Defence chief, ministers move to Warri over pipeline bombings

2016-01-19
THE GUARDIAN Newspaper


TAKING an urgent step to nip in the bud the resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta, the Federal Government has sent the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, Minister of Defence, Brig. Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali (rtd) and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu to the region.

The government’s move is a response to the recent bombing of oil pipelines in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South West Council of Delta State on January 14. Suspected vandals blew up the Escravos-Warri-Abuja-Lagos pipelines, the Chevron Nigeria Limited’s Utunan-Makaraba crude oil pipeline at dawn the following day and the Olero Gas pipeline on Saturday, January 16.
The visit was confirmed yesterday by military authorities in Delta State. It was learnt that the Chief of Defence Staff and the ministers who are expected to arrive today will hold a series of meetings with Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, security chiefs in the state and the Ijaw community leaders over the security situation in Gbaramatu Kingdom.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Amnesty Office has denied insinuations that Niger Delta youths may have returned to militancy with the destruction of pipelines in the region.

Yesterday, Okowa and his deputy Kingsley Otuaro, convened an emergency security meeting with leaders from all the communities in Gbaramatu at the Government House Annex Warri. In attendance also were the security chiefs in the state and the Security Adviser to the governor, Chief David Tonwe, amongst others.

Okowa who condemned the attacks on the oil and gas facilities across the state called on all Delta citizens to cooperate with the security agencies to unmask the criminals behind the heinous crime.

In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Charles Ehiedu Aniagwu, the governor urged the security agencies to intensify their surveillance over the oil facilities and pledged the commitment of his administration to support all measures that would restore the confidence of all stakeholders in the oil and gas industry operating in Delta State.

He said: “These attacks should be condemned by all well-meaning Nigerians, particularly compatriots from Niger Delta. This is an attack on our soul. The state is bleeding again and its implication for the economy and image of Delta State grave.”

The governor stressed that the week before, his administration hosted a stakeholders’ summit on the effects of vandalism of oil and gas facilities in the state, where the various arms of the security agencies, the oil and gas operators and the host communities converged to brainstorm on measures to stem the activities of vandals.

He observed that the attacks, coming only some days after the summit, were not a good way of reciprocating the good intentions of his government and the enormous resources that were being invested in turning around the fortunes of the state.

Okowa called on community leaders and youth groups to resist any temptation to be drawn into these nefarious activities as they might jeopardise the ongoing intervention of the Federal Government, in the lives of the youths, through the Amnesty Office.

“Do not be part of this crime and refuse to listen to any leader or politician who would want to pit one ethnic nationality against another as a result of these incidents. The destruction of oil facilities is purely criminal and we reject attempts to label it otherwise”, Okowa warned.

Earlier, Commander of Operation Pulo Shield, Maj. Gen. Alani Gafar Okunlola had reiterated that community leaders would be held responsible for any act of sabotage perpetrated against the oil and gas facilities in their domain, vowing to fish out those responsible for attacks on oil facilities in some parts of the Niger Delta.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday evening at the site of the Nigerian Gas Pipeline in Egwa 1 Community, Warri South West, allegedly blown up by militants, Okunlola described the act as a massive criminal sabotage capable of undermining national security.

He said the task force would not fold its hands and allow the perpetrators to get away unpunished.
He also called on government and community leaders to give Operation Pulo Shield and other security agencies working in the Niger Delta useful information that would lead to the arrest of the perpetrators for prosecution.

The commander assured the Niger Delta residents of Operation Pulo Shield’s determination to wipe out all acts of illegalities in the region and also called on them to give useful information that would aid the joint force in its operations in line with its mandate in the Niger Delta.

He warned perpetrators of the crime to desist from further destruction of oil facilities or be ready to face the consequences, saying the task force was closing in on the criminals who blew up the pipelines.

Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, and Chairman of Amnesty Programme, Brigadier General Paul Boroh also visited the area on advocacy visit to political and traditional leaders as well as the youths, as part of his efforts to ensure that peace returns to the region.

Head of Media and Communication at the Amnesty Office, Owei Lakemfa told The Guardian on telephone that Boroh’s visit was to stem the tide of vandalism and violence, as well as to prevent further damage that could lead to internal displacement of residents.
Boroh was in Port Harcourt, Trosani in Bayelsa , Kabu in Delta state as well as in Warri to meet elders’ in order to “find a possible solution”, Lakemfa said..

He continued: “It is not yet clear who were responsible for the pipeline vandalism but there’s no return to militancy”, he said.

 

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