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Pipeline bombings: FG in fresh dilemma over Avengers

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THE Federal Government is in a dilemma over how to persuade the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, to halt further attacks on oil and gas installations in the Niger Delta region, while it fine-tunes the process for the proposed dialogue with stakeholders.

 Meanwhile, Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, Thursday, ordered an emergency Security Council meeting, at Otu-Jeremi, headquarters of Ughelli South Local Government Area, following threats by a new militant group, Utorogu Liberation Movement, ULM, to blow up the strategic Utorogu Gas Plant and other assets under Oil Mining Lease, OML, 34. Saturday Vanguard gathered that oil companies had complained that it was difficult for them to continue operations in the face of continuous bombings of their repaired pipelines by militants, who had ordered the oil companies not to carry out repairs on any blown pipeline until government addressed their demands.
 An industry source told Saturday Vanguard that, “It is risky to ignore the threats by the militants, as they have matched their words with action, blowing up pipelines repaired by oil companies despite the presence of soldiers. “That is the reason why many of the oil companies feel that it is a waste of resources to spend billions of naira to repair damaged pipelines, only for them to be breached. I think the best thing is to sort out this matter with the perpetrators so that it will not degenerate to loss of lives and kidnapping,” he added. Minister of State for Petroleum and Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, did not disclose his predicament, but Saturday Vanguard gathered that one of the challenges he was battling to surmount was getting the militants to accept that they would no longer blow up pipelines after repairs by the oil companies. One of the stakeholders, who attended the closed-door meeting with Kachikwu at Asaba on Wednesday, said: “The minister was eager to ensure that Niger Delta Avengers allow the oil companies to repair the damaged pipelines and begged us to talk to them, as if we (leaders) are part of the militants.
 “Well, we saw his predicament and it was in the communique that the militant groups should allow the oil companies to effect repairs of damaged oil and gas facilities because that is the major problem at the moment,” he added. In accepting to take part in the dialogue by government, five days ago, NDA said it would not allow repair works on damaged pipelines during the negotiations for dialogue. Its spokesperson, Col Mudoch Agbinibo, warned: “We are going to redirect and reactivate all our activities if the government, oil companies and their service firms refuse to abide by our modest warnings not to carry out any repair works and suspend the sale of crude oil from our region as we await the right atmosphere that will engender genuine dialogue”. Agbinibo had stated: “The high command of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) is using this medium to restate that there are no new items to put on the table for dialogue, we only want a genuine attitude and conducive atmosphere that will make us commit ourselves to any peace talk”.
 “We want the federal government to commit member-states of the multinational oil corporations to nominate independent mediators to this proposed dialogue. We believe that it is only such environment that will engender genuine dialogue aimed at setting up a framework for achieving the short, medium and long term demands of the Niger Delta to bring about a lasting peace,” he added. Soldiers, however, in apparent disregard of the two-week ceasefire on hostilities declared by the federal government, invaded Tebujor, an Ijaw community in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta state, Wednesday, allegedly in search of militants and seized some suspects. In a palpable reprisal barely 24 hours later, NDA blew up a pipeline for the first time in Akwa Ibom state, even though Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Murtala Mani, also joined issues with the group that what happened was mere vandalism. On June 2, the Avengers blew up the SPDC Forcados 48-inch Export Line, saying: “We warned SPDC not to go ahead with repair works but they refused” The militant group had also bombed Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL and Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC, pipelines for similar acts. Following the Tebujor invasion, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), worldwide, expressed doubt about the sincerity of the Federal Government to dialogue with the Niger Delta people. IYC Spokesperson, Eric Omare, cited Wednesday military invasion of Tebujor community in Gbaramatu clan to buttress the council’s position. He said: “the Federal Government cannot in one breath declare ceasefire and at the same time forcefully invade Ijaw communities in Gbaramatu Kingdom of Delta State allegedly looking for militants
. He said six youths, namely Eddy Ikpidi, Tekena Uka, Dboy Oboko, Jamaica Oboko, Coasta Kelly Tortor and Atani Yawuru were arrested on the basis that they were suspected pipeline vandals. Observers saw his visit to the temporary and permanent sites of the Nigerian Maritime University, NMU, Kurutie and Okerenkoko, Delta state, to assess obtainable facilities, as a very good step to calm down frayed nerves. “Remember that it was the suspension of the take-off of the university by the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi, that sparked off the bombings and its re-opening is one of the major demands by NDA and other emerging militant groups,” a source told Saturday Vanguard. Kachikwu, who was led on the impromptu visit to the university by two prominent Gbaramatu leaders, Chief Daniel Ekpebide and Architect Piniki Azaiye, was astounded that there were structures for the take-off of the institution contrary to the impression that there was nothing on ground. Threat to bomb Utorogu gas plant Meanwhile, chairman, Ughelli South Council who presided over the meeting as chief security officer in the area, Paul Etaga, told Saturday Vanguard that the swift meeting had in attendance, oil host community heads and security operatives, including vigilante in the area was held in a bid to nip in the bud any possibility of the militant group successfully carrying out its threat. Etaga, while highlighting the resolutions, said, “From preliminary intelligence report, the group issuing the threat is an external force working with some internal collaborators. They gave OML 34 stakeholders, especially community people 14 days to leave the operating environment so that when they come for the attack they won’t be hurt saying that they want to come and destroy the gas plant.” “With that information, the governor immediately directed that I should call an emergency security meeting. The governor is aware and measures are being put in place for protection of lives and property. We resolved that the community leaders and vigilantes should stay at alert,” he said. His words: “They should not allow outsiders to invade their communities. The police, military and other security agencies should do their work too. The communities too are saying they are not feeling the impact of oil companies. Because of their negligence, people are now trying to attack their facilities and endangering their lives. The people therefore, urged federal government to also ensure that their lives are protected,” he added. The chairman asserted: “Commander, 222 Battalion, Lt. Col. Matthew Oyekola, joined by the Divisional Police Officer, Jeremi Division and representatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, assured that they would do their best to forestall any ugly situation.”



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