We’re educated individuals poised to take region’s struggle to new heights — Agbinibo, spokesperson
You are criminals – Emami, Johnny, Oduku, others
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, Niger Delta & Perez Brisibe
THE riddle security forces are battling to unravel in the Niger Delta is: Who are Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, the newborn militant group that has gone haywire in the region? Unfortunately, the answer is not straightforward. It is complicated.
However, the question of what the Niger Delta Avengers want is unambiguous. According to its spokesperson, so-called Col Mudoch Agbinibo, “Our goal is to cripple Nigeria’s economy.”
True to its bizarre avowal, since February 14 when it declared what it called “Operation Red Economy,” the group has attacked oil facilities, thus affecting production for export. As at now, Chevron’s operation in the Niger Delta is nil.
Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, confirmed that Nigeria’s oil production had dropped to 1.65m barrels a day, the lowest production in 22 years because of the resurgence of militant activities.
Her words: “The renewed activities of the militants in the Niger Delta are seriously affecting oil production; in fact, it is now down to 1.65 million barrel per day (m b /d.)”.
The Federal Government had predicated its 2016 Budget on 2.2 m b/d, but the obtainable output is thousands of barrels below that – around 1.7 to 1.8m b/d for the past months.
Production actually started the downward tread in February when the Avengers blew up an underwater pipeline, which forced Royal Dutch Shell to shut down its Forcados Export Terminal, and cut production by at least 250,000 bpd.
Early last week, Shell declared force majeure on exports of Bonny Light crude after a drip on one of its trunk lines in the Delta while, days after, Chevron shut its Valve Platform following an attack by the Niger Delta Avengers.
Unarguably, the militant group has hit the nation’s production with Chevron being the worse affected. The Avengers know what they want and seem to have been operating so far with clinical precision.
‘We’re equipped to cripple Nigeria’
Three months ago when it launched its attacks, the spokesperson declared: “We are the Niger Delta Avengers; a group of educated and well-traveled individuals that are poised to take the Niger Delta struggle to new heights that has never been seen in this nation before. We have well-equipped human resources to meet this goal.
He said the group has support from other parts of Nigeria.
By Thursday, May 12, the Avengers group, which chose to call themselves “outlaws” and issued the President and 11-point condition that was ignored until the nation started to reap the repercussions, gave a clearest indication of where it was heading with the bombings that shook the nation since the present political dispensation.
It said: “By October 2016, we will display our currency, flag, passport, our ruling council and our territory to the world.”
Skirmish with Tompolo
The group, having a running battle with ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, who disowned it for its violent activities, warned: “Let us make it clear, to you our elder brothers (ex-agitators) that we are not begging you to join this agitation. We are young, educated, well traveled and most of us were educated in East Europe but do not worry when we achieved our goal (sovereign state of Niger Delta), then you people will be proud of us. In as much as we respect you as our elder brothers (ex-agitators) please do not dare to stand on our way because if you do we will crush you.”
However, knowing that the group has actually inflicted serious collateral damage on the country’s oil production, it sent an open congratulatory message to its foot soldiers, last Thursday. It read, “From the high command of the Niger Delta Avengers, we congratulate the strike teams of the Avengers for without taking innocent life or that of the Nigeria military, we were able to shut down 50 per cent of crude production.”
While the devastating effects of the attacks by Niger Delta Avengers are not in contest, its claim to be patriotic Niger -Deltans agitating for the interest of the people is what has set it on collision course with many well-meaning people in the region.
Niger Delta activist and Itsekiri leader, Chief Ayiri Emami; ex-militant leader, Paul Eris, aka Ogunboss from Bayelsa State; Okerenkoko leader, Chief Michael Johnny; National Coordinator of the National Coalition of Niger Delta Ex-Agitators, NCNDE-A, Israel Akpodoro; and Commandant of the Riverine Security (Coast Guard of the Federation), Commander Bibi Oduku, described the Avengers members as criminals.
Emami told Sunday Vanguard that those bombing pipelines in Delta State were criminals, adding, “We know them, the security agents know them too, they are not ghosts, and we will support President Muhammadu Buhari to bring them out no matter where they hide.”
The former chair of the Delta Waterways Security Committee, DWSC, Warri went on: “I can tell you that the name, Niger Delta Avengers, chosen by the criminal elements and economic terrorists bombing oil and gas installations in the state and their demands roundly expose their political, selfish, corrupt and destructive mission.”
“They are on their own, the good people of Niger Delta are not with them, we are in support of President Muhammadu Buhari and his government, we want him to transform Niger Delta, what are these masquerading economic saboteurs avenging?
Akpodoro said: “The Niger Delta Avengers is a creation of the ex-President aimed at thwarting any efforts made by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress, APC, administration. “
He disclosed that the plot was hatched at a well-attended meeting called at the instance of the governor of one of the South -South states in January, last year, with prominent ex-militants, including himself, and senior officials of the former President.
The Urhobo-born ex-militant further stated that the message from them, as delivered by the a top official to the President, was that all ex-militants from the region should return to the creeks preparatory for action should Buhari win the then coming election saying; that includes “what we are witnessing today in the actions of the Niger Delta Avengers.”
He said he was bundled out of the meeting for opposing the suggestion, adding, “The former President created the monster, Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, and he alone can call them to order and that is what my group is asking him to do.”
Oduku, who claimed that his group carried out an investigation, concluded that the militants bombing oil installations in Delta State under the cover of Niger Delta Avengers, hails from Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South-West Local Government Area of the state.
He also fingered an ex-militant leader, who he accused of “aiding and abetting criminals in their community in the recent attack on oil and gas installations within and outside the kingdom.”
On his part, Johnny was unambiguous that the persons who carried out the explosions were known criminals in the region. He said they survived all along by kidnapping expatriates, bombing oil installations and collecting ransom.
Gbaramatu people not criminals— Gbenekama, Ozobo
However, an Ijaw leader from Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, said: “Gbaramatu people are not part of Niger Delta Avengers, which took responsibility for the recent bombing of oil installations in the state and can never be part of them. We condemn their actions and are against pipeline vandalism of any sort.”
Gbenekama added: “Those who are disgruntled that Tompolo issued a statement against the activities of the group should not make Gbaramatu a battlefront. Tompolo has every right to denounce the so-called Niger Delta Avengers because they are creating trouble for him, Gbaramatu and Ijaw people as whole.”
National President of Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative, IPDI, Comrade Austin Ozobo, also lambasted Oduku for classifying the entire Gbaramatu people as militants responsible for the on-going bombings in the state.
For efficiency, Niger Delta Avengers has, according to sources, different strike (attack) teams. On Friday, February 19, at about 3.30 hours, Strike Team 6 was said to have blown up the Clough Creek Tebidaba Agip Pipeline Manifold in Bayelsa State.
At 22.00 hours Thursday, May 5, 2016, Strike Team 4, one of the sources said, hit the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) crude and gas lines.
The crude line feeds the Warri and Kaduna refineries while the gas line feeds the Lagos and Abuja electricity power supply. With this development, the group knocked out Warri and Kaduna refineries. The explosion practically shut down all cities that depend on the gas line for power.
Strike Team 7 was alleged to have blown up Well D25 in Abiteye. The well is a major gas facility belonging to Chevron. It also reportedly attacked major pipelines, which put the Abiteye, Alero, Dibi, Otunana and Makaraba flow stations that feed the Chevron tank farm out of operation.
Located some 100meters away from the atacked NNPC pipeline is a military houseboat, stationed there to protect oil pipelines.
NDA spokesperson, Agbinibo, while congratulating the strike teams and refuting the claim that his group was largely Ijaw, disclosed, last Thursday: “The Commander of Strike Team 9 of the Niger Delta Avengers is from eastern Nigeria.”
He added: “So nobody should limit this struggle to the Ijaw of the Niger Delta. The leader of Strike Team 6 that blew up Chevron valve platform is Itsekiri. The Commander of our Elite Team Strike Team One is from Akwa- Ibom.”