By Sylvester Idowu in Warri
Security agents are now on the trail of members of the defunct Niger Delta Liberation Front (NDLF) founded by the late ex-militant leader, John Togo in connection with series of bombings of gas and crude oil pipelines in parts of Delta and Bayelsa States.
THISDAY learnt that the operatives of the Joint Task Force (JTF) and the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS Delta) have linked members of the defunct group to the renewed crisis in the region.
A highly placed security officer said the militants that carried out last Thursday’s bombings of the crude oil pipeline belonging to Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) have been linked to the late Togo.
“The boys that breached crude oil pipeline last Thursday were late John Togo boys. They were sighted at the scene of the blast by soldiers who were on their trail before they fled into the creeks with their high speed boats. At least, they recognised some of them to be John Togo boys,” he said.
The Niger Delta Liberation Front (NDLF), founded by John Togo, was a militant group that had affiliation with the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta led by Chief Government Ekpemupolo alias “Tompolo.”
The group had then claimed that their main goal was to secede and gain independence from Nigeria.
Although, Togo was the NDLF’s most notorious member, he was killed on July 19, 2011 by a Nigerian air strike near Warri in Delta State.
During his reign, Togo was notorious on the waterways in both Bayelsa and Delta States robbing and maiming his victims at will.
Security sources told THISDAY that the foot soldiers left by the late Togo are now being suspected to be behind the series of bombings of oil pipelines in the two oil rich states and promised that the long arm of the law will soon catch them.
He said the discovery by security agencies was the reason for a lull in the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers in the past few days, adding “we are closing in on them.”
Commander Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS Delta) Warri, Commodore Raimi Mohammed, refused to pick calls or respond a text message seeking confirmation of the development.
The Nigerian Navy in Warri, penultimate Thursday, arrested a commander of the Niger Delta Avengers and some of his foot soldiers and transferred them to Abuja for further questioning.
Meanwhile, former Chairman of Benikrukru Community in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State, Chief Jeffery Ojogun, has condemned the renewed hostilities in the Niger Delta Region.
He, however, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari not to scrap the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko.
Ojogun who is the Amadiwei of Benikrukru Community in a press release issued in Warri, described attacks on oil facilities in the region as unfortunate.
The Gbaramatu chief also condemned the invasion of Gbaramatu communities by troops of the JTF.
According to him, dialogue should be adopted in resolving the renewed hostilities in the oil-rich Niger Delta Region and commended President Buhari for ordering a two-week ceasefire in the troubled region.
Ojogun advised militants causing unrest in Niger Delta Region to take advantage of the two weeks ceasefire ordered by the President and take their grievances to the negotiating table.
While urging all and sundry to create a conducive atmosphere for the Ojogun stated that the people of the Kingdom cannot afford another military invasion, saying the memories of the May 2009 invasion were still fresh in the minds of the people.
“I am pained by the recent happening in the Niger Delta Region. The people of the region are responsible and peace-loving and this is why I am appealing that those breaching the peace in the region should allow peace to reign.
“I am worried about the lives and property being wasted and the destruction of our communities as a result of the Niger Delta crisis that is doing nobody any good. Peace is the answer,” he added.
Ojogun expressed the belief that the crisis will soon be over and urged his kinsmen and women to desist from anything that will cause more havoc to them and their communities.
“I am a promoter of peace. We in the Niger Delta Region are one people; we are one big family. We must not allow our enemies to divide us. We must remain united. Let us not betray one another. This is another trying moment for the people of the region and when we are united, we must surely overcome the current challenges.
“The people of Gbaramatu Kingdom are not members of the Niger Delta Avengers and the Kingdom is not a haven for the Avengers, we need peace in the Kingdom. We should not be used to tear our Kingdom into pieces and those working for our enemies to ensure that our people are divided and invaded again should have a rethink,” he posited.
Ojogun urged those attacking oil installations to put a stop to their activities and embrace dialogue with the federal government.
“They should allow the oil companies to commence the repairs of the damaged pipelines because the nation is losing so much daily as a result of the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers, we should not allow these attacks to go on,” he said. Ojogun while expressing gratitude to President Buhari for the ceasefire he ordered in the Niger Delta Region, implored the President to address the vexed issues in the region, saying only development would bring the required peace.
He specifically appealed to the President not to scrap the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, approved by the administration of former President. Goodluck Jonathan.
According to him, “The university will attract development to the entire Niger Delta Region and engage restive youths in the region and so it my humble appeal to the president not to do away with the university. This is the only university approved by the last administration for the oil-rich Niger Delta Region out of the eight universities approved by the government of former President Jonathan. Those approved for non-oil producing states are intact and here we are, government is planning to scrap the only one approved for a region as important as the oil-rich Niger Delta Region. The Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko is the only federal government presence in the area and therefore, the President should allow it to kick off, it should not be scrapped.”