• Another group threatens to shut down Nigeria’s airspace, orders troops to vacate N’Delta
• We will not negotiate with Avengers, CDS Vows House backs military action in oil region
The constant attacks on oil and gas installations took a turn for the worse yesterday, when the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) blew up two more pipelines in Bayelsa State and vowed to bring Nigeria’s oil output to zero.
Yesterday’s attacks by the rampaging militants, who have claimed responsibility for the recent wave of attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta, came on the heels of another one suspected to have been carried out by the same group on Wednesday evening on a houseboat stationed at Ijere community in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State, where the group engaged Nigerian troops in a gun battle, killing two soldiers and four civilians.
The houseboat was operated by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), the exploration and production subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
This was just as a new militant group, the Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force, threatened to launch missiles to shut down Nigeria’s airspace and the country’s satellite system by Tuesday next week. It also ordered the Nigerian Armed Forces to vacate the oil-rich region within 48 hours.
Sources, who opened up on the attack on the houseboat at Ijere, said other than the six persons who were killed, some soldiers were also believed to be missing.
Security sources told THISDAY that the militants struck when the soldiers least expected it.
“Some militants suspected to be the Avengers attacked a houseboat stationed at pipeline junction at the back of Ijere community. The militants came through Omadina creek in the Itsekiri axis. During the exchange of gunfire, the houseboat sank while the army recorded casualties. The militants escaped through the Omadina community axis.
Following the attack, it was gathered that two soldiers and four civilians died instantly.
Sources disclosed that the civilian casualties – two females and two males – included a 26-year-old caterer identified as Tombra Iwoboibi, who were support staff on the houseboat at the time of the incident.
The corpses of the soldiers and civilians were seen at Central Hospital, Warri by THISDAY.
The Public Relations Officer of the hospital, Mrs. Success Obere, confirmed that the bodies were deposited at midnight on Wednesday.
A relation of one of the civilians, Mr. Richard Ebianyaidou, confirmed that his brother, Tombra, was a caterer on the houseboat.
He pleaded with the federal government to wade into the crisis in the riverine areas of the state, lamenting that the innocent people like his brother were losing their lives.
Confirming the Ijere incident later yesterday, the Nigerian Army said the NPDC houseboat stationed at Ijere junction was attacked by suspected armed militants.
According to a statement signed by the Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, Captain Jonah Unuakhalu, the suspected militants approached the houseboat at 5.50 pm in five speedboats mounted with 250 horsepower engines and disguised as normal commuters.
He said that during the deliberate attack, two soldiers were killed, one wounded, one soldier went missing while four civilian staff attached to the houseboat were shot dead.
The attack, he said, occurred when other members of the troops were on pipeline patrol.
“The brigade condemns the attack on our personnel carrying out their constitutional duties and other innocent staff. The brigade will not be deterred by such dastardly acts, but will remain resolute in discharging its constitutional duties,” he added.
Captain Unuakhalu stated that those who carried out the criminal acts would surely be sought, apprehended and brought to justice, and implored all law abiding citizens to go about their normal business.
After the attack in Ijere, the NDA laid claim to bombing two oil pipelines in Bayelsa State yesterday.
The group, in two Twitters posts, said the bombing was carried out at about 2am yesterday.
It equally vowed to ensure that the country’s oil production is reduced to zero.
It identified the pipelines blown up as those between Ogboinbiri and Tebidaba and Clough Creek to Tebidaba.
It said: “At about 2.00 am today @NDAvengers blew up the Ogboinbiri to Tebidaba and Clough Creek to Tebidaba Crude Oil pipelines in Bayelsa State.
“This is inline with our promise to all international oil companies and indigenous oil companies that Nigeria’s oil production will be zero.”
New Group Threatens Mayhem
Meanwhile, a new group, the Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force (JNDLF), has vowed to launch six missiles, shut down Nigeria’s satellite system and enforce a “no flight” zone within the country’s airspace from Tuesday next week.
The group, which claimed it is working closely with the deadly NDA, also gave the Nigerian military 48 hours to quit the region or face extermination.
The JNDLF made the threat in a statement sent to journalists in Yenagoa, Bayelsa yesterday. The statement was signed by ‘General’ Akotebe Darikoro, Commander, General Duties; ‘General’ Torunnanaowei Latei, Creeks Network Coordinator; ‘General’ Agbakakuro Owei-Tauro, Pipelines Bleeding Expert; and ‘General’ Pulokiri Ebiladei of its Intelligence Bureau.
THISDAY could neither independently verify the source of the e-mail nor the authenticity of the new group, but several other militant groups in the region have emerged in the same manner in the last few years.
All the missiles it was deploying, the group said, were capable of bringing down any aircraft no matter how big or potent.
While accusing Buhari of deciding to break the country by his actions, the new group noted that its Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC), which it claimed is the highest organ of all the freedom fighting bodies, had endorsed a 15-point agenda.
Many of its fighters who were trained abroad, the group claimed, had already arrived the region from training and are yearning to put their new skills to work.
“After extensive and exhaustive deliberation by all commanders of various groups in Yenagoa, the heart of the Niger Delta struggle met last night, and as part of our mission, we are going to test six of our missiles in the region.
“This is to show the federal government of our readiness for the American prediction.
“There should be no any (sic) form of helicopter to fly around in the region as we will not guarantee the safety of such object.
“The people of the Niger Delta region should not panic in the course of test running the six missiles. We may also decide within the week to shut down the Nigerian satellite orbit, so that there will be no communication in the country if the need arises,” the group threatened.
It warned that within its three days of operations, no airplane should fly out of the country because the missiles could target such objects without warning.
“Our fighter expert teams, which have already arrived the region from training through our country’s porous borders with our foreign partners who are going to showcase what they have learnt in the past one year, shall be positioned in the six Niger Delta states,” it said.
While issuing a stern warning to the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information Jonathan Obuebute to stop threatening militants in his statements, the group noted that its “struggle” was not targeted at shedding human blood.
The group added: “But we have been pushed to the wall for justice because our patience is running out on a daily basis as Nigerian uniformed men kill our innocent people continuously.
“The Nigerian military should as a matter of urgency leave peacefully the Ijaw communities they are presently in, in the next 48 hours under the guise of searching for the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) or else we should not be blamed for whatever catastrophe that may befall such officers
“We have consulted our war gods (deities) that enough is enough and that the time has come. Since the present Pharaoh of Nigeria, President Buhari, is to preside over the disintegration of the country, it is a good omen.”
It said henceforth, any attack on Ijaw communities or persons by the military or paramilitary forces in the region, would be met with a shoot-on-sight order of any personnel in uniform in the region.
“We ask all service chiefs, including the Minister of Defence to shamefully resign their positions because Nigeria has no security in whatever form,” it said.
The JNDLF also said its foreign marine crack team had shut down Nigeria’s “obsolete” surveillance equipment which the security operatives were using in monitoring activities in the waterways.
“For the record, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) are not in Delta State, we only go there to strike and return back safely to the struggle base, Bayelsa State.
“We further warn especially Mr. Jonathan Obuebite, Information Commissioner in Bayelsa State not to criticise our activities any longer or else he has a choice of leaving the planet earth anytime he makes such statement(s).
“All oil and gas operations should shut down immediately as our missile testing will affect their equipment.
“Note (that) we shall commence missile testing on Tuesday 7, June 2016 which coincides with the date of our training abroad. We promised Nigerians and the entire world that we are going to surprise them,” the group vowed, echoing a warning earlier issued by the NDA.
CDS: No Negotiation with Avengers
Despite the threats by the militant groups in the Niger Delta and unending attacks on oil and gas facilities, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Gabriel Olonisakin, yesterday said the Nigerian Armed Forces would not negotiate with them.
Olonisakin spoke at the inauguration of 10 highly-militarised Honker Scorpion vehicles, which are to be deployed to bases across the country in line with the Nigerian Air Force’s new Base Defence Concept (BDC).
Olonisakin, who was in the company of the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar and Air Officer Commanding (AOC), Logistics Command, Air Vice Marshal Sani Ahmed, said the military’s defence architecture was still intact.
Stressing that the military would rather enforce than negotiate with the NDA, he said the military would also not relent on cracking down on members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
On IPOB, he said: “There are better ways to air their grievances than the way they go about it. The right way is to get the necessary permit and protest. If they are violent, we will not take it lightly with them.”
Speaking on the newly acquired vehicles for base defence, he said: “The vehicles commissioned today were procured specifically for the purpose of enhancing the security of our air assets within the area of their deployment.
“The equipment is certainly geared towards raising and maintaining the capability of the regiment troops as they contribute to our collective efforts to address the various security challenges confronting our nation.
“I must commend the CAS for this strategic initiative of providing troops with adequate equipment and for undertaking numerous other projects which culminated into actualising his vision for the NAF.
“I will like to say that I am very impressed with the CAS’ achievements within the short period he has been in office.
“The procurement of these Honker Airfield Defence vehicles is a testimony of the importance the NAF attaches to protection of its critical assets and force protection.”
Still on the NDA, the air force chief said: “Constitutionally, the NAF was established to provide security for all Nigerians.
“We will operate within that constitution to ensure that all citizens in the Niger Delta region and Nigerians are safe.”
Speaking on the procured vehicles and the Base Defence Concept, he said it was necessitated by the 2013 attack on the air force base in Maiduguri, Borno State.
House Backs Military Action
Also wading into the Niger Delta crisis, the House of Representatives has thrown its weight behind the ongoing military action targeted at stopping and apprehending the militants in the region.
The spokesman of the House, Hon Abdulrazak Namdas, briefing newsmen yesterday, commended the military for its role in safeguarding the country from threats of aggression.
He disclosed that the Defence Committee of the House had visited the Niger Delta region to ascertain the extent of vandalism on oil and gas facilities and assess the security situation.
“We are very comfortable with what the federal government is doing, and we would support the government to go ahead with what they are doing. We hope very soon these issues would be addressed,” he said.
He also advocated that multinational oil firms operating in the region should make arrangements to secure their facilities by involving the indigenes.
The House at plenary yesterday also directed its Committees on Human Rights, National Security and Intelligence to investigate the reported extra-judicial killings of unarmed civilians in the South-east and South-south states by security forces on May 30, 2016.
Security agencies had opened fire on members of IPOB and Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) who held processions to mark Biafra Day in both geopolitical zones.
At least 37 lives were reportedly lost to the clashes between pro-Biafra sypathisers and security forces.
Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Onyema Chukwuma, in a motion raised as matter of urgent importance, expressed concern at the spate of extra-judicial killings by security agencies in Nigeria.
The trend has continued despite the outcries, investigations and wide condemnation, he said.
Citing the constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly, Onyema stressed that the rule of law and respect for the rights of citizens were cardinal ingredients for the survival and consolidation of democracy.
He listed the consequences of what he described as the high handed engagement to include feelings of alienation, marginalisation and subsequent escalation of confrontational tendencies and resistance to the state.
“Nigeria’s dismal human rights records are largely predicated on unprovoked widespread and forceful engagements of our security agencies on unarmed civilians,” he said.
Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, referred the matter to the committees without debate by the lawmakers. But a minute’s silence was held in honour of those who died.
The decision not to debate the matter may not be unconnected to the sensitive issue of the pro-Biafra rallies.
Interestingly, nowhere in the deputy minority leader’s motion, were the words IPOB, MASSOB or Biafra mentioned.
At the height of the pro-Biafra protests in 2015, a motion on the matter was quietly withdrawn on the floor of the House.
The committees are expected to submit their reports in two weeks.