be engaged.

“But I do not think that I even advised Governor Uduaghan. I told him do not leave, get your men to secure the place, let us continue, let us give a counter signal to the world that we are still going on with the processes of peace and development. If you capitulate, too early in a wrong way, to wrong elements you can send a signal of weakness, not only of weakness but of instability which is not helpful.

“The boys did not consult any body before they did what ever they did. Nobody who is a pacifist like myself will ever support violence in any way, even if it is violence of attacking the psyche of people but we must admit that the amnesty process is a failure. And the post amnesty process which I belong to, I am on the post-amnesty committee but it is failing, I have said that at meetings, I have said that at different fora. It is failing.”

No to violence — Mike Igini
“Well, it is most unfortunate that despite the efforts of people like Uncle Sam in bringing everybody together, and give further momentum to the failed amnesty programme, that we witnessed this unfortunate development today (yesterday) as a result of the explosion of high caliber bombs at the venue of the programme. But I think that for those of us that travelled from Lagos to our state, to be part of the solution to find solution to the problem, it shows clearly what we represent that we believe in peace. That it is only in a peaceful atmosphere that truly the issue facing the Niger Delta could be resolved.

“But again you must also understand that there is what we called the stakeholder theory and stakeholder approach to issues. What has happened today (yesterday) is a reflection of some other stakeholders you may call militants or whatever name you may call them that perhaps wants to express their disapproval from the way the amnesty programme has been run by their action.

From left; Prof. Pat Utomi and Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State leaving the venue of the event after the explosion.

“I have chosen the path of peace, but I think the clear message here is to the government, that you do not tie an important programme of this nature that has the future of Nigeria, to just as individual, that institutions are in a better position to secure the destiny of a nation and of the people than an individual.”

Dialogue remains the best option —Mike Emakpore
“You know that nothing in life is menial, these things are complicated. But I have looked at many angles, for example. I looked at the list of the invited guest and I saw Henry Okah, it can be as petty as one of the groups saying you mean you can call Okah you did not call us, we will show you.

I am not saying that is what it is, it can be that such people think that this gathering is that of the elites that will not be speaking to the issues that concern them and, therefore, it is not acceptable to them. It can just be some people who do not like progress or do not recognize progress. There are some people inside there who actually believe that the aggregation of personalities is one that had not taken care of those on ground. And my response to them was we are here to discuss, why don’t we discuss?”

We’ve missed the point —Ann’Kio Briggs
“I was in the hall when the explosion went off. I was driving by when the first explosion went off. But it really was not anything to pay too much attention to. It was may be 15 minutes later that a major explosion went off. And you could see, inside the government house the whole place was littered, the parts of the car that got blown into the government house.

“My reaction to the explosion shows very clearly that the Federal Government, the state governments that made up the Niger Delta, all of them have missed the point of the amnesty. Everybody has missed the point of the amnesty because if you say that you have offered amnesty and some thing like this happened, it shows very clearly that the amnesty has failed.”


It’s condemnable
— Hon Efe Afe
“It is a condemnable act. It is not encouraging. It has really dented the image of our state and our country. What ever their grievances are, what they have done is condemnable. The conference is to address the issue and if they want to express their anger, they should not have disrupted the conference.”

This’ ungodly — Hon Taleb Tebite
“It’s unfortunate and ungodly. The attack is embarrassing and unwarranted. The event is meant to address the Niger Delta issue which is not different from their agitation.”

HRM Atuwatse Ogiame II CON, (M) the Olu of Warri flanked by his Chiefs leaving the venue of the event after the explosion

It’s sad — Hon Guanah
“It is unfortunate. The whole concept of the ceremony was to find a solution to the Niger Delta crisis and a forward after the amnesty but surprisingly bombs were planted to disrupt the event. It is very sad on the state of the nation today, the state of security and the success of the amnesty programme.”

Woman dies in MEND bomb blast
AN unidentified market woman said to be a tomatoes seller lost her life in yesterday’s bomb attack by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta.

The woman was reportedly coming from the market en-route the Effurun-NPA Expressway in a bus when she was caught in the bomb explosion.

But unknown to the militant group that somebody was killed, it insisted it had no apology for its actions.

In an electronic mail to Vanguard inquiry, last night, even as more Niger-Deltans rebuked the group for its unruly action.

MEND’s spokesman, Jomo Gbomo in his response simply said, “We have no comments and no apologies over our actions. Our statement has clarified the position of the group. We thank God that no life was lost.”

Crazy act —Ray Ekpu of Newswatch
“This is crazy. I can’t understand because the conference was supposed to find a way out of the problem and deal with the post amnesty plans after they had surrendered their arms. And this sort of thing just happened. I don’t understand. Who can please tell me what is the meaning of this? This conference was supposed to find a solution to the problem. I thought that militants would be happy to have these eminent people gathered here. Now the conference has been disrupted. It is amazing.”

It’s a shame —Senator Stella Omu
Former Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Stella Omu, and now member of the PDP Board of Trustees said: “It’s a shame. In a country where we have security agents, a thing like this is happening without being checked. I want to appeal to all Niger Deltans to ensure the region is developed.”

Who did it? — Chief Harriman
“It is sad that we are trying to move forward yet somebody tried to disrupt it. I wonder who would do this. We are becoming another Iraq.”

From right; Chief Tom Ikimi, AC Chieftain and Prof. Sam Oyovbaire, former minister of Information and another guest.

It’s ridiculous — Chief Esiri

“We heard the bombs, the windows scattering, I think this is ridiculous and shameful.”

It’s shocking — Chief Edebiri
Frontline governorship candidate in the last election in Edo State, Chief Edebiri said, “It is a blatant shock, multidimensional shock in the sense that this was a programme put together by a man who believes in the Niger Delta cause, a man who believes that the post amnesty programme should move faster. The enemies of progress came to disrupt the programme. How can the region move forward?

“This calls for a quick review of the amnesty programme. Government should move with speed to fast track the post amnesty programme. We are still living in fear of government sincerity. Government needs to restore hope, confidence in the people. If the youths are properly engaged, no youth will have time to plant bomb. You are aware the bomb blew up from a vehicle. It shows that it was a high powered thing. Government should act fast to make people see its programme for the region. This bomb is like a wake up call.”

It’s unfortunate — Dr. Obianime
President Ijaw National Congress, INC, Dr Atuboyedia Obianimi asserted, “It is unfortunate. I don’t know who would have done this. To the best of my knowledge and as a lover of humanity, what happened was wrong, unacceptable that anybody will plant bomb to take lives. We should be quick to find out the motive for the disruption. Ijaw National Congress condemns the action. But for God lots of lives would have been lost. INC condemns the development. This is not good for our region. The organizers and the government should look into details to find out why this occurred. We should look at his matter because it is at the heart of security and confidence building.”

Another view of the car bomb explosion.

Attack on your own people is bad — Prof.Mrs. Okobia
“How cay you attack your own people. You don’t attack your own people that have gathered to move the region forward. How can there be discussion here now.”

I’m disappointed —Prof Peretemode
Former Delta Commissioner on the Board of the NDDC said, “I am so disappointed and disillusioned. We are all oppressed; an oppressed man can’t come and kill an oppressed. We are here to discuss and find solution to problems in the area. They should allow it to take place. No development can take place in an atmosphere of chaos. They should allow us find solution to the problem”

MEND made a great mistake — Bishop God-do-well   Avwomakpa
“I will say this is one of the greatest mistakes that have ever been made. Probably enemies of Niger Delta did this thing. I will say whoever did this God should intervene.”

Earlier in his address, Chairman of the event, General Andrew Owoye Azazi (rtd) warned that the Niger Delta situation was like a litmus test, saying the way issues affecting the region would be resolved would signpost how the nation would resolve its own problems.

From left; Tony Uranta, Chief Timi Alaibe, Prof. Pat Utomi and Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu during the opening session of the dialogue.

Lamenting the challenges in the region, Azazi said before now, the region was the most peaceful part of the country, adding, “This is the most peaceful part of Nigeria several years ago, and today we are here to discuss peace in the region.”

He stressed the need for Niger Deltans and Nigerians at large to use what he termed their “combine wisdom to manage the post amnesty situation in the region. Let us try to achieve a high lot of success.”

On his part, Publisher of the Vanguard, Mr. Sam Amuka who was on the rostrum when the second bomb exploded, thus causing participants to scamper for safety went down memory lane when he recalled that in1958, the British government established the Willinks Commission that called for the region to be treated as a special area because of its peculiar nature.

He said report of the Commission also warned against repressing the region to the extent that it would be forced to rebel against the system. “This was militancy and rebellion foretold since 1958.  The rest is history. We know how the region has been since then. As we speak, the region is an occupied territory. Forty-four Nigerians were part of the Technical Committee. Even though, no white paper has been issued on the resolution of the committee, quite a few recommendations have been taken from.”

From Left; Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, Governor Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Ikedi Ohakim at the event.

The publisher was hailing President Yar’Adua on amnesty when suddenly the second explosion came up, and everybody scampered for safety in the hall.

How it happened
WARRI—AT about   10.45 am, the siren-blowing convoy of the governors and the Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs, Chief Ufot Ekaette, who represented the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, was a few distance away from the Government House Annex, Warri venue of the event that promised to be colourful when the first bomb was detonated.

This was at about 10. 45 a.m. The first explosion, which was a warning signal by MEND of what to come, created panic among the invited guests inside the hall which was already filled to capacity.
However, despite the visible dark smoke, some people thought it was just canon shots to welcome the governors, who arrived the venue about two minutes after.

They included the host governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, Adams Oshiomohole of Edo State, representatives of Governors Theodore Orji of Abia State and Obong Godswill Akpabio.

Immediately after the national anthem, the chairman of the occasion and former Chief of Defence Staff, General Andrew Owoye Azazi (rtd) gave his welcome address, setting the tone for the confab.

The Chairman/Publisher of Vanguard Media Limited, Mr. Sam Amuka, was speaking at 11.15 a.m. when the second bomb went off with a shattering noise that broke the outer glass of the hall and shook the building to its foundation.

There was visible panic on the faces of participants, who immediately began to rush out to avoid being victim of more explosions.

Men of the Anti-Terrorism Squad of the Nigeria Police and soldiers were seen moving about to contain the situation but those who planted the bombs were nowhere to be found.

Mrs Rebbecca Okoko , a victim of the explosion with newsmen

One of the bombs was allegedly planted in a car, which was badly damaged with some of its parts flung into the premises.

Outside the Government House, people ran helter-skelter, as policemen and security details made frantic efforts to spirit top government officials out of the venue.

As people were fleeing, security agents warned them not to move near or touch parked vehicles so as to possibly cause the detonation of planted bombs.

Few minutes after the explosion, security agents took over strategic locations in Effurun and Warri in search of the militants that planted the bombs.

There was thick smoke and fire around the Effurun-NPA Expressway, near the Government House Annex.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.