Militant groups, operating in the Niger Delta region engaged themselves in supremacy battle on Sunday, and in the process blown up another pipeline belonging to to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) in Ikembiri, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, Bayelsa State 22\,&6
Sources from the community said the attack happened during the supremacy battle between two rival militants groups struggling for control of the Ogboinbiri-Tebidaba crude trunk line which passed through the area.
The gunmen were said to have unsettled the community with gunshots and residents are reported to be fleeing the area.
The source said: “It is a conflict between two armed groups for the control of the crude pipeline. One group claims to be working to safeguard the pipeline describing their rival group as vandals. They have been shooting.
“The sound of the gunfire has sent panic waves into the community. But the arrival of the NSCDC operatives has temporarily restored peace in the area”, said a source.
This is even as former militants, who operated under the name Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delt (MEND), on Sunday spoke against the activities of the new militant group, Niger Delta Avengers.
In a statement Sunday signed by its spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo, MEND said it had carried out “rigorous and robust analysis, debate and review of political events in Nigeria within the past 12 months; particularly as they affect the Niger Delta region” and resolved to continue to respect the ceasefire declared May 30, 2014 against key economic interests of the Nigerian State.
The group said the “painful but necessary resolution to respect the ceasefire was borne out of its belief that as President Muhammadu Buhari marks his first year in office, he deserves more time to stabilize the country that, it was run aground by the ill-fated, corrupt and visionless immediate past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan which pauperized the Nigerian people to the alarming degree we all experience today”.
“The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) wishes to condemn and dissociate itself from the recent activities carried out by a group known as the ‘Niger Delta Avengers,” the group said.
“Their sudden emergence has absolutely nothing to do with the Niger Delta struggle but rather a tool by certain elements to destabilise the current government.
“Going by the group’s actions and subsequent statements, it was apparent who the sponsors of the recent attackers were”
MEND said it will not be part of Biafra as being insinuated by MASSOB.
“Niger Delta region shall not be part of a secessionist Biafran State.
“Rather, the group believes in one strong united Nigerian federation where the principles and ideals of Resource Control; True Federalism; Rule of Law/Respect for Human Rights; Democracy; Free Enterprise and a Vibrant Civil Society are well entrenched in the grundnorm and put to practice,”it said.
“We remained opposed to the fraudulent and unsustainable Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) headed by Brigadier General Paul Boroh (rtd) which still runs on the corrupt bureaucratic and operational template of the past administration
“We have always made it very clear that unless the root issues which gave birth to the agitations in the Niger Delta region are addressed, in the form of a sincere dialogue, this programme will only continue to remain a mere cesspool of corruption,” the group said.
“In order to create an enabling environment for dialogue on the Niger Delta question, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) urges President Muhammadu Buhari to release the Okah Brothers – Henry and Charles who were arrested in 2010 on trumped-up charges. The release of Henry and Charles Okah will be key to any form of dialogue in helping to bring stability to the volatile region,” it added.
Toeing the same path, former Niger Delta militants rose from an emergency meeting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital on Saturdayto condemn activities of the new militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).
The former warlords urged NDA to stop the unnecessary destruction of pipeline and national assets in the Niger Delta region as this does not augur well for the region.
The ex fighters, who met under the aegis of Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative (LPCDI), said they were not happy with the actions of the new group, saying, its activities would only compound the suffering in the region.
In a statement released after the meeting and signed by the National President of LPCDI, Reuben Wilson, also known as ‘General Pastor’, said that the use of violence to agitate for the betterment of the region was no more necessary and had been overtaken by events.
Wilson, asked the NDA to channel their grievances to President Muhammadu Buhari through the office of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Brig.-Gen. Paul Boroh (retd.) to achieve better results.
He warned the avengers that their violent campaign was not in the best and collective interest of the Niger Delta.
He said their continued destruction of oil and gas installations in the region would further impoverish the people of the region, attract unnecessary hardship and worsen their plight.
Wilson urged the Niger Delta people to give President Buhari the opportunity to fulfill his promise to the region by maintaining peace.
He insisted that there would not be any meaningful development in an environment ravaged by violence.
He said: “The Niger Delta struggle has advanced beyond the use of violence. We had in the past used violence to attract the entire world to the plight of the region.
“We, therefore, need to utilise other peaceful and civil means to build on the sympathy of the world towards the Niger Delta for more effective results rather than resorting to violence.
“That the current resurgence of militancy is an unnecessary distraction to the current administration.
“That all groups and individuals actively involved in the Niger Delta struggle should channel their grievances to Buhari through Paul Boroh for more effective coordination and positive resolution of their grievances.
“That every Ijaw group or persons involved in region’s struggle that for any reason is unable to utilise the office of the SA to President on Niger Delta Affairs to resolve issues bordering on the betterment of the region or Ijaw ethnic nationality should utilise the platform of Ijaw Youth Council or reach out to Victor Ebikabowei, aka General Boyloaf, to mediate in the resolution of such issues.”
He cautioned the military not to arrest innocent people and to desist from destroying innocent communities as obtained in the past.
Wilson said: “The security agencies should instead improve and be more effective in their intelligence gathering system in order to apprehend the real culprits.
“The mass destruction of communities, properties and arrest of innocent people should be discouraged as such will only aggravate the already tensed situation in the Niger Delta.
“They should rather collaborate with known and credible leaders and activists from the region to facilitate the arrest of criminals and enthronement of peace in the region.”