■ As militants blow 2 pipelines
From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa and BEN DUNNO, WARRI
Ijaw national leader, Chief Edwin Clark yesterday dismissed the threat by Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) to declare Niger Delta Republic on October 1, saying the unity of the country was not negotiable.
Making his stand known in an opening remark at a one-day Stakeholders Meeting of Niger Delta Coastal states , held in Warri, Clark stated that the strength of the nation lies in its diverse culture, population and the unity of her people.
He however aligned himself with the demand of the militant group for political restructuring of the country, stating there can never be a better alternative to resolving some of the critical issues that have led to youths taking up arms across the country other than a genuine restructuring.
While stating that restructuring was part of the resolution reached at the 2014 national conference as a possible lasting solution to some of the critical issues, the ijaw leader called on the federal government to re-visit the restructuring aspect of that report in order to address some of the burning issues of socio-economic and political imbalance in the country.
According to him, “my strong belief is that only a genuine restructuring of the political administration of the country will remove most of these problems in the country. With such, the issues that lead some of us to take up arms will be resolved.
“I posit that the answers to many, if not all, of these issues are contained in the report of the 2014 National Conference. I salute well-meaning persons who have supported the call for restructuring the country”
Clark,who is the convener of the Stakeholders meeting noted, “We must find a permanent solution to the various problems we are facing in this country today including the youth revolt in the Niger Delta, Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram, Biafra agitation, kidnapping and recently, the inability of the various states to pay their workers’ salaries and pension.”
While commending President Muhammadu Buhari for indicating the willingness to open a line of dialogue with the aggrieved Niger Delta youths, Chief Clark stated such discussion should be channeled through genuine leaders from the region.
He added that resolutions reached at the meeting would go a long way to curb militants resurgence in the oil-rich region saying that “we are here to seek and proffer solutions. We are here to chart a way forward to bring peace that will last, peace that will endure and peace that engender development to our region.”
Speaking at the occasion, Delta state governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, noted that he was not prepared to apportion blames, stressing that all stakeholders across the region including the multinational oil companies, community leaders as well as the youths themselves have all contributed to the mistakes of the past.
He however stressed the need for peace and dialogue as the solution to
the present development in the region, stating that besides the environmental harzards posed to the community as a result of oil spillage, the on-going bombing of oil installation could also forced the federal government to look for an alternative source of revenue generation, adding that this would not be in the interest of the region.
The governor however suggested that as part of an immediate solution, all multinational oil companies should return their headquarters to their operational base in the region, adding that this would guaranty sense of belonging which had eluded the people.
Okowa also lamented the delay in the passage of the PIB bill at the National Assembly, pointing out that the bill has the potential of dousing some of the agitation tht has led to restiveness in the region.
…Military gets set for action
Security agencies have been put on red alert over moves by the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA to declare Niger Delta Republic, just as there are indications that the military is gearing up for aerial bombardment of creeks in the region.
Saturday Sun investigations revealed that the Military, Department of State Security (DSS) and the Nigeria Police have been given the marching orders to crush any form of declaration by the NDA.
A reliable security source said the Niger Delta region might soon experience what the military did recently in some Lagos and Ogun communities where it flushed out militants using aerial bombardment.
The source said the military has assessed the level of collateral damage and is confident that innocent people would not be affected whenever the operation commences.
Meanwhile, suspected Niger Delta militants in the early hours of yesterday blew up two pipelines belonging to the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC).
The two blasts occurred at Owhrode community in Udu local government area of Delta State.
Coincidentally, the explosions took place on a day stakeholders in the region including governors and prominent elders were supposed to meet at Effurun, Delta State to discuss the implications of the continuous destruction of oil installations and pipelines in the region. Delta State has been badly affected with the spate of bombings of pipelines since the emergence of NDA in February.
The facility is located about 20 kilometres from the venue of the one-day stakeholders’ meeting. The community is an Urhobo settlement that jointly plays host to the Otorogun gas plant of NNPC.
The main militant group in the region, Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) which has been attacking oil infrastructure of late, had denied any form of negotiations with the Federal Government serving notice that it would continue hostilities in the region.
The NDA had also in a statement by its spokesman Brig Gen Mudoch Agbinibo declared that it would forge ahead with the declaration of independence of Niger Delta Republic from Nigeria by October 1.
Though no group has come out openly to claim responsibility for the attack, sources said the attack might have been launched as a direct response to the disclosure by the Army, that a special amphibious training of its men is set for Delta state.
Another source said the attack was the handiwork of a new militant group named Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate. Investigations revealed that security personnel and NPDC officials have been deployed to the area to ascertain the level of damage and contain the spread of crude to communities around the blast site.