….Infighting among militants, ex-militants played a role
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
THE deadly explosives used to disrupt the post-amnesty dialogue of the Vanguard Newspapers, Monday, in Warri, Delta State are dynamite, fitted with volatile gadgets that exploded upon vibrations, following calls made to the SIM Cards in the devices by militants, conscripted for the purpose.
The perpetrators were recruited for the assignment chiefly to discredit the peace and security agenda of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan administration. .
The dynamite that was used is referred to as yam in the world of militants it is what the insurgents have used over the years in the bombing of oil installations, investigation by Saturday has revealed.
An ex-MEND Commander told Saturday Vanguard in Warri,Â Â â€˜ it is dynamite that they used, donâ€™t call it bomb, it is not a bomb, it is everywhere in the creek, oil companies used them to blast when they prospect for oilâ€.
He, however, said, â€œThere is power tussle between some present leaders of MEND and ex_leaders who accepted amnesty over who calls the shot and MEND decided to strike to tell those who laid down their arms that their decision to work with the Federal Government is of no consequenceâ€.
But our informant,Â an ex- militant who spoke to Saturday Vanguard at a secret location in the outskirts of Warri,Â yesterday afternoon,Â said, â€œThe attack was sponsored by a governorship aspirant in Delta state who wanted to cause insecurity in the state and give the impression that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan cannot guarantee securityâ€.
â€œThe person who led the operation is an ex-militant leader from Patani and he is a henchman to the aspirant, I donâ€™t want to call his name, another one is one of the ex-militant leaders that accepted amnesty, he is not happy that the Federal Government is not doing anything concrete with its post-amnesty programme.
â€œThe kingpin for the operation has a lot of boys that he used for kidnapping and bombing of oil installations in the past.Â It was easy to use them because they are not happy with the Amnesty Programme.. It is the same dynamite, fitted with an explosive device that they used to blow up pipelinesâ€, he added.
He said, â€œThe operation had been planned for a very long time and it was a very simple one for them. What were used were dynamites, which are everywhere. Oil companies use them in oil exploration activities; it is easy to get the dynamites. Before the proclamation of Amnesty by the Federal Government, most of the ex-militant leaders had them in large number. Those who did not accept amnesty among them buried their own in the groundâ€
His words, â€œWhat happened was not a difficult assignment for the boys that carried it out. They basically drove the vehicles that they planted the dynamites to the place, as if they came for the post-amnesty dialogue and because the security agents were not vigilant enough, they left after setting the devices onâ€.
â€œIt was simple as ABC after they left because the device is operated with a Nokia phone. We have done these things in the past, so it is not new to me. Wherever you are, whether London or United States of America , you would be able from that time on no matter the distance as long as there is SIM card and network in the place the device was set. It is just to call like you make your normal phone call, it will vibrateÂ and the device will explode, nothing more than that and that was what they didâ€, he stated.
â€œGovernor Uduaghan was, however, lucky, as the impact could have been more disastrous if the security agents, for the first time since the Government House, Warri became functional, did not stop most of the vehicles, 200 metres away. They would have driven the vehicles right inside and park them at where severe damage would have been causedâ€, he said.
According to him, â€˜ I think they contacted some people in MEND and the militant group is every willing to give its support to any such activity.
â€œThe truth is that when you want to hang a dog, you give it a bad name. The target was not Vanguard Media Limited or the media in anyway as some people have insinuated. .
Ex_MEND leader, John Togo, who condemned the bomb blast, attributed it to infighting, saying some people who had accepted amnesty were claiming that they were in_charge when they know in their mind of minds that somebody else is the true leader of MEND.
Another ex-militant leader from Delta state said, â€œSome people areÂ angry over the failure of the post-amnesty program of the Federal Government, they are not paid the allowances promised them by the government as and when due and so, they can be used for any mission that can giveÂ them moneyâ€.
He suggested: â€œThe Delta state government should, on its own, do something urgent to engage the ex-militants that the Federal Government begged to lay down arms and failed to take care of themâ€.
â€œWhat I am saying is that the state government should have its own post-amnesty programme for the ex-militants different from what the Federal Government is doing because if they leave it to the Federal Government, people will use the aggrieved boys against Governor Uduaghan because they know that if there if peace in the state, they would not pose any threat to him in 2011â€, he said.
Further investigations by Saturday Vanguard showed there was security report that some people had planned to disrupt the program, but, it was not clear that militants were to be used to detonate explosives.
A source said Governor Uduaghan got intelligence information that women and youths were to carry out a protest against the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan at the venue of the conference while some youths were to protest that they were not invited to the event.
It was gathered the intelligence unit of the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta also alerted the governor of similar information, but, there was no specific information on the actual plan by the militants.
â€œPerhapsâ€, said Saturday Vanguardâ€™s informant, â€œthe information on protest was a decoy by the perpetrators to confuse the government and security agenciesâ€.
Commander of the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), Delta State , Jonathan Acha, a Superintendent of Police told Saturday Vanguard that he created a buffer zone, 200 metres away from the Government House Annex to keep criminals away after sweeping the arena for bombs as early as 5.00 am .
But those who planted the bombs came much after 5.00 am just like any other person that came for the post-amnesty dialogue, unknown to the security agents, gently parked their vehicles with the dynamites and walked away from the scene before it was detonated from aÂ distance.
Our informant said the news that dynamites (referred to as yam in the militant circle) would be detonated was known to some few persons before the actual day of he event â€œbut the thing is that nobody is too sure of the place except those that are involved in itâ€.
An ex-militant leader from one of the Niger-Delta states who was invited to the post-amnesty dialogue told Saturday Vanguard, â€œI am worried about the securityâ€ when he was called on phone 24 hours earlier.
He did not disclose the reason(s) for his apprehension but he requested Vanguard to contact the Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF), Major-General Yarkin Sarkin-Bello.
One of our reporters contacted the JTF Commander who was in Abuja on official duty and told him the ex-militant leader, who was one of those invited by Saturday Vanguard for its post-amnesty dialogue would want to talk to him. Major-General Sarkin-Bello said he was expecting his call.
The ex-militant leader confided to one of his colleagues later that bombs were likely to be detonated at the venue of the confab, hence his hesitation. Neither he nor the person he confided in , gave a clear-cut hint until the explosions occurred.
â€œThe truth is that some people know that there was going to be explosions but nobody knew when and where. I think MEND capitalized on that there was going to a large gathering of people to discuss the post-amnesty programme to detonate the bomb to spite Governor Uduaghanâ€, an ex-militant leader said.
But another former senior MEND operative said, â€œI maintain that itâ€™s an in_house problem, those who are saying that this man is not the leader of MEND know that they are not saying the truth, they should recognize him as so, we know his contributions to the struggle and until they do that, whatever they sit down planning and doing with government under the pretext of amnesty and post-amnesty program that has failed will not workâ€.