Heavily armed soldiers in two gunboats invaded Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of Gbaramatu kingdom in Delta State in the early hours of yesterday. Oporoza is the home base of ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo.
According to the Acting Secretary of Gbaramatu Traditional Council, Chief Godspower Gbenekema, the soldiers arrived at the community around 12:30 a.m.
He said: “ The soldiers entered the town while some took positions near the gunboats. The villagers took to their heels for fear of being shot at by the soldiers because they have witnessed such an invasion in the past. They didn’t sleep throughout the night. We really don’t know what the army is looking for.
“If the president has ordered the military to crush the militants why not go after the culprits who have claimed responsibility for the attack on pipelines? We are worried and urging the military to be professional.
“The so-called Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) has claimed responsibility for the attacks and we see no reason for the army to invade Ijaw communities.”
He said that the Ijaw people were not happy the militants were attacking Chevron facilities , the only oil firm operating in Ijaw areas, saying such an attack had affected the economic life and well-being of the residents . He warned the militants groups to desist from such attacks.
He said some enemies of Gbaramatu wanted the military to invade the kingdom by always blackmailing the kingdom and Tompolo of being behind such attacks.
He alleged that the pipeline surveillance contract given by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Gbaramatu kingdom was given to a non- indigene, adding that the people were not being carried along. He urged the Federal Government and the oil firms to partner the Gbaramatu people so that peace could reign.It was learnt yesterday that the troops were in Oporoza in a bid to arrest members of the NDA who blew oil pipelines a few days ago.
This came as communities in oil-producing states yesterday warned the Federal Government against use of excessive force in checking the activities of the NDA. The National Director of Media and Publicity of the Host Communities of Nigeria (HOSCON), Producing Oil and Gas, Mr. Monday Whiskey, in a telephone conversation with The Guardian said pipeline vandals and those threatening to blow oil facilities are mobile hoodlums who do not reside in a particular community. According to him, a full-blown military operation against their activities would lead to the killing of innocent indigenes of Niger Delta extraction.
“We think the government didn’t get this thing right. There are certain situations where you do not use force,” Whiskey, said.
“There are people who are frustrated and disgruntled. So, when you begin to let them know that they are not relevant, they can do anything. No right-thinking man that sells salt will ask the man carrying water, ‘what can you do?’ He will pour the water on your salt, and at that point you do not have a market any longer.
“Truly, this amnesty programme has not really taken up to 60 per cent of the genuine people who are supposed to be beneficiaries. So a right-thinking government should wake up and do a wider consultation.
“There are groups that have submitted their arms and ammunition since 2011. I know about three or four of such groups that have not been taken care of. They are simply roaming the streets. These people are mobile criminals and are not domiciled in a particular place. They simply keep moving and keep causing havoc and the country is losing.”
HOSCON’s call on government to tread softly followed an admonition yesterday by the South East Caucus of the All Progressives Congress (APC) which expressed perturbation on the recent bombing of oil facilities and conditions for peace by the NDA. The APC appealed to the group to sheathe their sword and give President Muhammadu Buhari more time to look into their demands.
The Niger Delta Avengers had on Sunday demanded some conditions that should be met by the Federal Government to ensure peace in the Niger Delta.
The group, which claimed responsibility for the recent bombings of the Chevron valve facility, and the 48-inch trunk line supplying crude oil to Warri refinery, has declared that it would “crumble the economy” unless its demands are met.
The militants demanded the immediate implementation of the report of the 2014 national conference or the country would break up. They insisted that the ownership of oil blocks must reflect 60 per cent for the oil-producing people and 40 per cent for others and that the nation’s only maritime university located in ‘‘the most appropriate and befitting place Okerenkoko must start the 2015/2016
academic session immediately.’’ They asked the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi to apologise to the Ijaw and the entire Niger Delta people for his ‘‘careless and reckless statement about the siting of the university.’’
According to them, the Ogoniland and indeed all oil-polluted areas in the Niger Delta must be cleaned up and compensation paid to all oil-producing communities.
Sympathising with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the NDA demanded that the leader of the group, Nnamdi Kanu, should be released unconditionally as a court has ruled. It said that the Niger Delta Amnesty programme must be well funded and allowed to continue to function effectively.
But the APC noted that bombing of Forcados pipeline, Bonga oil field, Chevron trunk lines and other oil and gas installations would neither facilitate the implementation of the 2014 National Conference Report, funding of the Amnesty Programme, nor the cleanup of the Niger Delta region.
In a statement in Enugu by its spokesperson, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, the party said the call had become necessary in view of the laudable projects Buhari had begun and lined up for the Niger Delta region, like the cleanup of Ogoniland, the completion of the East-West road and the Calabar-Lagos Railways.
“Secondly, no sane Nigerian will pray for the reoccurrence of the ugly incident of Odi in 1999, Zaki Ibiam in 2000 and Gbaramatu in 2009; unwarranted ugly scenario which the Niger Delta Avengers are consciously simulating”, the party added.
It explained that escalation of bombings in the Niger Delta region was an ill-wind that blows no one any good, adding that the action would not profit the good people of Niger Delta whom they claim to avenge their age-long ills.
The statement added: “May we honestly ask the Niger Delta Avengers, where they were, when our dear former president, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, from 6 May, 2010 to 29 May, 2015 presided over Nigeria?
“In other words, were the Niger Delta Avengers in deep slumber when Jonathan for good five years failed to clean up the Niger Delta, failed to complete East-West road, failed to review oil blocks, failed to amend the Constitution to their taste, and failed to build the three green field refineries which he awarded?
“ In actual fact, if there is anything to avenge, or anybody to blame, the barb should be directed at ex-president Jonathan and cohorts who criminally neglected the Niger Delta and by extension Nigeria via unconscionable planlessness and squandermania.
“Accordingly, we plead with our brothers, the Niger Delta Avengers for God’s sake, to do a deep re-think and graciously allow peace to reign; for our collective national interest and indeed to save the Niger Delta from ruins.”