By Sylvester Idowu in Warri and Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Members of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), in the early hours of yesterday, took their destruction of oil installations to Bayelsa and Rivers States, blasting Nembe 1, 2, 3, and Tebedaba brass trunk line.
They also destroyed pipelines belonging to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC).
Meanwhile, the Itsekiri Movement for Peace and Justice has said the federal government’s indecision in dealing with the crisis was inciting another ethnic crisis in the hardest hit Warri South West Local Government area of Delta state.
Security sources told THISDAY that the militants attacked the trunkline in two speed boats with 500 horsepower engines that facilitated their escape.
He said the militant had easy access to the facilities following the scaling down of military presence in the region in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive.
“Those hoodlums stormed the Nember 1,2,3 and Tebidaba trunkline in two speed boats powered with 500 horsepower engines. This facilitated their speedy escape from the scene. There is nothing the military can do about it because they have been ordered to scale down their presence in the creeks”, the security source said.
The Niger Delta Avengers has, however, claimed responsibility for that attack in its website signed by its Spokesperson, Mudoch Agbinibo.
“At about the (hour) of 3am to 5am the Niger Delta Avengers blowup Nembe 1, 2, 3 and Tebedaba brass trunk-line in Bayelsa/River States”, it claimed in the statements title “NDA Hit Again”, they said.
The source noted that there were other attacks at Goulubukori manifold in Nembe axis and Lagosgbene pipeline in Southern Ijaw close to Ekeremor areas of the state, but could not confirm if the pipelines were blown up by the NDA.
According to the source who did not want his name in print, a speedboat operated by NSCDC tried to dislodge the militants to save the pipelines, but were repelled by the heavy arms used by the militants.
“The NSCDC engaged the saboteurs in a gun battle. There was a heavy exchange of gunfire between them. But the militants were heavily armed and many in number. They ensured that they destroyed the pipelines before zooming off,” he said.
The gang reportedly arrived the affected areas on speedboats with two double 200 horsepower engines before blowing up the facilities in several points.
Confirming the incident, even before the group took responsibility, another source from NAOC who spoke in confidence described the attackers as “heavily armed youths”.
He identified the damaged pipeline as the Tebidaba-Brass Agip pipeline adding that the facility was ruptured at three different points.
“Reports from the swamp area indicate that last night and early hours of this morning, a gang of heavily armed youths with two double 200hp speedboats used explosives to blast three different points on the Tebidaba-Brass NAOC pipelines,” he said.
The NAOC source further said that the company was about carrying out an operation to confirm the blast areas and extent of damage.
It was gathered that the affected areas were raging with fire and thick smoke while spilled crude oil was spreading and permeating the environment.
Confirming the incident, the Bayelsa Commandant, NSCDC, Mr. Desmond Agu, said that his men indeed exchanged gunfire with the attackers during the operation.
Agu urged the youths to stop destroying their environment in the name of agitation noting that any attack on a pipeline was an attack on the future survival of the region.
He added, “We are not relenting because we have the mandate to protect all critical assets of the government within our areas of responsibility.
“We are asking troublemakers to leave the creeks and embrace peace. There is no alternative to peace because without it there will be no development.”
On the accusation of the Federal Government of inciting feud between the Itsekiris and Ijaw, the Coordinator of the group, Comrade Ameachi Omagbitse Ogbonna, said yesterday in Warri, that the Federal Government’s indecision to tackle the criminality being perpetrated by the Ijaws might trigger another war between them and the Itsekiris.
“Federal government’s continued dilly-dally in dealing with the overt criminality by the Ijaws, particularly in Warri South West is sheer provocation of the Itsekiri people. The environment of the Warri South West council area being degraded by the criminal destruction of its vast oil assets all belong to Itsekiri.
“Burutu is the only Ijaw locality producing oil in Delta state. There is no place called Gbaramatu clan or kingdom. It is simply an Ijaw settlement owned by Omadino and Ugborodo. There is a judgement to that effect. If Ijaws want to fight federal government, they should go and bomb Burutu or go to Bayelsa”, Amaechi said.
Blaming the current crisis on the patronising romance of former President Goodluck Jonathan with ex-militants who gained prominence with the introduction of the federal government Amnesty, Ameachi suggested that the current administration must not make the mistakes of yesteryears.
“It was Ekpoko who said in 2014 that empowering a militant to import war boats and arms, the day will come, that same militant will bring 20 to federal government and keep forty to himself. Ekpoko’s prediction is the reality we are facing today and federal government must ensure Itsekiri don’t bear the brunt of their failure to act decisively.
“As far as I am concerned Avengers are a product of Tompolo. Who imported arms into the Niger Delta for the six years of President Jonathan? Was it an Urhobo man, an Itsekiri of Ndokwa man? An Ijaw man brought it the arms through NIMASA? What concerns NIMASA with arms importation. If Tompolo knows he is not part of Avengers, let him come to prove his case”, Ameachi added.
Also, the ex-Chairman of the Delta Waterways Security Committee (DSWC), Chief Ayiri Emami has said that the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) wants to frustrate Chevron Nigeria Limited, (CNL) out of operations in the Niger Delta region with its consistent and deliberate attacks on its facilities.
Emami, who spoke to Journalists on phone, called on the Federal Government to rise up to its responsibility and protect the oil multinational.
“Avengers should be quickly checked by government before they accomplish the plan to stop Chevron operations in the Niger Delta region. The militant group is sending a very wrong signal with its unprovoked and unchecked on Chevron’s facilities.
“The federal government should not sit down watching. It is government’s duty to protect life and property and the property of Chevron is daily at risk,” he said.
He said further “This is a very wrong message to investors and should not be tolerated, what they are doing is in the long run to send Chevron packing from the region. It has nothing to do with any struggle.”