Buhari Holds Secret Meeting with Jonathan, Niger Delta Tops Agenda

  •  Consults Obasanjo
  • Fresh attack on Forcados pipeline worsens power supply
  • Ijaw leaders meet in Warri  Okowa condemns killing of soldiers

By Yemi Adebowale and Ejiofor Alike in Lagos; Sylvester Idowu in Warri; Tobi Soniyi; Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Omon Julius in Asaba

President Muhammadu Buhari has stepped up efforts to find a lasting solution to the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta by holding a private meeting with former President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday night at his residence in Aso Rock, Abuja.

As a follow up to the meeting with Jonathan, Buhari also met with former president Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday at the Presidential Villa.

The meeting with Obasanjo came on the heels of fresh attack on Forcados pipeline by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).

The destruction of oil facilities in the region by the militants had crippled Nigeria’s crude oil production and power supply, with crude production recovering from a loss of 1.1 million barrels per day to about 1.6 million barrels per day. By yesterday, power generation had dropped to 2,832.5MW.

A source very close to Jonathan said the former president’s meeting with Buhari lasted about 35 minutes and focused mainly on how to get the Niger Delta militants to agree to a ceasefire.

THISDAY checks reveal Buhari specifically requested Jonathan to intervene in the crisis.

Obasanjo arrived Aso Rock Villa yesterday in company of Otunba Johnson Fasawe at about 1pm.

His meeting with Buhari was held behind closed doors and the details were not made available to the media.

When Obasanjo emerged from Buhari’s office, he declined comments.

It was also confirmed that  Jonathan’s return to the country from self-exile in Cote D’Ivoire and the subsequent meeting with Buhari on Thursday was triggered by an earlier story exclusviely reported by THISDAY newspaper indicating that the former president had gone on self-exile for fear of being arrested.

According to multiple sources, following THISDAY’s report on Jonathan’s self-exile, Buhari was said to have telephoned him and after several back channel diplomacy between Jonathan, himself and Cote D’Ivoire president, Alhassan Quatarra, assurances were given that Jonathan was free to return home and help the quest for solution to the Niger Delta crisis.

According to the source, Buhari and Jonathan discussed the speculations about possible EFCC arrest and Buhari was said to have assured Jonathan that if the EFCC finds anything against him, he would be given the opportunity befitting of a former president to respond and make clarification. This assurance gave Jonathan the comfort and confidence to return home. Buhari’s Democracy Day praises heaped on Jonathan were designed as a confidence building to further assure him that he was free to return home and that the government was not going to arrest him,” added another source.

These intrigues are a further confirmation of THISDAY’s report that Jonathan had indeed gone on self-exile to avoid humiliation of arrest.

Fresh attack on Forcados pipeline worsens power supply…

Meanwhile, there seems to be no end in sight to the current poor power supply in the country as yesterday morning attack on the Forcados pipeline by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) will further delay the completion of the repair works on the pipeline, which were initially scheduled for completion on May 29.

THISDAY gathered that power supply, which peaked at 3,087.6 MW on Thursday, dropped to 2,832.5MW as at 6.00am by yesterday.

The NDA in an e-mail statement claimed that it attacked the 48-inch Forcados pipeline at 3.00am yesterday because of Shell’s refusal to stop the repairs of the damage caused by the February attack on the pipeline.

In a separate e-mail, which was also signed by the spokesman of the militant group, Brig-General Mudoch Agbinibo, it denied involvement in the attack of the Military houseboat around Warri, Delta State, stressing that “killing of sleeping soldiers is not our style.”

The militant group said it had promised the world that in this process of liberating its people, not a single blood of Nigerian soldiers would be wasted despite the provocation.

“Even the inhumane Nigeria soldiers are exempted, our war is on oil installations not to take innocent lives. For the fact that we can’t give life, we also don’t have the power to take any life. But we (Avengers) are assuring the families of the affected soldiers that we will bring the culprits to book. When it’s time to face the military in combat, let the whole world know that we won’t be the ones to throw the first punch.

“This message is going to all groups parading themselves as freedom fighters. You can fight for your people without killing innocent souls. NDA has proved that. We were able to drop Nigeria Oil production from 2 million barrels to just 800,000 barrels without killing a soul. We are warning every group to follow our footsteps. The days of killings and kidnappings are over,” the group explained.

On the attack on the Forcados pipeline, the group said: “We warned SPDC not to go ahead with the repair work but they refused. This is an example to all other multinationals”.

The group had attacked the Forcados pipeline, which caused the February 14 oil spill on Forcados terminal subsea crude oil export pipeline.

Shell had on February 21, 2016 declared force majeure on exports of Forcados grade of crude oil, following the disruption in production caused by the spill.

Before the incident, Nigeria was producing 2.3 million barrels of crude oil per day and almost 250,000 barrels a day of oil were scheduled to be exported from the Forcados stream in both February and March.

The Forcados export terminal has the capacity to export about 400,000 b/d. The Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu confirmed that the incident curbed the country’s production – which was previously at 2.3m b/d – by 300,000 b/d, thus hampering the country’s efforts to achieve the target of 2.4m b/d for 2016.

Forcados pipeline is owned by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), a subsidiary of NNPC, but is operated by Shell.

While Kachikwu, said repairs on the pipeline could take up to May 2016 to complete, Shell later confirmed that the repairs would be completed on May 29 2016.

THISDAY however gathered that the repairs were not completed on May 29 as scheduled before the militants carried out  another attack yesterday.

Group spokesman of NNPC, Mr. Garuba Deen Muhammad declined to comment when contacted by THISDAY but a source at the corporation had told THISDAY that apart from the militants’ threats on contractors handling the repair works, the delivery of the parts of the pipelines flown into the country to the site is also being hampered by security threats in the region.

“The militants have been threatening the contractors and the threats affected the delivery of the imported parts meant for the repairs,” he had said.

Shell Nigeria spokesman, Mr. Precious Okolobo, had also told THISDAY that repairs on the export pipeline were still ongoing.

“Repairs are continuing. It is a complex process and we want to complete the repairs in very safe manner as soon as possible,” Okolobo added.

The closure of the Forcados pipeline, which also accounts for 40-50 per cent of the country’s gas production, also led to the current drop in power generation.

The pipeline is a crude oil facility, but the gas and liquid condensates produced from gas fields in the western Niger Delta are evacuated through the pipeline, hence its closure has also affected the supply of gas to the power stations.

With the sustained attacks on oil and gas facilities, power generation, which peaked at 5.074MW on February 2, slumped to an all-time low of 1,400MW on May 9, according to the official report by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).

Peak generation on Thursday was 3,087.6 MW, but the daily operational report also showed that generation as at 6.00am yesterday was 2,832.5MW.

Shell has confirmed signs of a leak on the 48-inch Forcados export pipeline at a location between shoreline and the Forcados Terminal in Delta State which members of the NDA attacked.

In a statement, Bamidele Odugbesan, spokesman of Shell, said that the company was yet “to fully evaluate the potential impact and damage to the pipeline resulting from this latest incident.”

However, he disclosed that a team of engineers and experts were already doing a proper assessment and evaluation of the situation for possible response.

Ijaw Leaders Meet in Warri, Review Crisis in Niger Delta…

Also yesterday, Ijaw leaders from seven states that make up the Niger Delta met in Warri, Delta State yesterday to deliberate on the renewed violence in the region with focus on the destruction of critical infrastructure by the NDA.

The Ijaw leaders were drawn from the 78 Ijaw clans, traditional institutions and social political bodies from Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Ondo, Delta state.

Displaced women and children from several Ijaw communities in Gbaramatu kingdom who escaped the onslaught by soldiers also used the ocassion to narrate their ordeals in the hands of soldiers at the meeting.

The meeting which was at the instance of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) revealed humanitarian crisis in several communities including  Oporoza, Kunukunu-Amu, Okokodiagbene, Benikruku, Kurutie, Okerekolo, Naifor, Azakrama, Kenghangbene, Igoba and several others.

Many Ijaw leaders who spoke at the meeting condemned the invasion and occupation of the communities and called for meaningful consultations between the federal government and Ijaws for the immediate resolution of the crises.

In his contribution, INC Secretary, Dr. Bibobra Bello Orubebe said several Ijaw people could not be accounted for up till now.

“Our people are starving and being molested without recourse to minimum international human rights standards in law enforcement.

“Ijaw children who went to write NECO are stranded and several of our people are in the forest and the wounded unattended. The situation is dire” he said.

The INC condemned the use of violence by both civilians and the federal government and urged parties to the crises to respect the sanctity of human lives, livelihood, economy, culture and environment of the Ijaw people.

The foremost Ijaw body also explained why they shunned the invitation on the flag off of the UNEP clean-up ceremony at Ogoni, Rivers state noting that government cannot be killing their people and expect them to honour the Ogoni clean-up flag off.

Ita Enang: FG Reaching Out to Niger Delta Governors 

The federal government has jettisoned its earlier threat to crush the militants operating under the aegis of Niger Delta Avengers and instead opted for dialogue with governors and stakeholders in the region with a view to halting protracted destruction of oil pipelines in the region.

The Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang stated this yesterday.

He said some ministers along with top government officials from the Niger Delta had opened talks with governors and aggrieved people from the region on how to amicably resolve the conflict.

Enang said government was prepared to peacefully resolve the conflict.

He listed federal government’s representatives engaged in dialogue with stakeholders in Niger Delta to include the Minister of Interior, General Abdulrahman Dambazau; Minister of Niger Delta, Usani Uguru; Co-ordinator, Amnesty Office, General Paul Boroh (rtd.), and other ministers from the region.

“The Minister of Niger Delta, the Minister of Interior, the Coordinator of the Amnesty Office have been taking actions consistent with their powers and what I know, almost all the ministers and officers from the Niger Delta region have returned to their respective states, their respective zones and their respective blocks to talk to their leaders and their aggrieved persons on the need for us to maintain peace.

“That is going on and they are the representatives of Mr. President. So, I will not tell you what Mr. President wants to do in person but these are officers and offices which are dealing with this matter.

“We have lost the earnings in terms of price; so we shouldn’t lose earnings in terms of production. I am sure that you are aware that we budgeted 2.2 million barrel per day and production few weeks ago, lowered to 1.4 million per day and it is climbing to 1.6 million and 1.7 million per day and that is capable of affecting the money expected from oil. These are the things we are preaching to our people and preaching to the governors of our respective states.

“The Minister of Niger Delta, the Amnesty Office, the Minister of Interior are all carrying these messages to the governors that they should stand up and work and not sit down and watch,” he said. 

Okowa Condemns Killing of Soldiers, Civilians…

In a related development, Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has condemned the recent killing of soldiers, and other civilians, who were on their legitimate assignments, in a houseboat attack, in Omadino, Warri South of Delta State, by suspected Militants.

In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Charles Ehiedu Aniagwu, Okowa noted that the killing was criminality carried too far as nothing justifies the taking of lives of uniformed security men who are out to protect the common property of Nigerians.

“Your activities could turn Delta State into a theatre of war and this portends great danger to the whole population aside from casting the image of the state as insecure and unfit for investment. We cannot, as a state, afford this rascality if we hope to make progress”, he said.

“For the umpteenth time, I wish to call on well-meaning people of Delta State to speak up and not only condemn the activities of these militants but also offer their best counsel and commitment towards resolving this crisis,” Okowa said.

Governor Okowa also advised members of the Niger Delta Avengers to embrace dialogue as a means of resolving the crisis, adding that a peaceful and secured Delta is what is needed for development to thrive.

IYC Raise the Alarm…

The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) also raised the alarm yesterday, saying that the current conflict in the Niger Delta region was sliding out of control.

The group lamented the reported killing of soldiers and civilians as well as invasion of communities in the region at the wake of the offensive.

It therefore called on President Buhari to take personal and urgent responsibility to curtail the rising trend.​