· Chevron’s facilities targeted
· There’ll be no hiding place for you, navy warns
Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa and Monday Osayande in Warri
The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), the new face of violent agitation in the oil-rich Niger Delta, yesterday issued a two-week ultimatum to owners and operators of oil concessions in the region to shut down their businesses and evacuate all their staff or face a “bloody attack”.
The group had recently claimed responsibility for the destruction of Chevron and Shell’s oil facilities in the western Niger Delta, resulting in the shut-in of several thousands of barrel of crude oil, disruption of crude supply to the Kaduna and Warri refineries, disruption of gas supply, and the attendant drop in power generation nationwide.
A statement by the group’s spokesperson, ‘Col Mudock Agbinibo’, warned Chevron not to embark on the repair of the valve blown up last week, or several casualties would be recorded during any confrontation.
“To owners and operators of these oil blocks in our region, the Niger Delta Avengers is giving you two weeks ultimatum to shut down your operations and evacuate your staff.
“If at the end of the ultimatum, you are still operating, we will blow up all the locations. It will be bloody. So just shut down your operations and leave,” the group warned.
Giving a detailed breakdown of owners of the oil wells in the Niger Delta region, it claimed that at least 90 per cent of the platforms are owned by people outside the oil-producing region, stressing that they (NDA) would shut down the companies permanently.
“There is a rumour that oil has been discovered in the North-east. How will you feel if this new found oil is being managed by Niger Deltans. We are very sure the Niger Deltans won’t even have 2 per cent of the oil blocks if oil is really found in the North-east. If you don’t shut down, we will shut your stations permanently for you,” the group threatened.
Focusing on Chevron again, the militant group claimed that it had information that the company was in the process of fixing the facilities recently blown up by its members.
“From our investigation Chevron is about to carry out repair works at the valve platform that was blown by us. We made it clear that no repair works should be done until our demands are fully met.
“When we blew the Chevron valve platform, it resulted in total blackout at the Escravos tank farm for more than three hours. If we can do it, just know that we are capable of bringing down your tank farm if you continue with repair works on the blown valve platform.
“Chevron and the Nigeria government are pushing us against our beliefs, despite making it clear we are not after innocent human lives, but as it’s going, we might cause human casualties if they don’t listen to us.
“Be informed that if we decide to strike, it is going to be bloody. And the contracting firm going to do the repair works, we want you to know that your facilities and staff will be our first casualties,” the group added.
Revelling in the success of its recent attacks, the avengers boasted that despite the heavy military presence in the creeks, it would not stop the group from carrying out its attacks.
“We are ready to destroy more pipelines, we won’t only destroy pipelines, but will bring the fight to your tank farm and your headquarters in Lekki, Lagos (Chevron). If you continue to undermine us and go ahead with the repair works, you won’t see us coming but we are coming for you,” the militants said.
Describing its critics as cowards, the group took a swipe at Mr Government Ekpemupolo, better known as Tompolo, stressing that the ex-militant does not have the interest of the region at heart.
“To ex-agitators of the likes of Tompolo, we know why you people are after us. Our agitation is more civilised than yours. The Niger Delta Avengers is more concerned with people of the Niger Delta.
“Unlike you (ex-agitations) that were into kidnapping, killing Nigeria soldiers, engaging in piracy of vessels and tanker hijacking, we are able to carry out all our operations without killing a fly.
“We have sophisticated arms far better than what you used to have during your kidnapping days,” the group revealed.
The group claimed that it has its spies in the Nigerian military, noting that all the plans of the security forces were being divulged to its members.
“In our meeting comprising all heads of the strike teams, which was held in Bayelsa, the Niger Delta Avengers’ high command came to the conclusion that if the military harasses or invades any community in the region, then you (Nigeria military) will get a feel of the avengers,” it said.
It also claimed that all the group’s commanders are evenly spread across the region.
“The commander of strike team 9 of the Niger Delta Avengers is from eastern Nigeria, so nobody should limit this struggle to the Ijaws of the Niger Delta only.
“The leader of the strike team 6 that blew up the Chevron valve platform is Itsekiri. The commander of our elite team strike team one is from Akwa Ibom,” the militants claimed.
“To the international oil companies, this is just the beginning and you have not seen anything yet. We will make you suffer as you have made the people of Niger Delta suffer over the years from environmental degradation and pollution.
“To the President of Nigeria, Buhari, we are sure you have not been to the creeks of the Niger Delta before and 90 per cent of your cabinet does not know what the region looks like. You think the Niger Delta region is full of animals that are going to frustrate your government,” the group stated.
Navy Warns Militants
Despite its threat, the new Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Mohammed Garba, yesterday warned the militants against further bombing of oil facilities in the region.
Garba, who took over from Rear Admiral Tariworio Dick yesterday, vowed that the Nigerian Navy would crush the militant activities in the region.
After a meeting with his officers and men at the command’s headquarters in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, the new FOC said his task was to implement the vision and mission of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ibas, as contained in the Strategic Directive 2015.
According to Garba, the directive involved zero tolerance for crude oil theft, illegal oil bunkering, pipeline vandalism, kidnapping and socio-economic and political threats.
The naval commander said he had observed with dismay the recent resurgence of militant activities in the region and warned its perpetrators to desist from the act or face the full weight of the Nigerian Navy.
“I wish to emphasise that there will be no hiding place for oil thieves as the command has intensified patrol of its area of responsibility with the recent delivery of more platforms by the Nigerian Navy.
“With the recent resurgence of pockets of militant activities, I wish to specifically call on these groups of people to desist from criminal activities amounting to security breaches in the Niger Delta.
“Additionally, let me say that they (militants) have no constituency as all well-meaning Nigerians and law-abiding citizens of this country will not want to associate with them.
“I therefore urge these criminal gangs to engage in meaningful and legitimate businesses because anybody found wanting will be made to face the full weight of the law,” he said.
He called on individuals to report any suspicious activities immediately to security agencies for swift response in curbing criminal activities in the Niger Delta region.
Tompolo Accused of Backing Militia
In a related development, the Commandant General, Riverine Security (Coast Guard of the Federation), Commander Bibi Oduku, has accused Tompolo and the people of the Gbaramatu Kingdom of aiding and abetting criminals in their community in the recent attacks on oil and gas installations within and outside the kingdom.
Bibi, in a press statement yesterday, said that Gbaramatu was not only the host of oil and gas facilities in the region, it is also the home of the most dreaded militia leader in the Niger Delta, Tompolo, who has been declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He disclosed that investigation from his security outfit revealed that the militants who had claimed responsibility for the recent attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta were from Gbaramatu Kingdom, adding that it would be difficult for an outsider to storm the area and carry out such coordinated attacks on oil facilities without insider collaborations.
According to Oduku, “It is not possible for any militia group to carry out attacks in Gbaramatu without the permission or blessings of Tompolo. The people of Gbaramatu are enlightened enough to understand the economic and environmental implications of pipeline bombings and oil spills, and as such will not allow outsiders to carry out attacks on oil facilities within and close to the kingdom.
“Investigations by the Riverine Security (Coast Guard of the Federation) shows that the Niger Delta Avengers, which have claimed responsibility for the latest attacks on oil installations in Warri South-West Local Government Area are operating from Gbaramatu Kingdom and its environs.”
He called for more government and stakeholders’ support for riverine security, stating that it would end the activities of criminals in the Niger Delta.
Oduku also tasked traditional rulers and community leaders and well-meaning Niger Deltans to continuously denounce the activities of the group as devilish and advised youths in the region not to join the group and other militia groups.