THERE was apprehension among riverine dwellers, yesterday, as the Nigerian Navy and Army deployed fighter jets and gunboats to the creeks and other strategic locations in Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, in response to last Friday’s threat by the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, to resume bombing of oil facilities.
Some oil servicing company workers, who returned to Warri from Escravos, on Monday night, told Vanguard that they sighted the massive build-up by the armed forces on their way back from work.
However, yesterday afternoon, riverine dwellers, especially in Gbaramatu Kingdom, reported that fighter jets and helicopters hovered around the communities, causing some of them, mainly women and children, to run into hiding in the forest.
It’s normal patrol —NNS Commander
Contacted, the Commander, Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS, Delta, Warri Naval Base, Commodore Ibrahim Dewu, said: “What they are speculating as military deployment is routine patrol along Escravos and the Trans Forcados Pipeline. Once we sense any security concern on that line, our men usually move in to patrol the area. Nobody is deploying any gunboat or jets to specific communities. It is a normal patrol.”
Commander, Operation Delta Safe, Col. Alhassan Grema, and Spokesperson, Joint Task Force, Major Ibrahim Abdulahi, declined response when called on the situation.
Tompolo fortifies security
Meanwhile, ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, who declared, Monday, that he had no plan to bomb pipelines contrary to the allegation levelled against him by the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, RNDA, is said to have fortified his security.
A source told one of our reporters: “We do not want to leave anything to chance because some people desperately want to drag Tompolo into the affair and are using even youths of the region. You saw the statement by RNDA that they know Tompolo’s hideout and volunteered to pilot soldiers to the place. It is highly annoying, but we have to do what we have to do for now.”
Uduaghan calls for engagement
Former governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, told Vanguard: “I am appealing for caution in handling the renewed threat by the Niger Delta Avengers. I am appealing to the Niger Delta Avengers to drop the threat and the Federal Government to continue on the path of engagement. The issues raised from the various peace movements by the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, on behalf of the Federal Government that brought some calm should be seriously addressed. We must all support the Acting Governor, Mr. Kingsley Otuaro, who has been managing the renewed threat.”
Fighter jet, helicopter sighted at 1.00pm –Gbenekama
Ijaw leader and Ibibenimowe (Chief Mobilizer) of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, who confirmed the “invasion,” asserted: “At about 1,00 pm, a military chopper, fighter jet and navy boats roamed the length and breadth of Gbaramatu, while the chopper continued hovering around the palace of the Pere (King) of Gbaramatu kingdom.
“The jets hovered over the place for some minutes before they left. Why this is happening, we do not know. Gbaramatu is not at war with the Federal Government. The Niger Delta Avengers do not live in Gbaramatu nor do they live in Gbaramatu palace and we do not know them. We do not know what their plans are. The people are afraid. We don’t want what happened to us in 2009 and 2015 to repeat itself in 2017. We have struggled to maintain peace in Gbaramatu Kingdom. The traditional ruler of Gbaramatu Kingdom has issued a statement calling for peace and admonishing the Avengers not to embark on hostilities. The kingdom had also issued a statement pleading with the Federal Government to look at the problems agitating the minds of the people of the Niger Delta with a view of solving them immediately.’’
Invading Gbaramatu not the solution —Annkio Briggs
Reacting, Niger Delta campaigner, Ms Ann-Kio Briggs, said: “This is a very strong threat in response to what the government also sees as a threat. Are the people the government is looking for inside Gbaramatu? What is the point of harassing the innocent citizens of Gbaramatu? As a non-violence agitator, I am fed up with all these threats and counter- threats and the fact that the Nigerian government is truly insincere and does not want to solve the Niger Delta issues. I don’t know where this is taking us and I don’t think this is the best thing for the government to do because what the security agents will do is to beat up the people and burn houses.’’
It’s a sad development – Uranta
Executive Secretary, Nigerian National Summit Group, NNSG, Tony Uranta, asserted: “Unfortunately, Nigeria wages war against the poor citizens of Gbaramatu and other peace-loving people of Niger Delta.”
We are very worried that the federal government has allowed Nigeria to return to this crossroad yet again. Even after all the troubles PANDEF had taken to win peace and stability back to the Niger Delta, since last year, when the NDA unilaterally declared a ceasefire and authorised us to interface with the FGN on their behalf.
‘’PANDEF has always advised the Federal Government against its penchant for over-militarization of the Niger Delta. Whatever actions by the youthful agitators in the creeks have been certifiably reactions to what all Niger Deltans regard as an insidious plot by some enemies of the region, who appear more hell-bent on demonizing the people of the Niger Delta, whilst unwavering in their resolve to suck all the resources dry, leaving the indigenes impoverished and the environment despoiled.
‘’We have called on the young men and women in the creeks to, please, not revert to the threatened violence, whilst PANDEF gives the obviously not-blameless federal government some time to embrace the window of opportunity to fulfill the many promises it has made to the Niger Delta region’s people in the last year.
Call military to order – IYC
The Eric Omare-shepherded Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, in a statement, condemned the development.
It said: “The IYC has just been briefed about fighter jets hovering around the Gbaramatu Guesthouse in Oporoza in Gbramatu Kingdom, Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State and thereby causing tension among inhabitants of Oporoza community. This is unnecessary and condemnable. It would be recalled that this same guesthouse was a subject of attack during the 2009 bombardment of Gbaramatu Kingdom. The Nigerian military must not allow a repeat of the 2009 experience.
“We strongly feel that the situation on ground does not warrant military jet fighters going to any community in Gbaramatu or any community in the Niger Delta region. We call on the military authorities to call their officers to order. The deployment of military jets is causing unnecessary tension already in the riverine communities of Delta State. Gbaramatu Kingdom and some other Ijaw communities have suffered too much in the hands of overzealous military officers.
“While stakeholders are making efforts to prevail on militants not to resume hostilities, we also call on the military not to do things that would aggravate the already tense situation in the region. President Buhari must call the military authorities to order to avoid unnecessary crisis in the Niger Delta region.”
IPDI condemns fresh military siege
President of Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative, IPDI, Mr. Austin Ozobo, also condemned the deployment of troops to the area. “We condemn the deployment of troops to invade sleeping communities in Gbaramatu kingdom. It is over a year since the government promised a dialogue process to holistically address Niger Delta demands, yet nothing has been done about it.”
“Has the government ever blamed itself for the delay of the dialogue process, failure to implement the relocation of IOCs headquarters to Niger Delta region and should Niger Delta be blamed for the renewed provocation? We wish to state clearly that deployment of troops is not the solution to Niger Delta struggle. You cannot continue to do the same thing repeatedly and expect different response.’ Peace will elude Nigeria, except those who bear the golden eggs are given a better place in Nigeria,” the activist said.