By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Sam Oyadongha, Egufe Yafugborhi, Brisibe Perez & Akpokona Omafuaire
NIGER – DELTA militants blew up trunk lines belonging to Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC, and Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, in Bayelsa State, while soldiers took over Oporoza community, the headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State.
An industry source, who confirmed the attacks, believed to have been carried by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) group, told Sunday Vanguard: “Information at my disposal is that somewhere around the Lagos-gbene axis of the Tebidaba-Bras trunk line, was attacked with dynamites, this morning (yesterday).
“I also heard that another SPDC line was hit in the early hours of Saturday towards Nembe area. Some workers are about leaving to see the extent of damage inflicted on the facility.”
A military source, who ruled out the widespread cry of witch-hunt by the military against the people of Gbaramatu Kingdom, said soldiers arrested seven persons and recovered explosives, arms and ammunition during a raid on suspected hideouts of a former militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo.
On two occasions this month, men of the Joint Task Force, JTF, in the Niger Delta, had invaded Oporoza community and departed at dawn, but when they came at about 1.52 am, yesterday, they laid siege until dawn and stayed put, leaving many of the villagers, who fled into the bush, trapped.
The situation was still hazy. While the Bebenowei (Chief Mobilizer) of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama and other leaders condemned the military over the invasion, the Ibakurowei (Man with the big heart) of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Daniel Ekpebide, and Mr. Smart Asekutu, President, Delta Ijaw Peace Movement, DIPM, welcomed the takeover.
Seven arrested, one whisked to Abuja
However, the military source, said: “Men of the Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Pulo Shield, stormed the vicinity perceived as ‘Tompolo’s location’ at about 2.30am, resulting in the arrest of seven persons and recovery of various arms.”
Yesterday’s offensive by the JTF was sequel to an earlier operation the day before, resulting in the arrest of a suspect believed to be among those involved in the sabotage of oil assets in the Delta waterways. The source said the suspect was undergoing questioning in Abuja.
The military and other sources said it was an ongoing operation targeted at specific points.
A community source said: “There was an attack on Tompolo’s location and arrests were made, not specifically in Oporoza but where they suspected Tompolo is hiding. Whether he was part of those arrested is what we do not know.”
Military authorities were not reachable for confirmation. But the Commander of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Delta, Commodore Raimi Mohammed, said he was not aware of yesterday’s operation when we contacted him and spokesperson for JTF, Col. Isa Ado, did not pick call or respond to text messages sent to him.
Reports said the soldiers, who beat up an octogenarian community leader, Chief Atiti Mala and injured him with the butt of a gun, as well as molested women and children, said they were hunting for Tompolo and combatants of the NDA in Opoza.
As at 7.00 am yesterday, JTF was still deploying more personnel, including those in Camp 5, a former militant camp seized from Tompolo, years ago, in Oporoza with two speedboats belonging to the Gbaramatu Traditional Council, GTC, used among others to ferry soldiers.