By Emma AMAIZE, Warri
THE Federal Government and the Joint Task Force, JTF, on the Niger-Delta have dismissed the Niger-Delta Liberation Force, NDLF, a militant group, which issued, about 48 hours ago, four conditions for cessation of renewed hostilities in the region.
But to lay bare their seriousness regarding the peace conditions, the coalition of fighters led by General John Togo, a former operative of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which, last week, threatened to cripple the nation’s economy, within two weeks, bombed the multi-billion Escravos-Kaduna oil pipeline, operated by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, in Delta State, Friday, at about 11.00 p.m.
Sunday Vanguard learnt the battle may escalate as the regrouped warlords have vowed to carry out reprisal attacks on the JTF.
“Colonel” Pascal, spokesman of the “The gods”, headed by “General” Godday Smith, alias Bounanaowei (owner of the forest) of Niger Delta, admitted that the pipeline was blown up by the group in collaboration with the NDLF, which declared an oil war, last week. By the action, crude oil supply to the Kaduna Refinery would be cut off and that may signal fuel scarcity in the north and some parts of the country if repairs were not urgently effected.
JTF spokesman, Lt. Col Anthony Antigha, who reacted on the matter, said on phone that John Togo or any other criminal group was not in the position to give any condition to the task force.
His words, “They are not in any position to give conditions or make demands”. He added that the JTF knows what its mandate was in the Niger_Delta and would accomplish them.
A top Federal Government official, who spoke anonymously, yesterday, said, “Government will not discuss with criminals who are blowing up oil installations in the Niger_Delta. The mandate to the JTF is to fish out the criminals and destroy their operations bases”.
Coordinator of the Post_Amnesty Programme, Mr. Timi Alaibe, could not be reached for comments on the call by the fighters to remove him, but a member of the Presidential Committee told Sunday Vanguard, “The best thing to do is to stop giving these criminals publicity.
It is the publicity given to them that make them to have the semblance of legitimacy they are getting. Please, the press should help us deal the criminal elements like this fool called John Togo”.
About 10 persons, including a woman, were said to have been picked up by the task force in connection with the last Wednesday gun battle between its men and NDLF fighters at Ayakuromo area of Delta State. A security source, however, said those found to have clean hands would be released on the completion of preliminary investigation.
The conditions by the insurgent groups, spelt out by the NDLF spokesman, “Captain” Mark Anthony, are that President Goodluck Jonathan should convene an immediate conference of all aggrieved ex_militants to discuss the way forward for the Post-Amnesty Programme and the Niger-Delta; demilitarization of the Niger-Delta; removal of the coordinator of the Presidential Committee on Post-Amnesty, Mr. Timi Alaibe and Minister of Niger-Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe; and immediate release of all detained people in the wake of the second phase of oil war.
Minutes after Friday night’s bombing of the Escravos_Kaduna oil pipeline, spokesman of the belligerent group, “Colonel” Pascal, told Sunday Vanguard on phone at about 11.20 p.m., “As I speak to you now, the Escravos_Kaduna oil pipeline is on fire.
It was blown up some minutes ago by the gods, led by ‘General’ Godday Smith”, warning, “If the Federal Government refuses to meet our conditions, it should be rest assured that in two weeks, we will finish the oil installations. We have just started”.
The spokesman said the fighters of the group, who carried out the bombing, did not meet the JTF during the operation, saying, “I have told you that our leader, ‘General’ Smith, is the owner of the forest of the Niger_Delta, so nobody can stop us”.