JTF names suspects in Agip blast
FOLLOWING reported return to hostilities in the Niger Delta by persons who claimed to be members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the Federal Government has warned that it would not give in to their blackmail.
Consequently, the government has charged the Armed Forces to bring the situation under control.
Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Kingsley Kuku, who stated this, urged aggrieved youths in the region to embrace peace.
Head of Media and Communication at the Amnesty Office, Henry Ugbolue, in a statement yesterday, quoted Kuku as saying that though several former agitators in the Niger Delta accepted the offer of Amnesty, “it does not in any way foreclose the fact that there may still be many aggrieved persons in the zone, who may be carrying out to breach security in the area.”
He therefore urged the aggrieved persons to seek peaceful means of expressing themselves rather than resorting to violence.
Meanwhile, the Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield has disclosed the names of seven suspects it seeks in connection with the attack on Agip facilities
According to spokesman, JTF, Lt.-Col. Timothy Antigha, the suspects are: Friday Burutu, Lord Onipa, Robinson Agagudu, Eyala Karo, Stanley Uduorie, Para Ekiyes and Rasmus Omukoro.
Antigha added: “Consequently, these suspects are advised to turn themselves in for interaction with authorities of the Joint Task Force in Yenagoa, latest noon, February 8, 2012.
“The Joint Task Force wishes to reiterate its earlier warning that the suspects and their cohorts are out to swindle Niger Deltans by appropriating the identity of the erstwhile leadership of MEND to advance their selfish interest. For the avoidance of doubt, people who were the leadership of MEND are now responsible members of the society, having accepted the amnesty.”
Antigha urged the public “to remain calm and discountenance the tissues of lies issued by these suspects as their raison d’etre, because the relevant stages of the amnesty which was granted to authentic ex-militants and all the attendant benefits are still on course.”
In a related development, the Ijaw National Congress (INC) has called for restrain as MEND threatens more attacks on oil installations and South African economic interests in Nigeria.
MEND, which at the weekend attacked a strategic pipeline belonging to Agip, said the lull in fighting by all groups in the Niger Delta was being used “to acquire more sophisticated weapons to ensure that the next assault on the Nigerian oil industry expels western oil companies once and for all.”
INC spokesman, Victor Burubo, told The Guardian that Ijaw leaders were concerned by the resurgence of attacks on oil facilities and the likelihood that this might precipitate another round of military confrontation.
“We in INC are opposed to any further military confrontation in the Niger Delta since people have embraced amnesty which though is not perfect, is an on-going process. The INC position is that we have embraced dialogue. We urge all concerned to embrace same. Military confrontation will not proffer solution to the Niger Delta question,” Burubo said.
He explained that during the era of arm resistance by Niger Delta youths, the INC saw their action as justified because the Nigerian state had been unfair to the people of the Niger Delta.
But with the ascendance of President Goodluck Jonathan, he urged MEND to embrace peace.
“Our advice to MEND is that we need peace. Anybody who is fighting for Niger Delta must consider the peace and security of the ordinary people. We have an option for peace. There is no kind of issue you can resolve on the battlefield. There is a Niger Delta man today as President. So we have an option to talk, lets explore it”, he added.
But MEND’s spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo, yesterday dismissed comments by the spokesman of the JTF, Col. Antigha and the government of South Africa through its Ministry of International Affairs.
Gbomo said the military, “in failing to comprehend the gravity of the situation unfolding in the Niger Delta, has attributed MEND’s attack on the Agip pipeline to instigation by imaginary persons interested in benefiting from the fraud that was the disarmament process in the Niger Delta.”
MEND ridiculed the Nigerian government claims to have disarmed more people than in service in the Nigerian Army with only 2,000 weapons to show for all their trouble.
“Agip cleverly indicated that 4,000 barrels of its production is affected by our attack. The reality is that close to 200,000 bpd of Nigerian crude exports is affected by our attack as that trunk line served to transport crude oil for other oil companies as well. This translates to a daily loss of at least $20 million,” he said.
Responding to the South African government’s assertion that terrorism in Nigeria has to be routed, MEND said it accepted the challenge and would show the country how easy it is to drive its investments out of the Niger Delta region.
Gbomo said: “If the Nigerian government cannot protect companies like Shell and Chevron, how will they manage to protect an insignificant SACOIL?
“Within the next few weeks, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta will carry out a few major attacks on oil installations to demonstrate to the world the helplessness of oil companies and the Nigerian military.”
He said after these next attacks, there would be a brief pause as MEND awaits the time agreed upon by all groups in the delta for the resumption of hostilities in the oil and gas rich region.
According to Kuku, breaching security and resorting to blackmail will not earn the attacks the desired attention.
He added that with the aggressive pursuit of the goals of the Amnesty Proclamation, President Jonathan had shown that he was “committed to consolidating of peace, safety, security and sustainable development in the zone; and should therefore, be supported by all true sons and daughters of the Niger Delta.”
Kuku said that he condemns in the “strongest terms the unconscionable attacks on the facilities of Agip by those who claim to be operatives of MEND and urges the nation’s security agencies and Armed Forces to device proactive and creative ways of nipping insecurity in the bud in the Niger Delta, which is the nation’s oil and gas hub”, the statement stated.
He stressed that “the posturing of a few persons will not dissuade the Federal Government from doggedly pursuing the ideals of the Presidential Amnesty Proclamation as well as the post-Amnesty Programme.”