From Ben Dunno, Warri
The military has commenced deployment of military hardware to coastal settlements identified as bases of militant activities in the Niger Delta, especially within the Gbaramatu axis in Delta State.
The military’s deployment was against the backdrop of threats by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) to commence bombing of the nation’s critical assets in the region.
Investigations carried out in riverine communities, yesterday, revealed massive deployment of sophisticated military hardware such as fighter jets, surveillance helicopters, gunboats and troops to the Delta coastal areas, particularly Ijaw settlement areas of Gbaramatu Kingdom, in Warri South West Local Government Area and other adjoining communities within that axis.
But, in a swift reaction, Commander of NNS Delta, Commodore Ibrahim Dewu, dismissed the deployment of troops and military hardware as mere speculation, and insisted that what the communities saw were just “routine military check on some major oil installations that are usually the target of militants, within its area of coverage.”
Reacting to the military siege, spokesman of Gbaramatu Traditional Council, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, confirmed the presence of the military but warned against the use of force in the area as that would hurt civilians, especially helpless women and children .
Gbenekama warned that launching operations in the creeks and swamps of the Delta region because of NDA’s threat doesn’t concern Gbaramatu people and that it could jeopardise gains of the relative peace in the area.
“Some few hours ago, military aircraft roved round our palace and there were troops with gunboats all over Gbaramatu Kingdom. While we appeal to the NDA to sheathe their sword, we don’t know the rationale behind and why the deployment of troops and gunboats. Gbaramatu people are not at war with the Nigerian government, why is it that anytime there is crisis anywhere, something happens in Bayelsa or Rivers states, the first port of call is Gbaramatu?
“We don’t want what happened in 2009 and 2016 to happen again. So, let the military restrain itself and we are still appealing to the Avengers to sheathe their swords. The Avengers who operated in 2016, that would say something, the next day they take drastic action are same people still operating but, somehow, they are now listening to us, including the traditional ruler, that they should sheathe their swords and give government some time. And, thank God, nothing has happened since the renewed threat, so, why the deployment?”
“Military presence in Gbaramatu and other parts of the Niger Delta is capable of escalating the crisis.
“Let the military back down. We are also appealing to agitators to sheathe their swords.”
Meanwhile, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has call on the agitators to abandon their threat to renew hostilities.
Okowa said Delta State would lose more if the group makes good their latest threat to withdraw from further cooperation with the federal government and begin massive attacks on oil facilities.
Efforts to get the Commander of Operation, Delta Safe Army, Col. Alhassan Grema, and spokesman of the army, Maj. Ibrahim Abdulahi, to react to these allegations were unsuccessful. They did not respond to telephone calls.
But, Dewu said: “What they are speculating as military deployment is routine patrol along Escravos and the Trans Forcados Pipeline. Once we sense any security concern on that line, our men usually move in to patrol the area. Nobody is deploying any gunboat or jets to specific communities. It is a normal patrol,” he said.
Governor Okowa has, however, appealed to the NDA not to embark on further attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta.
Okowa made the appeal in a statement issued on Monday in Asaba by his Chief Press Secretary, Charles Aniagwu wherein he noted that Deltans will lose more if the group make good their latest threat to withdraw from further cooperation with the federal government and begin massive attacks on oil facilities.
“We passionately appeal to the Niger Delta Avengers not to resume hostilities, because Deltans will be the greatest losers. We are barely recovering from the effect of previous attacks and it is our honest appeal that they still give peace a chance by allowing for peaceful engagements with the Federal Government and other stakeholders”.
“This appeal for peace remains imperative, because without the atmosphere of peace, no meaningful negotiations and development can take place, adding “resumption of hostilities will not be in the interest of our people but a major set back to the plans and aspirations of the state”.
“We have continued to appreciate our brothers in the struggle for their continued patience and cooperation while we engage the Federal Government on ways to attend to the various issues being raised by the group”.
“As a state, we have made several interventions to make life more meaningful for oil bearing communities especially in the area of road construction in the creeks and without the enabling peace we cannot progress in that direction.” he said.