Suspected militants have attacked and set ablaze a pipeline belonging to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) at Ikienghenbiri community in Southern Ijaw Local Council of Bayelsa State.
A five-kilometre Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Premuim Motor Spirit (PMS) pipeline that serves the Machiver jetty in Calabar, Cross River State, has also been vandalised.
Sources in the Ikienghenbiri community said that the attack was a result of clash between two rival groups fighting over pipeline territorial rights.
The pipeline was said to have been set ablaze while the two groups engaged each other in a gun battle over who gets the contract to survey the now blown-up pipeline.
It was learnt that residents are leaving the community as a result of the clashes which have left a section of the Tebidaba-Brass pipelines along the Azuzuama-Ikienghenbiri creek in Southern Ijaw area on fire.
Residents in Calabar said that it was an open secret that some NNPC officials and security agents tacitly aid the frequent vandalism at the Machiver Jetty offloading pipelines to the tank farm and for which no arrest has been made in the past seven years.
Meanwhile, Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Brig. Gen Paul Boroh (rtd) has urged all persons bearing arms in the region to submit them and embrace peace.
According to him, oil pipeline vandalism if not checked, will drastically affect even the success already achieved with the amnesty programme.
He reasoned that if oil production continues to dwindle, allocation to the programme will further reduce thereby affecting the training of the amnesty beneficiaries.
One of the Ikienghenbiri community sources who spoke on phone, Ebidimo Joseph, said the militants were struggling for the control of the Ogboinbiri-Tebidaba crude trunk line which passes through the area.
He added that residents are scared as a result of the clash and are leaving for neighbouring villages for safety.
He said: “We understand it is a conflict between two armed groups for the access to the crude pipeline, one group claims to be working to safeguard the pipeline and said the other group are vandals; they have been shooting.”
He added that a thick ‘cloud of smoke’ had enveloped the community and polluted the atmosphere in the area.
The security lapse around the Machiver Jetty in Calabar, it was learnt, is exemplified by the fact that of the four security posts built for security men to stay and monitor the pipelines easily only one has been completed and put into use while the remaining three have been abandoned.
It was further learnt that all these security lapses along the pipelines are deliberate so as to cover up for the high-sea bunkering that takes place between Port Harcourt and Calabar.
However, operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) who stormed the Southern Ijaw community shortly after the incident apprehended one of the suspects.
The Bayelsa State Commandant of NSCDC, Mr. Desmond Agu., confirmed the attack and said one of the militants identified simply as Peregbakumo was arrested through the help of the community leaders.
He identified the facility attacked by the militants as a pipeline along Azuzuama axis of the Tebidaba-Brass trunk line.
He said the pipeline was attacked with a dynamite about 12:30a.m., adding that the community was cooperating with his men to arrest other fleeing suspects.
Another source said the gunmen were allegedly led by persons within the community identified as Suoyou, Iyelawei and Fynboy and that after the attack, the armed youths laid ambush and shot a civilian member of the Oil and Gas Task Force in the leg.
Agu said: “About 0300hrs, a gang of armed youths allegedly led by one Suoyou, Iyelawei and Fynboy all of Ikienghenbiri community, Southern Ijaw Area vandalised pipeline along Azuzuama axis of the Tebidaba-Brass pipeline with dynamites and ignited fire on the line.
“Through community help, we were able to arrest one of the suspects and to identify some of the fleeing suspects. There was a lot of community collaboration and we are grateful to the community because they don’t like what the armed youths are doing”.
A statement issued yesterday by Media and Communication Consultant to the Amnesty Office, Owei Lakemfa, quoted Boroh as saying that so far, the programme has been a tremendous success but added that vandalism in the region must be checked.
“He said it is in the collective interest of the Niger Delta people to put a stop to the renewed attacks on oil installations,” Lakemfa
He added that he was encouraged that the overwhelming majority of the people including stakeholders, youths, elders and leaders in the region had pledged themselves to peace”, the statement reported Boroh to have said.
Recounting the success of the amnesty programme, Boroh said in the statement that apart from 30,000 youths being paid monthly stipends, 2,152 Niger Delta youths have been given full scholarship to study in 32 higher institutions abroad across five continents.
He said 2,723 youths from the region have been given full scholarship to study in 32 Nigerian universities. While 76 of them graduated from Novena University this year, a total of 728 beneficiaries are in their final year and are expected to graduate this session.
The list include 405 from the Benson Idahosa University expected to graduate in June 2016, 206 in Igbinedion University expected to complete their studies in October this year, and 115 from Lead University, Ibadan expected to graduate in August, 2016.
Boroh said in the nine months he has been in office, 836 former agitators have been fully empowered and set up in various businesses in the Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Ondo, Imo and Edo states.
He said the Amnesty Programme has been such a huge success that some of the beneficiaries have been elected legislators in the Rivers and Bayelsa State Houses of Assembly as well as being Chairmen of Local Governments. He said the success of the programme has swelled the ranks of thousands of armed youths seeking to lay down their arms and lead normal lives.
militantBesides, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has alleged that the new militant group, Niger Delta Avengers, is being sponsored to destabilise the President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime.
After a long silence, MEND, through its spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo condemned and dissociated itself from the recent activities carried out by the “avengers”, saying 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.
“MEND serves notice to the international community that the 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” he said.
Also, Ijaw youths and other youth groups in the Niger Delta region are set to meet in response to the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta region. The meeting which would be under the auspices of the Niger Delta youth organisation, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), would review the renewed militant activities in the region and take a common position.
According to the IYC spokesman, Mr. Eric Omare, the conference which is slated for May 26, 2016 in Warri, Delta State is expected to come out with a communiqué on the common position of the youths of the Niger Delta region on the renewed insurgency and attack on oil facilities
It was learnt that it would be graced by leading Niger Delta activists such as Mr. Tony Uranta, Ann-Kio Briggs and Dr. Bello Oboko, who would be guest speakers and would mark the conclusion of the month-long remembrance activities of the late Niger Delta hero, Major Jasper Adaka Boro with the theme ‘’The Ideals of Adaka Boro and Renewed Militancy in the Niger Delta Region: The way forward.”