Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Dayo Johnson, Egufe Yafugborhi, Perez Brisibe and Emem Idio
THE Federal Government explained yesterday why it has refused to enter into dialogue with the Niger Delta Avengers who has continuously bombed pipelines in the region even as the militants vowed not to beg government for negotiation. The Federal Government gave the explanation a day after the Avengers blew up three more trunk lines in Bayelsa and Rivers. Meanwhile, residents of over 75 riverine communities Delta state have cried out over the pollution of their environment and environment by the activities of the Avengers and other militant groups.
Avengers are economic warriors
Giving reason why the Federal Government was not holding talks with the Niger Delta Avengers on how to put an end to the bombing of pipelines, Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo said that they are not freedom fighters but economic warriors who are fighting for their own private pockets. Professor Osinbajo who delivered the second foundation lecture of Elizade University,Ilaramokin, Ondo state entitled “The Future is here earlier than we thought”, declared that “the so called avengers are not freedom fighters but fighting for their own economic benefits. They are avenging for their private pocket and that is why government is not talking with them”.
The Vice President however said that the Federal Government has concluded arrangements to tackle the menace of pipeline vandalism in the Niger/Delta region. While condemning the activities of the militants who claimed responsibility for the vandalization of petroleum pipelines in the Niger/Delta region, said “the previous government neglected the region for several years, hence the current challenges in the region.
The Federal Government has however put machinery in motion to curtail the activities of Niger/Delta Avengers”.He also lamented that the activities of the avengers were responsible for the epileptic power supply in the country as well as the inability of state governors to pay workers’ salaries due to the low revenue generated in the oil sector as a result of the attack on pipelines.
Militants blow up more pipelines
The NDA, however, continued its crippling attacks on the nation’s economy, blowing up the Nembe 1, 2 and 3 trunk lines in Bayelsa and Rivers states, in the early hours of Friday. The group, which maintained in an exclusive electronic mail to Saturday Vanguard that it would not beg government for dialogue, later on its website claimed responsibility for the attack, saying: “At about the of 3.00 am to 5.00 am, the Niger Delta Avenger blew up Nembe 1, 2, and 3 trunk-lines in Bayelsa/River States.” Its spokesperson, self-styled Gen Mudoch Agbinibo, asserted “We are using this medium to warn the general public of impostors’ Facebook accounts. Niger Delta Avenger is not on Social network anymore.” Saturday Vanguard, however, gathered that residents are worried that the rampaging militants vowed to attack and shoot villagers who dare to interrupt their operations.
We’re waiting for Saudi mercenaries,——Avengers
The Niger Delta Avengers, also yesterday, said it does not care if the Federal Government hires mercenaries from Saudi Arabia or anywhere to fight them. Reacting to online reports that the federal government had concluded agreement with Saudi authorities to deploy Saudi Blackwater mercenaries to the Niger Delta region to tackle militants that had been bombing oil facilities, spokesperson of the group, self-styled Brig Gen Mudoch Agbinibo, told Saturday Vanguard that NDA was not perturbed. A staff in The Royal Embassy of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Nigeria supposedly confirmed the $280 million deal, as part of the agreement in the Saudi-led Islamic coalition against terrorism to Vaxity. Anwar Eshki, a retired Major General, in the Saudi armed forces is reportedly the head of Blackwater, which undertakes such assignments for the Saudi Arabian government.
Niger Delta Avengers in its reaction, said: “The Niger Delta Avengers do not care if the federal government hires or concludes plans to bring in Bluewater, Graywater, Pinkwater, Whitewater or Blackwater mercenaries from Saudi Arabia. It is none of our business, the Saudi Arabia, has its own problem of terrorism, so coming here to help Nigerian government is funny. The Niger Delta region will win this war,” the group added.
Foreign mercenaries will exacerbate crisis
The Ijaw People Development Initiative, IPDI, also responding to the alleged move by government to hire Saudi mercenaries, said: “We want to reiterate that bombing Niger Delta communities or wasting $258million to hire fighters to fight the Niger Delta Avengers will not stop Niger Delta quest for self-determination. Rather, it will aggravate and teach aggrieved youths better warfare and how to go about acquiring modern equipment to fight back tomorrow.”
The group in a joint statement by the national president and spokesperson, Austin Ozobo and Daniel Ezekiel, said: “We wonder why the government is so bent on wasting such huge amount of money to hire fighters from Saudi Arabia to fight a region that has fed the country for the past 58 years. We are also surprised at the president’s decision to hire his Muslim allies to fight Niger Delta people.” It asked: “Why not Nigeria soldiers? What happened to the 100 gunboats, 5 warships and 3 fighter jets earlier deployed to the creeks to fight Niger Delta Avengers, which turned into a venture of intimidating innocent people and invading communities?
Oil communities under threat- Mulade
Concerned residents of the communities have meanwhile appealed to the militants to sheathe their swords, and for government to dialogue with the militants to end the attacks and clean up their environments. Coordinator of the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ, who is also the chairman of Kokodiagbene community in Gbaramatu clan, Mr. Sheriff Mulade, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, said: “Niger Delta region has been turned into a battle ground as a result of confrontation between the military and militants.” “Oil communities are worried over the bastardization of the region by pipeline vandals, the current nefarious activities of the rampaging militants and the exploration and exploitative activities of the multinational oil companies.”
“Well over 75 riverside communities are adversely affected by the unabated bombings by militants, illegal bunkering and oil theft as well as the failure of the multinational oil firms to adopt environmental best practices,” he added. The NGO asserted: “We believe that the federal government reprisal attacks on militants will further bastardize the region as the environment is the only heritage of the people and the future generation will suffer greatly if the environment is completely destroyed.” The center carpeted the International Oil Companies (IOCs) for starting the militarization of the region when they engaged military personnel to man key and strategic facilities, thereby