By Emma Amaize
Attacks on oil installations in Delta State entered the third day, yesterday, as militants blew-up major crude oil and gas pipelines to the Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, Tank Farm in Warri South West Local Government Area of the state.
Blown up on Friday night was the main crude line from Makaraba through Otunana and Abiteye to Escravos while Olero to Escravos gas line was attacked in the early hours of yesterday.
Earlier on Thursday, the Escravos – Warri – Abuja – Lagos pipelines came under attack. The Itsekiri raised the alarm, yesterday, that the attacks could metamorphose into another Ijaw-Itsekiri war.
These acts of sabotage are coming at a time when global crude oil price continues its downward move.
THE military, yesterday, deployed army and naval personnel in the creeks of Delta State to contain the militants.
Our source, who spoke from one of the Ijaw communities in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government Area, at about 5.30 pm said, “The situation is not clear yet, but there are gunboats everywhere. It is a combined team of soldiers and navy people patrolling the creeks.
“Movement is restricted. The military personnel are going about to show their presence and scare the militants, who strike in the night and not in the daytime. But, at least, their presence has shown that the military was ready to confront them.”
The authorities, caught napping by the resumption of hostilities four days ago, reportedly saw the danger of allowing further bombings and mobilised to counter the militants.
After bombing the Escravos-Warri-Abuja-Lagos pipelines at about 10.00 pm on Thursday, the militants were emboldened to blow up Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL’s Utunana –Makaraba crude oil line at 10.30 pm on Friday and proceeded to bomb Olero gas line in the early hours of yesterday.
Their target it is believed is to cripple crude oil production and arm-twist the Federal Government. Already, CNL, heavily hit by the Thursday and Friday attacks, was considering shutting down operations, even as workers have been restricted to their camps in the affected locations.
The Itsekiri fear
Chair, Itsekiri Regional Development Council, IRDC, Chief Ayiri Emami, expressed concern, yesterday, that with attacks targeted at oil facilities in Itsekiri towns and villages, it might metamorphose into another Ijaw/Itsekiri war.
He said those carrying out the attacks were Ijaw militants known to the security agencies, state and federal governments, and challenged them to rein in the gunmen.
Meanwhile, ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, maintained, yesterday, that he had no hands in the bombings. His media adviser, Paul Bebenimibo, told Sunday Vanguard: “Tompolo has nothing to do with the ongoing attacks.”
Emami, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard on phone, said, “The situation right now is unpredictable. This was how the Itsekiri and Ijaw crisis started in 2003 and 2007. Government and security agencies know the person blowing up the pipelines and his boys, they cannot say that that they do not know them. I do not see how the entire local government area should be put on edge because of one person and his selfish interests.”
He went on “We are concerned because they have left their areas to bomb oil facilities in Itsekiri areas of Dibi, Abiteye and Kpokpo and the next thing now; they want to bomb Itsekiri villages. They started on Thursday night; government and security agents are looking at them, so they continued again on Friday night.
“Probably, they will continue again on Saturday night. That is why we are calling on government to stop them because we know their plan. They want to make this place ungovernable, but we will not fold our arms and watch them.
“It is the same set of boys who blew up the Escravos-Warri-Lagos-Abuja gas pipeline that they sent to blow up Chevron pipelines. They have been holding nocturnal meetings on where to bomb in the last few days.”
Last night, on industry source told Sunday Vanguard that CNL and other oil companies in the riverside areas of Delta State were on the verge of shutting operations out of fear of the unknown.
‘Tompolo stepped on toes’
Also, yesterday, the Warri Ijaw Peace Monitoring Group, WIPMG, Warri, Delta State, said Ekpemupolo stepped on powerful toes while executing his contract to protect gvernment oil installations and the forces have now coalesced against him.
The group, in a statement by its chair, Chief Patrick Bigha, condemning the bombing of crude oil and gas pipelines in Warri in the last few days, said the involvement of All Progressives Congress, APC chieftains in Bayelsa state, who are out to spite Tompolo should not be ruled out.
It said: “The Warri Ijaw Peace Monitoring Group wishes to condemn the renewed wanton destruction of oil facilities in the Niger Delta region. We are truly disturbed with this happening as the Nigerian economy is in a bad shape; therefore, we are calling on those behind this act to cease hostilities immediately.
“We are not happy over the incident as it look like a smear campaign against the person of High Chief Government Ekpemupolo,because of his position in the Bayelsa State governorship election as well as the issue with the EFCC, which is a legal issue that will be appropriately addressed.
“It is worthy of note that Tompolo will not embark on such self destructive mission as one that fervently believes in the Nigeria project, and has contributed to peace building and development of Nigeria.”