June 21, 2009

JTF deploys more troops in Delta

By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoa—More  troops and equipment are being deployed to the troubled creek of the Delta, following recent upsurge in the sabotaging of the nation’s economic interest by rampaging militants.

Vanguard reliably gathered that the move was part of efforts to strengthen the position of the troops so as not to concede the gain of the last one month where men of the JTF had succeeded in dislodging two of the most dreaded camps in the troubled Delta.

It was gathered that the recent militant attacks on the nation’s economic interest in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers states is causing the military high brass serious concern.

For the third time within five days, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) facilities in the Niger Delta, came under the attack of militants in spite of the high presence of troops in the creek.

The attack on SPDC facility is coming on the heels of last week’s violent attack on a military base at Obioku  by the militants who later sabotaged the Ogoda-Brass trunk line with two risers at Egeinkiri belonging to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company blown up, causing massive oil spill on the river.

The foremost insurgent group in the troubled Delta, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which had claimed responsibility for the series of attacks, yesterday said its fighters launched yet another attack on SPDC offshore platform.

In an e-mailed statement, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said the militants “lashed out at the Shell Off-shore Ofirma oil fields today, Sunday, June 21, 2009 (yesterday) at about 0400 hours (local time) blowing up jacket A in the process.”

Shell yesterday confirmed a third attack by militants on its facilities.

“There have been all in all three attacks against installations of SPDC’s Eastern operations,” Shell’s spokesman, Precious Okolobo, said.

According to him, “SPDC is continuing to investigate the impact on facilities, environment and production.”

This development, a security source told Vanguard, has not gone down well the military authorities, prompting the deployment of more troops in the creek.

Only on Saturday, the military rolled out its newly acquired amphibious battle tanks on the streets of Yenagoa in what security sources dubbed “a show of force.”

The exercise, though peaceful, caused panic among residents of the city as the siren blaring battle tanks menacingly patrolled the streets of the capital city.

The fear of the people is understandable, given the growing tension in the last one week in the troubled waterways where the militants and men of the Joint Task Force have been locked in series of violent skirmishes.

Efforts to get the comment of the JTF spokesman, Col Rabe Abubakar, proved abortive but a security source who pleaded anonymity explained that the movement of men and equipment was a routine exercise.

“It is a routine exercise in the military to move men and equipment to and from area of assignments and as such it is a routine practice,” the source said.