By Emma Amaize, Kingsley Omonobi, Jimitota Onoyume, Simon Ebegbulem & Egufe Yafugborhi
YENAGOA—THE standoff between the military and the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, degenerated, early yesterday, as soldiers of 343 Artillery Regiment of 2 Brigade, 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, engaged the militants in a fierce gun duel at Gulobokri and Eweleso communities, around Brass area of Bayelsa State.
This led to the killing of some of the militants, which averted their attack on an oil pipeline in the two communities.
Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Sani Usman, who confirmed this in a statement, said another patrol team of the same unit in Perigbene House Boat, Bayelsa State encountered three speedboats suspected to be carrying militants about to attack another critical infrastructure in the area.
However, the casualty on the side of the militants could not be ascertained as it was raining heavily and the raging storm could not allow troops to pursue the suspected militants.
He said: “During the exercise, the patrol team had an encounter with some armed militants in two speedboats with intent to blow up Nigerian Agip Oil Company pipeline at Gulobokri. The suspected vandals opened fire on the patrol team.
“The troops responded with overwhelming superior firepower and as a result, the suspected criminals sped off from the area with many of them sustaining gunshot wounds. No casualty was recorded by the patrol team.
“Unfortunately, a personnel of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, attached to the team sustained gunshot wound. He has since been evacuated and he is in stable condition.
“A mop up operation has been organized for those militants that escaped with gunshot wounds as they may be receiving treatment in the neighbouring communities. With this development, troops would continue to intensify patrol in the general area to avert further vandalism or attacks in the area.”
FG discussing with ex-militant leaders in N/Delta
Meanwhile, the Federal Government, weekend, met with ex-militant leaders in the Niger Delta, some of whom are suspected members of Niger Delta Avengers, where they agreed to stop the renewed bombing of oil installations, while government looked into the issues raised by the ex-militant leaders in the region.
At the meeting hosted by Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Matters and Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme, Brig-Gen. Paul Boroh (retd), the Federal Government lamented that the current bombing was crippling the nation’s economy and appealed cessation of hostilities on the part of NDA.
Those at the well attended meeting, which lasted more than six hours, included Phases one, two, three ex-militants of the Amnesty programme from Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Edo states.
Boroh, who spoke to journalists shortly after the meeting with the ex-militants, said the current bombing of oil facilities was inflicting pains on Nigerians and urged the perpetrators to table their demands before government to stop the destruction.
According to him, plans are in top gear to provide welfare and housing scheme for the ex-militants, aside its usual programme and projects that were on-going, stressing that the current situation in the region had rendered the country impotent at solving its own problems.
I don’t know you, stop blowing up pipelines, Tompolo tells Avengers
Similarly, ex-militant leader, Government Ekpempuolo, alias Tompolo, yesterday, insisted he didn’t know the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, and urged the militant group to stop blowing up oil facilities and embrace dialogue, if it was truly fighting for Niger Deltans.
Tompolo, in a statement, said: “I wish to appeal to you (Niger Delta Avengers) once again to stop the bombing of oil facilities in the Niger Delta and embrace dialogue with the Federal Government, as the government is ready to hear you out on whatever issues you wish to discuss with it.
“You guys know that I do not know you and how to reach you, except through the mass media. If truly, as you guys claimed, that you are fighting for the well-being of the people of the Niger Delta, then you must adhere to this appeal, otherwise, the world will label you as criminals.”
Army parades 10 suspected NDA militants in Edo
Meanwhile, 10 suspected members of Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, allegedly involved in the current attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta, were paraded, yesterday, in Benin City, Edo State, alongside their arms and ammunition by the Commander, 4th Brigade, Nigeria Army, Benin City, Brig-General F. Yahaya.
The suspects, according to the Brigade Commander, were arrested in Oporoza, headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State. Some of the weapons recovered from them included pistol and magazines, live cartridges, explosive devices, ipads, laptops, combat boot, dagger, cable wire, speed boat throttle cable, among others.
Cease fire, Delta Ijaw monarchs, leaders tell Avengers, FG
Also, Ijaw traditional rulers and Ijaw Council of Elders in Delta State have appealed to youths destroying oil assets and military invaders in their communities to ceasefire and embrace dialogue to resolve the issues in contention.
The Delta Ijaw monarchs and leaders at a meeting, weekend, in Edjeba, Warri South council, palace annex of the paramount ruler of Seinbiri Kingdom, His Majesty, Ayemi Botu, assured in a statement signed by HRM D. Donokoromo, the Pere of Isaba Kingdom, Chairman for the Delta Ijaw Traditional Rulers Forum and Chief Bare Etolor, who chairs the Ijaw Council of Leaders, advised both parties to observe a truce effective June 1 to July 1, 2016 to give peace a chance.
Also, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, warned that until President Muhammadu Buhari put machinery in place for relevant constitution amendment to revert Nigeria to the practice of fiscal and true federalism or begin the implementation of resolutions of the 2014 National Conference, agitations, including militancy in the Niger Delta, would never end.
It said: “The only solution to intermittent crisis in the Niger Delta, which has led to massive bombing of oil installations by militant groups, is for the APC-led government to address resource control and ownership question which had been the remote cause of crisis in the Delta.”
IYC in a communique by its President, Mr Udengs Eradiri, at the end of its one-day stakeholders’ conference to mark the end of the month-long activities in honour of Ijaw hero, the late Major Jasper Adaka Boro, observed that the issues that gave rise to renewed militancy in the region were the same that gave birth to the late Major Adaka Boro’s struggles, which culminated in the 12-day revolution in the 1960s.
“Whereas, the Presidential Amnesty programme of 2009 brought temporary peace to the Niger Delta, the crucial issues of resource control and true federalism which formed the basis for the agitation were not addressed,” the group said.
The IYC vowed to resist any attempt to single out former President Goodluck Jonathan for arrest and humiliation over spurious allegations of corruption in the All Progressives Congress, APC-led government’s anti-corruption fight.
It urged Buhari to accord Jonathan the same respect accorded other former Presidents, or demonstrate his sincerity by first probing all former Presidents, including Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar and Olusegun Obasanjo.
Students may miss NECO exams in Ijaw riverside communities
Meanwhile, there are fears that hundreds of students in Ijaw riverside communities, who enrolled for the National Examination Council of Nigeria, NECO, examinations, beginning tomorrow at Oporoza Secondary School, Oporoza, Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West council may not be able to write the examination due to the ongoing military operation in the community.
In addition, movement on the waterways has become more difficult because of the ongoing military operation.
The Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative, IPDI, which raised the alarm on NECO examinations, said: “Oporoza Secondary School is the only secondary school in Gbaramatu Kingdom and when the military invaded the community last Saturday, students and their parents fled into the bush and have not returned.”
National President of IPDI, Austin Ozobo, told Vanguard: “Except the military vacates the community, it will be a bad moment for them because people are afraid to return to the community.
“We are saying that the military should vacate Oporoza so that the displaced persons will return to their community. We are not saying the military should not do their normal routine patrols of providing security for oil installations, but they should vacate to enable students participate in NECO examinations starting tomorrow.”
Tompolo called me — Otuaro
Meanwhile, Tompolo, weekend, called the Deputy Governor of Delta State and Chairman, Advocacy Committee Against Oil Facility Vandalism, Mr. Kingsley Burutu Otuaro, on phone from his hideout, saying soldiers’ invasion of Oporoza community in search of him was a calculated plot to make him join forces with the Niger Delta Avengers.
The former Commander of Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, reportedly told Otuaro that despite the aggravating military action, which has left defenceless women and children trapped in the bush since Saturday, he would never renege on his stand against bombings of oil installations having accepted amnesty in 2009.
A source confided in Vanguard: “I can tell you that Tompolo actually phoned the deputy governor telling him that he was being tempted to go back to his vomit by the military, but he would not like to fall for it. The deputy governor, who is a minister of the Most High God counselled him not to ever make such a mistake his life.”
Contacted on Tompolo’s phone call to him, Otuaro wondered how Vanguard got the information.
He confirmed that Tompolo actually called him when Vanguard revealed part of the information.
He said: “It is true; it was yesterday (Saturday) that he called my phone on the Oporoza military invasion allegedly in search him, which left helpless women and children in the bush for over 48 hours now. Essentially, he said it was a temptation intended to provoke him to join forces with the Niger Delta Avengers.
“In his (Tompolo) words: ’I have often denounced and dissociated myself from the Niger Delta Avengers, I am not an Avenger and I do not want to be part of them. I pray and wish not to fall into that temptation.’ This is what he told me on the phone.”