By Emma Amaize
WARRI â€” MILITANT group, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND), which had blown up at least five facilities belonging to oil major, Chevron, in Delta State, less than a week after it declared its new war, â€œHurricane Piper Alphaâ€, has asked the oil company not to bother repairing the damaged facilities until the Niger-Delta crisis was resolved.
It gave the advice in an exclusive response by its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, to an electronic mail inquiry by Vanguard shortly before it bombed the Makaraba oil well 3 and 5, its trunk line and gas lifts on Saturday, June 13. The Otunana oil well 1, its gas lift and trunk lines were destroyed 24 hours earlier, Friday, June 12.
His words: â€œOur advice to Chevron is that they should not waste time trying to repair the pipes until the Niger Delta matter has been resolvedâ€.
The company, it was learnt, had commenced repairs on the facilities through some local contractors with security provided by the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta.
Some Gbaramatu leaders frowned at the move by the oil company, last week, saying it was callous on its part and the Federal Government to be carrying out repairs on the pipelines when the people who were chased away from their communities, as a result of the air strikes by the task force have not been resettled.
But MEND said it was surprised that the oil company went ahead with the repairs against its earlier warning to oil firms not to do so until the issues at stake were resolved, adding that its fighters observed some workers and Joint Task Force (JTF) troops carrying repairs on one of the affected pipelines, some days ago, from a hidden location.
In a separate online statement, yesterday, announcing the Makaraba attack, MEND said, â€œThe Makaraba oil well 3 & 5 and its Trunk line and Gas lifts were blown up at about 0005 Hrs today, Saturday, June 13, 2009.
â€œEarlier at about 22.10 Hrs on Friday, June 12, 2009, the Otunana oil well 1 and its Gas lift and Trunk lines were also destroyedâ€, its spokesman, Gbomo stated.
â€œThe spokesman of the military Joint task Force (JTF), Colonel Rabe Abubakar was quick to blame a â€˜systems failureâ€™ as the reason for the recent fire outbreak at the dormant Otunana flow station belonging to Chevron Nigeria Limited.
â€œThis is an indictment of a poor safety standard of Chevron which, if it were to be the case, all its flow stations and work complexes would need a thorough safety inspection as the company by its negligence as the JTF asserts would be putting workers at risk.
â€œChevron has not yet confirmed or denied the real cause of the Otunana fire and that should make its workers nervous.
â€œCorroborating the JTF version means the company is aware its facilities do not meet the international safety standards and has done nothing about it because it is operating from a third world country.
â€œMEND, therefore, will be justified for shutting down Chevron operations in Nigeria until its safety standards improveâ€, he stated.
Excerpts of MENDâ€™s interview with Vanguard:
Our investigation on the Utunana flow station attack was that it was an accident and caused by system failure, as corroborated by JTF and some villagers, but you insist that it was MEND that fired a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG). Given the fact that there was military presence in the station, from where did MEND fire the grenade?
We read your story about an â€œinvestigationâ€ and wonder how your investigation was conducted and if it was carried out by a professional fire investigator.
It becomes strange to investigate and come up with a conclusion on the origin of the fire if you were not there within the time frame your investigators did.
How did the villagers enter the facility to conclude it was a system failure when that area is off-limits? The JTF now constitutes itself as Jack of all trade by delving into matters they know nothing about. The only person who ought to conclude after an investigation is Chevron.
I am sorry I will not give further details except that our mission was carried out and the result was successful.
If the RPG theory is true, donâ€™t you think it will be a suicide mission to employ such a tactic in the Escravos Tank Farm, which is heavily guarded by soldiers?
How the hurricane will devastate the Chevron tank farm we do not know, considering hurricanes are unpredictable by nature. At best we have given a warning to the oil workers to vacate the premises as we would not want Piper Alpha to turn that place into a crematorium for them.
There appears to be a crack in MEND as Boyloaf is singing another tune, while you, as spokesman is saying the war is continuing. Is there a division in the camp?
The manifold destroyed is about 200 meters from Camp 5 in Oporoza to prove that the JTF are not in control as they claim. The location is the same one that had just been repaired. Remember we had warned that any repairs on damaged pipelines will be a waste of time.
The other day, we noticed some Chevron staff and JTF escorts at the site where the gas and crude line to Warri refinery was sabotaged. They did not see us and we wonder how vulnerable they were.
Had we been cruel, all we needed to have done was to place some land mines around the place and that would have been it. Our advice to Chevron is that they should not waste time trying to repair the pipes until the Niger Delta matter has been resolved.
Boyloafâ€™s position as a commander was part of a military strategy to make the enemy complacent and it worked. You will know if we are in sync or divided after he hands over the weapons in his camp and accepts the Greek amnesty offer.
He will not speak on behalf of MEND since we have a channel of communication on such weighty issues which is through the groupâ€™s spokesman.
Why should Boyloaf, as acting leader of MEND say he and his followers are simmering down and accepting amnesty and your press statements say the contrary?
That is an internal affair and by the way MEND has never publicized its command structure so I suspect he was misquoted to be referred to as the acting leader of MEND
Who is actually in-charge of MEND?
Is Tompolo outside the country, as some people think or still in the creeks as the JTF stated?
Wherever Tompolo is at this time is irrelevant because technology has advanced. Even if he is in the moon, he can still be as effective as if he was in Warri. The JTF is only chasing shadows.
There is conflicting signals from the JTF over reports that the graves and corpses of their missing soldiers had been found. I want to ask again, what happened to the corpses of the soldiers?
The JTF is confused. The grave they are referring to contains more bodies of soldiers killed when they tried to take over Camp 5. The Army lost over 150 men but cannot admit it.
Is there truth in the report that a crippled armourer and about nine other top officers of Camp 5 have been arrested by the JTF? If true, donâ€™t you think the task force is inching towards the arrest of Tompolo, as it said?
In this war, capturing foot soldiers if they did is never significant. The fact that the JTF has to use the pages of newspapers to assure their sponsors that they are closer to capturing Tompolo is an indication they are beginning to get frustrated.