By Emma Amaize
WARRIâ€”THERE was fresh threat to the amnesty programme of the federal government for militants in the Niger-Delta weekend, as a new militant group, the Urhobo Revolutionary Army (URA), comprising mainly members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) emerged to fight the interest of the oil-rich Urhobo ethnic nationality in Delta State.
Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, was understood to have already intervened in the matter, with a member of the Delta Waterways and Security Committee (DWSC) trying to reach out to the militants to quell the uprising.
In a statement on Sunday in Warri, the militant group said â€œwith the blowing- up of the Otorogun Gas Plant, we, the Urhobo Revolutionary Army, announce the Urhobo struggleâ€, demanding control of all economic interests in Urhobo nation.
According to the URA, â€œwe shall no longer accept the present docility and non-existent involvement of the Urhobo nation in the Niger-Delta struggle and therefore, we align fully with Henry Okahâ€™s Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND), Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asariâ€™s Niger-Delta People Volunteer Force (NPDVF), Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo and other freedom fighting forces in the region, which are unshakable in the struggle.
â€œWe condemn with seriousness the sell-out and sit-on-the fence attitude of some Urhobo leaders, like Deacon Gamaliel Onosede, Senator Felix Ibru, Chief James Ibori, His Royal Majesty, Benjamin Okumagba, Chief Ighoyota Amori, Chief Tom Amioku and Chief Omene Sobotie.
â€œThey and their allies are sitting on the fence, pursuing personal and selfish interests against the Urhobo collective interest.Â Â We totally reject the undermining of Urhobo nation, this shall not be tolerated, and we vehemently reject the level of economic advancement and political development of Urhobo youth.
Penultimate week, armed youths blew up a gas pipeline that conveys compressed gas to the Utorogun oil fields, operated by the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and the Nigeria Gas Company (NGC), with dynamites and other explosives.
It was reliably gathered that the militants who left a flag and documents, listing their demands after the attack ,were demanding N150 million from the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) for their members that were either killed or injured during a face-off with soldiers when they attacked the gas facility earlier in the year.
A source said the militant group demanded the payment of N10 million for each of six killed members, N6 million each for those injured, development of Ughievwen kingdom and security jobs for them before peace would reign in the area.
Vanguard learnt that the group wrote to the SPDC alerting it of its intention to blow up the gas pipeline if its demands were not met.
The SPDC activated its security machinery and mobilized soldiers but the boys did not come on that day.
Though leaders of the militant group were talking to a community leader on phone on their demands, they caught the soldiers and the company unawares when they struck a fortnight ago, and even when efforts were being stepped up to get them to surrender their arms, they struck again a few days later.
â€œCurrently, the group poses a serious threat to the amnesty programme of the federal government and Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan is doing everything to stop them. The governor is not around now, but his people are discussing with the boys.
â€œOnce he is back, I am sure he would find a way of meeting with their leader to personally listen to their demands and know how to tackle themâ€, the source said.
A group, which claimed to be Ughievwen Youth Body Fighters, reportedly had earlier claimed responsibility for the attack on the pipeline and they left banner, flier and leaflets.
In one of the documents signed by one Idi-Amin and Ogigi as leaders, the group said they would carry out more attacks until their demands were met.
Vanguard learnt that a vigilante group had been formed at the instance of a community leader in the area to check the activities of the new militant group.
â€œA new gas gathering plant is to be established in our area soon, we also know that the SPDC is expanding the Otorogun gas plant, new jobs will come for our people and these things cannot be done if there is no peace in the area, so we are appealing to the boys to give peace a chance.Â Â They too will benefit from the jobs,â€ a member of the vigilante group stated.