- Demands release of Kanu, Dasuki
Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa and Sylvester Idowu in Warri
The restiveness in the Niger Delta worsened wednesday with the emergence of another militant group, Red Egbesu Water Lions, demanding the release of the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, and the former National Security Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Col. Sambo Dasuki rtd.
The group in a statement by its Coordinator, General Torunanawei Latei, on Wednesday, threatened that if its demands were not met within seven days, it would team up with the Niger Delta Avengers to shut down oil and gas production in the Niger Delta.
It also asked President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately direct the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to defreeze the bank accounts of ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, and called for the unconditional and immediate payment to victims of the Bonga Oil Spill and Chevron gas explosion in Koluama, Bayelsa State.
While decrying the alleged lawlessness of the Buhari-led federal government, the Ijaw group argued that the government was becoming notorious for deliberate disobedience to court orders.
It said, “It is extremely important to note that the engine room of the national interest is the executive obedience to court orders, protection and preservation of citizens’ constitutional liberties.
‘’Justification of executive disobedience to court orders as a protection of national interest is abominable.
“This is a deliberate ploy to bend the law and suspend the 1999 Constitution. We ask; does President Muhammadu Buhari have any legal capacity to declare anyone as a criminal? Disobedience to court orders is an act of executive rascality in the country,” the group contended.
The new group gave the ultimatum just as there were indications wednesday that the militants’ activities might spread to Bayelsa State, which shares boundary with Delta State, the hotbed of militancy since its resurgence.
Thisday learnt that the spread might not be unconnected with the invasion of the creeks of Delta State by the military which had been in search of the Niger Delta Avengers, where it had lost about 10 personnel within a month.
The development occurred a day after a fresh breach on the Sagbama-Tuomo gas line, belonging to Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC, at Egbembiri, Southern Ijaw local government area of Bayelsa State happened.
The line which runs through the border town between Bayelsa and Delta States was again destroyed along the Ayama section of the Ogboinbiri-Tuomo gas pipeline with dynamites.
But as government’s suspicion of the connection between Tompolo, an ex-warlord, with the renewed militancy in the region continues, the traditional ruler of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West Council, Delta State, HRH Oboro-Gbaraun II, Aketekpe, Agadagba, has insisted that members of the militant group, Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) were not from his kingdom.
Oboro-Gbaraun II, who spoke in his palace in coastal Oporoza, traditional headquarters of the embattled Gbaramatu Kingdom, and Tompolo’s base, described reports, linking his kingdom with the activities of the militant group as malicious and unfounded.
He condemned those linking his people with the renewed violent agitations in the Niger Delta and expressed dismay over the continued military siege on his kingdom in the purported search for the Avengers.
He maintained that it was untrue that Ekpemupolo was behind the group’s recent attacks on oil facilities in the region.
The Ijaw royal father stressed that although the group’s activities took place in some creeks of Gbaramatu kingdom like other parts of the region, it was not enough to accuse his people of being behind the attacks.
While lamenting that the continued military invasion of Gbaramatu land was capable of further fuelling the tensed atmosphere in the area, he urged the federal government to take a second look at the situation and ask the military to withdraw.
He said, “We as a people are peace loving. Upon hearing of recent activities of the so called Niger Delta Avengers, I immediately summoned a meeting of clan and community heads to intensify surveillance of our territory against the activities of the group to ensure that permanent peace reigns in my kingdom.
“But I was miffed when I started reading on the pages of newspapers that the militants are from my kingdom. This is not true.
‘’Let me stress here, we are not militants and nobody should give us a name that’s not ours. We don’t know them and I can tell you they are not from our communities. My people won’t resort to pipeline bombing to express any form of grievances.”
He absolved Tompolo of allegedly masterminding the return of militancy in the region, noting that the ongoing trial of Tompolo, a former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), has a political slant to it.
“It’s politically motivated because he is not in the same party with the current administration. The right thing to do was to bring everybody together as one after the election and not pursuing your opponents.
While condemning the stoppage of work at the Maritime Academy in the area, the monarch added, ‘’I’m appealing to the Federal government because this will not bring peace to Niger Delta.
“The cancellation of the Maritime University was a political aggression against Gbaramatu kingdom. President Buhari should know that the university is key to the peace in the region.
‘’ I urge him (Buhari) to allow academic activities to commence soon. He should see us as partners in progress and not foes”, the King argued.