- Niger Delta safe –Military
By Aidoghie Paulinus and Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
MILITANTS and pipeline vandals within Arepo, Ogun State and parts of Lagos State, have reinstated their commitment to surrender arms to the Federal Government.
Leaders of the Ijaw militant group, Forest Soldiers and Adaka Boro Last Born, General Agbala, told Daily Sun in a telephone interview that they were purely agitators and not kidnappers.
The Army, Air Force and the Navy, last week embarked on an aerial bombardment to rid the Arepo area of Ogun State and parts of Lagos State of criminal elements.
The operation which also involve the Police, the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), has recorded substantial numbers of casualties.
Agbala who spoke partly in pidgin English in the wake of the ongoing bombardment of the areas, said he has been doing his best to rid the area of criminal elements, saying that kidnapping has never been in his line. He said a visit to Ogun State would reveal that he had in the past handed over a man named Ototo to the police, Bishibishi and other boys.
According to Agbala, “something like kidnapping, armed robbery, I am not involved. But na some bad people dey spoil my name up and down. Na im make me dey vex,” Agbala said.
Speaking on their interaction with the government delegation that visited their camps, Agbala said the visit took place last year and he was the one who received the officials.
Agbala said they told the government delegation that they had no problem whatsoever with anyone, even as he stated that they had since been waiting for the implementation of the negotiation before the ongoing crisis started.
On how to put an end to pipeline vandalism, Agbala said the government delegation requested that they stop vandalizing pipelines so that they would be given contract to secure the pipelines, some would be sent to school, while others would engage in vocational training.
Asked to distinguish between vandals and militants, particularly where his group belong to, Agbala said even though they are in Ogun and Lagos States, they are of Ijaw origin, reinstating the Federal Government’s assurance to empower them.
Corroborating Agbala’s submission, the General Secretary of Forest Soldiers and Adaka Boro Last Born, Honourable Omomoh, said they have always been assisting government in ridding the areas of criminal elements, saying they made some arrests in the past which the State Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) in Ogun State can testify to.
While noting that a lot of casualties have been recorded in the ongoing bombardment of the areas, including innocent civilians, Omomoh said the unfolding scenario seemed as if everybody has gathered to fight the Ijaw nation because of its resources.
“We are still waiting for them. We are always loyal to the government, but the casualties recorded are too high,” Omomoh declared.
Meanwhile, the Joint Force, Operation Delta Safe (ODS) has allayed the fears of people in the Niger Delta region over any possible break of law and order.
The Commander of the ODS, Rear Admiral Joseph Okojie who spoke in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State vowed that the military would not abdicate its responsibilities to protect the territorial integrity, lives and property in the region.
While dismissing threats by those he stated have no social base, he assured ODS with its multi agency composition is capable of nipping any security situation in the bud.
According to him the political and security leadership in the country are in support of the operations of the ODS in the Niger Delta region. Okojie said Niger Delta is safe and enjoined people to go about their normal business.