• Avengers blow up Bonny crude oil export terminal
By Enyeribe Ejiogu (Lagos) and Ben Dunno (Warri)
Nigerians’ earnest desire for resolution of the Niger Delta crisis and restoration of normalcy in the region, hit a setback yesterday when a major trunk of the Bonny 48 inches crude oil Export Line in Rivers State was blown up in an attack by the Niger-Delta Avengers (NDA), thereby signaling a resumption of the group’s bombing campaign against oil and gas infrastructure, which began early this year.
Giving reasons for suspending the 60-day ceasefire it declared, and which it had observed, to show good faith and provide an enabling environment for dialogue with the Federal Government, the Avengers cited what it referred to as the government’s insincerity and lacklustre attitude towards the call for dialogue as reason for the latest attack.
The group, which claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement signed by its spokesman, Brig-Gen Mudoch Agbinibo, demanded that President Muhammadu Buhari, should stop playing politics with the peace negotiation process it initiated, which necessitated the composition of a pan-Niger Delta team to discuss how the region could be genuinely developed.
“On 23rd September 2016, our strike team at 20:40 hours brought down oil production activities at the Bonny 48-inch crude oil export line. This action is a signature to the over dramatization of the so-called dialogue and negotiation process on the side of President Muhammadu Buhari and his government,” the Avengers said in the statement.
“Since the cessation of hostilities and the commitment of the pan-Niger Delta Elders and Stakeholders Team, the Nigerian government and her agents are turning the expectations of the Niger Delta to shameful scenes obtainable in Nollywood acts, and intimidations, blackmail and continuous profiling of Niger Delta sons and daughters. This is only a wake up call; we may not have any other way to say it better,” it stated.
The group further noted, “We are still in favour of the dialogue and negotiations, but we are warning against the peace of our time! We want the peace with honour. We will resist all actions undermining the ceasefire from the side of the government and its security agents/agencies.
“The world is watching; time is running against the Nigerian state. While we were promised that the concerns of Niger Delta will be addressed once a truce is declared, the activities of the government and her agents are not assuring enough, there has been no progress and no breakthrough,” it stated.
The Avengers further said: “We cannot be continuously fooled, the government cannot justify the indiscriminate targeting of Niger Delta youths while glorifying on these victimization of law abiding citizens of the region.”
The attack on the Bonny Export Line came within a day of the postponement of the two-day Niger Delta Stakeholders’ Summit organised by the Presidency, and which would have held on September 26 and 27, 2016, at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja. In announcing the postponement, Secretary of the Organising Committee and a presidential aide, Donald Wokoma, said the Summit was intended to bring together critical stakeholders from across the Niger Delta to discuss how to fashion out a roadmap for achieving “lasting peace and sustainable development in the Niger Delta region.”
But curiously, the stillborn summit was seen by the key voices, notable leaders and respected elders in the Niger Delta, as a spurious enterprise by self-seeking individuals with access to the Presidency, which would not have contributed in any significant way towards achieving lasting peace in the region. To the key Niger Delta leaders, notably Chief Edwin Clark, Senator Roland Owie, Air Cdr. Idongisit Nkanga, Ledum Mitee, Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw, Alaowei Broderich Bozimo, Timi Alaibe, Tony Uranta, among others, the summit was more or less intended to take away attention from their assiduous effort in putting together the Pan-Niger Delta Coastal States Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum, as a viable and credible platform for discussing and resolving the vital issues concerning the Niger Delta.
It is noteworthy the key Niger Delta leaders and voices had played fundamental role in selling the idea of a ceasefire to the Niger Delta Avengers as a prelude to dialogue with the Federal Government. The key figures were, therefore miffed when they received invitation to attend the now-suspended summit. Perceiving it as a red herring they dissociated themselves from the summit.
They voiced their disapproval of the summit and disassociation from it in a signed statement, in which they pointed out that the intendment of the summit fell short of the basic expectation of their people, even as they wondered why President Muhammadu Buhari, had not made any effort to respond to the demands of the peoples of the Niger Delta for a credible and proper dialogue process.
The statement reads in part: “The attention of the Leadership of the Pan-Niger Delta Coastal States Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum has been drawn to the circulation of Invitation Letters to some Niger Delta indigenes and others to a Niger Delta Stakeholders’ Summit slated for the 26th – 27th September, 2016, at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja.
“Whilst we do not begrudge the right of any authority or persons to convene any talk shop, we feel concerned that serious issues of the Niger Delta should not be trivialized into some academic exercise.
Meanwhile, the Niger Delta, leaders have urged the United States government to prevail on President Buhari, to proceed with the genuine dialogue process it initiated with the Pan Niger Delta team in order to find lasting solution to the renewed violence in the region.
Making the appeal during a meeting with a three-man delegation of US officials to Warri, Delta state yesterday, the leadership of the Pan Niger Delta Coastal States Stakeholders Consultative Forum led by Chief Edwin Clark, insisted that only a genuine dialogue with the region could guarantee peace and mutual understanding between the people and government.
The US team made up of the Political Officer from the US Embassy in Abuja, one official from Washington and one security detail went into a closed door meeting with the stakeholders, which lasted more than two hours.
Briefing newsmen after the meeting, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, former Police Affairs Minister, who represented Chief Clark said, “It is timely that the US has come again on a fact finding mission. We just told them that we want a dialogue and not the summit that federal government had intended to convene.
“A very incongruous gathering of nearly 500 persons with government officials talking to themselves at Abuja which would have been the experience with the summit could not have addressed the key issues. That is why we objected to the summit. So dialogue and not the monologue they were trying to put up can bring this thing to rest.
“So we have faith in the US fact finding team. They have come to see things for themselves. And we take them for their word to take the feedback to their home government who will then be in position to advise the Federal Government in the overall goal of resolving the current situation.”
An unnamed member of the US team who declined to speak to the press on their mission said, “We can’t talk to you on this visit. It is the Consul General or the Ambassador who could have spoken to you if they were here. We are sorry, don’t feel offended.”
With the resumption of the Avengers campaign against oil and gas infrastructure, the significant improvement in crude oil export that came in the wake of the ceasefire would consequently evaporate with the smoke produced by the blast.