There was tension 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 newsmen 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.”
Ex-governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, told newsmen: “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.”
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.’’
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.