By Emma Amaize, Simon Ebegbulem, Jimitota Onoyume, Daud Olatunji, Rotimi Ojomoyela, Charles Kumolu, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Ochuko Akuopha & Davies Iheamnachor
WARRI— SUSPECTED militants, Wednesday evening, launched a surprise attack at a military houseboat in the creeks of Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, killing two soldiers and six civilians.
In a swift reaction, the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, last night, denied killing two soldiers in the bloody attack of a houseboat by suspected militants in Warri, Delta state on Wednesday, but admitted blowing up two crude oil pipelines in Bayelsa State.
A source said the heavily armed militants, who came in five boats, not only blew up the houseboat with explosives but also sank it after killing and mortally wounding all the men on board.
There were, however, conflicting reports on the casualties and actual location of the attack. A report said only two soldiers and one civilian was killed, with many injured, another said the casualties were more than 10.
It was learned that suspected members of Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, carried out the killing after attacking Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, houseboat at Ijere in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State,
According to a statement by the Assistant Director, Public Relations, 4 Brigade, Nigerian Army Headquarters, Benin City, Edo State, Captain Jonah Unuakhalu, the incident occurred Wednesday night.
He explained that the suspected militants approached the houseboat in five speed boats mounted with 250 horse power engines, dressed as normal commuters.
We didn’t kill 2 soldiers —Avengers
In an electronic mail sent at 9.47 pm, the group said: “The Niger Delta Avengers are not involved in the attack of the military houseboat around Warri, Delta State. Killing of sleeping soldiers is not our style. We promise the world that in this process of liberating our people, not a single blood of Nigeria soldiers will be wasted despite the provocation.
“Even the inhumane Nigeria soldiers are exempted, our war is on oil installations not to take innocent lives. For the fact we can’t give life, we also don’t have the power to take any life. But we (Avengers) are assuring the families of the affected soldiers that we will bring the culprits to book.
“When it is time to face the military in combat, let the whole world know that we won’t be the ones to throw the first punch.
“This message is going to all groups parading themselves as freedom fighters. You can fight for your people without killing innocent souls. NDA has proved, we were able to drop Nigeria oil production from two million barrels to just 800,000 barrels without killing a soul.
“We are warning every group to follow our footsteps. The days of killing and kidnapping are over.”
It also tweeted: “At about 2:00am today (yesterday) @NDAvengers blew up the Ogboinbiri to Tebidaba and Clough Creek to Tebidaba Crude Oil pipelines in Bayelsa State.
“This is in line with our promise to all international oil companies and Indigenous Oil Companies that Nigeria oil production will be zero.”
JNDLF to test missiles in 6 N-Delta states from June 7
Meanwhile, a group of militant commanders announced, yesterday, after a meeting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, that the Joint Revolutionary Council, JRC, of the Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force, JNDLF, would commence the testing of six missiles in the region for three days beginning from June 7.
“This is to show the Federal Government our readiness for the American prediction. There should be no form of helicopter flying around the region as we will not guarantee the safety of such object,” they said in a statement signed by General Akotebe Darikoro, Commander, General Duties, General Torunnanaowei Latei, Creeks Network Coordinator, General Agbakakuro Owei-Tauro, Pipelines’ Bleeding Expert and General Pulokiri Ebiladei for Intelligence Bureau.”
Britain cautions FG over military option
This came as the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Paul Arkwright, yesterday, in Abeokuta, Ogun State, cautioned the Federal Government over military option in tackling the resurgence of militancy and other criminality in the Niger Delta.
This is also as former President of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Dr Chris Ekiyor, warned that the invasion of the creeks of the Niger Delta by the military was not the solution to current bombing of oil pipelines by the Niger Delta Avengers, appealing to the Federal Government to join hands with the committee set up by the Delta State government to use diplomacy to fish out the suspects.
Similarly, the Pere of Bilabiri Mein Kingdom, Bayelsa State, HRM Dodo II, Dr. Winston Ogoun, has condemned the shootings by soldiers in Oporoza community, Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State, saying the action of the military was not the option in resolving militants’ onslaught on oil installations in the region.
Speaking when he paid a courtesy call on the Managing Director, Edoferen Nigeria Ltd, Mr. French Edoreh, at Oleh, Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State, the monarch advised President Buhari to jettison primordial sentiments and embrace facts that he met on ground.
He urged the President to be proactive and have listening ears in addressing the issue, emphasizing that he was elected to fix the problems of the country.
Military action undermines Delta govt’s efforts
However, Ekiyor, who also is Secretary of the committee set up by the Delta State Government to visit the creeks and unravel those behind the bombings, told Vanguard, yesterday in Benin City: “The military grand standing in the Niger Delta is worrisome and I think it is more of trade than patriotism.
“If the military advises their high command properly, they should know that Niger Delta people are homely and welcoming people.
“A handful of Niger Delta Avengers cannot be equated to the entire Niger Delta people or the entire Ijaw people. The Ijaw people are threatened by the activities of Niger Delta Avengers because when you blow up pipelines, the entire fish and farm products are gone.
“Experience has also shown that the network of pipelines in the Niger Delta cannot be policed by this gun-toting approach, it has to be policed by a diplomatic call, committed understanding by a people who are ready to do it as a family.
“People thought Tompolo is behind this but if he was behind it, he will put a face to it. He will not be cowardly enough to hide under pseudo names and his media show will be different from this. I knew when he was in charge of MEND, they will actually tell you the time and date they will hit a facility and they will tell the JTF to go and wait for them, yet they will hit the facility.
Stop, you‘re killing Delta, Okowa tells militants
Reacting to developments in the region, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has appealed to militants blowing up oil installations in the state to reconsider their actions, as bombing of oil facilities by them was affecting the state.
The governor made the call while commissioning Jeddo/Ughoton road in Okpe Local Government Area of the state, as part of activities to mark his one year in office.
He said: “The pipeline vandalism that is going on is very bad for Delta State, we are suffering from pollution, our communities are affected, and we are the greatest losers; our communities are impacted negatively.
“I want to appeal to our brothers who are involved in one way or the other in these vandalism to stop, we cannot destroy ourselves in order to make a point, there are more civil ways of channeling grievances which we should apply than vandalizing pipelines and endangering our people.”
Also, the military yesterday deployed fighter jets and surveillance aircraft to the Egbema-Ijaw area of Warri North Local Government Area of the state, to search for Niger Delta Avengers, NDA.
The presence of the fighter jets generated fear among the residents, who cried out they were not members of NDA and would never be part of it.
President of Delta Ijaw Peace Movement, Mr Smart Asekutu, who is from the area, told Vanguard that some of his people called him to alert him about the deployment of fighter jets in the area.
He said: “We welcome the military operation in Delta State to stop the bombing of oil and gas pipelines by militants, but I want to say that Egbema people are not part of Avengers, so the military should tread carefully.
“We have Chevron facilities in our area and nobody had touched them because we do not believe in what the militants are doing, that is not to say that they may not be criminals in Egbema. But if the military identify them, they should isolate them and dealt with them.”
Britain advocates dialogue
British High Commissioner, Paul Arkwright, who visited the Ake Palace, in Abeokuta, accompanied by Political Counsellor, Ben Llewellyn-Jones, and former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, and Dr Emeka Anyioku, yesterday, advocated dialogue as part of a comprehensive approach that should be adopted by Nigerian government to address the situation, adding that force alone might not bring about a lasting solution to the Niger Delta issue.
While speaking with newsmen, Arkwright said though there was need to protect the investments, not just the British companies and international companies operating there, but also Nigerian companies from acts of criminality going – on in the region, the military should tread softly.
He noted that the Britain was already talking to the federal government and its authorities on need to take a “comprehensive approach” and not to rely solely on military option as solution to the Niger Delta militants.
According to him, it is important that the Nigerian government explore ways to engage the communities in the area, understand the grievances of the people and also ensured that the environmental damage was cleaned up.
He also suggested that same option should be applied to conclude the fight against Boko Haram terrorists in the North East of the country.