- Â Niger Delta agitators threaten to shut oil company over pollution, neglect
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt and Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Senior military officers, including the Commander of Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta, Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman; Commander, Nigerian Naval Ship (NNS) Victory, Commodore Sali Jibrin, and other Component Commanders of the special security outfit yesterday escaped death by the whiskers.
It was learnt that the top officers were on a patrol in the waterways in the Niger Delta area when the incident which saw the senior military personnel, comprising mainly the navy, sustaining various injuries.
The operation was immediately called off after the mishap, which military authorities described as â€˜majorâ€™.
THISDAY learnt that a jetty, a structure that projects from the land into water used as a walkway accessing the centre of the sea, which was used by the affected senior officers, caved in during the patrol.
The actual number of the security operatives affected could not be ascertained, but the military source said all arms which reportedly fell into the sea were recovered.
However, the officers and men were able to swim ashore, according to the military source, and had been treated for the wounds sustained during the accident which happened in the waterways of Akpabuyo Local Government Area, Cross River.
A statement released by the Coordinator of the Joint Media Campaign Centre (JMCC), Major Ibrahim Abdullahi, said the senior officers were preparing to return to the area to complete the operation which was temporarily truncated as a result of the accident.
â€œAs part of Operation Safety Check (3) which is designed to check troopsâ€™ deployment and activities at various locations across the Niger Delta, a mishap was averted wednesday at the northernmost Operation Delta Safe (OPDS) location at Ikang, Cross Rivers State.
â€œThe Commander OPDS, Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman, Commander Nigerian Naval Ship (NNS) Victory, Operation Delta Safe Component Commanders, Commander Sector 4 along with other Senior Officers and soldiers, all fell into Ikang River as a result of the complete collapse of the Jetty at Ikang at about 10 a.m.
â€œHowever, as a result of the survival capability of the officers and men of the service as well as all personnel, weapons and other equipment were recovered with slight injuries to some personnel which have been treated,â€ Abdullahi said.
According to the JTF spokesman, â€œThe team has retired back to Calabar to re-strategise and go ahead with the planned patrol and inspection.â€
Meanwhile, leaders of former agitators in the Niger Delta have threatened to shut down the operations of an oil company, Sterling Global Oil Resources, in the region over alleged issues of pollution and neglect of the region.
In a statement issued in Port Harcourt yesterday, the spokesman of the repentant militants, Mudork Apele, alleged that the firm failed to comply with environmental standards in its operations.
They further enjoined the federal government to immediately revoke the licence granted the firm to save the environment.
They added that they would not allow the firm allegedly operated by Indians to short-change the region.
The statement said: â€œWe cannot allow this to continue. This is a region with so much poverty yet our oil wells are operated by non-Niger Deltans (Indians) who are insensitive to the plight of the Niger Deltans, when we have capacity to handle it.
â€œThis set of Indians have done so much damage to our region through some of their activities which have caused terrible pollution on our water where they convey their products from Asemuku to Age River.
â€œWe call on the federal government to immediately revoke the oil licence of this firm before October
â€œThe company has been very unfair to our people. Federal government must withdraw their licence. This is our stand.â€
They also accused the company of enslaving its Nigerians staff by paying them with a different scale from their Indian counterparts.
The ex-militants also alleged that the company denied its Nigerian workers their allowances even where they are forced to work in sub-human conditions.
They demanded that the company leaves the region before October 1 or they would be forced to take further actions to cripple the operations of the company.