Niger Delta: War spreads to Ondo, Edo, Bayelsa

The war raging in the Niger Delta spreads to Ondo, Edo, Bayelsa – About 300 homes were razed by the Joint Task Force (JTF) on Wednesday in Oporoza, the largest Ijaw community and headquarters of the Gbaramatu clan in Delta State. It was the sixth day of offensive which on Tuesday had hit Okerenkoko in the search for militants holding Nigerians and foreigners hostage.

But the Ijaw National Congress (INC) and prominent Ijaw leaders like Godspower Gbenekama and Bello Oboko lamented that there is a plan to wipe out all Ijaw communities. They said their intelligence report showed that the attacks would be taken to Egbeme in Delta State and other Ijaw settlements in Edo, Ondo, and Bayelsa. Oboko alleged that “the JTF is no more fighting but on the rampage because all the people in the affected communities had fled before their homes were razed.”

Military air bombers and war ships reportedly moved into Oporoza at about 8.30 a.m. and set it ablaze. But there was no report of casualty of the villagers, since all had fled some days back.

Troops shot at homes in the NPA Waterside area of Warri, killing a young man and leaving a lady with serious gunshot wounds.

Some survivors who fled into the forest died. A man named Boyle lost two children aged 11 and 13 in the woods – where, ironically, some pregnant women gave birth.

A source said security personnel arrested 13 persons in the Miller Waterside area, and that another man was arrested in Pessu with ammunition contained in about 17 cartons. The source explained that the stop and search operation going on is to ensure that the gun battle in the creeks does not spread to cities.

JTF Spokesman, Colonel Rabe Abubakar, confirmed in a statement that the operation is to mop up arms and ammunition from the villages. He denied the killing of innocent persons. The statement confirmed that “large quantities of arms and ammunition, which include Anti-aircraft Guns, General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG), Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG), locally made guns, machetes and native charms, were recovered at Okerenkoko and Oporoza communities, all of Delta State, when the (JTF) moved its foot soldiers there for a Search and Rescue Operation.

“The operations at the two communities were executed after a reliable intelligence source fingered them as grouping points for the dislodged militants from former camps presently being occupied by the JTF.” Abubabar denied that the JTF conducted the invasion with jet fighters and helicopter gunships, saying only foot soldiers searched and recovered the items, which turned out to be a timely operation considering the caliber of arsenal discovered. He confirmed at about 10 p.m. on Wednesday that two more Filipinos have been rescued from the militant camp in Gbaramatu. About 23 foreigners are still believed to be held.

However, the militant group, the Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC), has vowed that the Army will pay dearly for the destruction in Delta State.

It also joined those demanding the resignation of Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, for failing to stop Abuja from launching the attack. The JRC comprises the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the Martyrs Brigade, and the Reformed Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (RNDPVF). Its Spokesperson, Cynthia Whyte, said in an interview that events of the last few weeks only demonstrated that Nigeria is a sick country governed by sick leaders who have no consideration for the masses.

She argued that the nation would have been better governed if the rulers really won election, and insisted that Jonathan must vacate his office, warning that the Army should get ready to pay for “desecrating” Ijaw land. Said Whyte: “Which of the Governors of the Niger Delta (apart from Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State) protects the common man on the streets? Name one?

“Is it Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers Governor) who had sat in the corridors of power for eight years as the third most powerful man in Rivers State (as Speaker of the state House of Assembly) and yet today blames Peter Odili for all the woes in Rivers State? What did he do in that time? “The people of the Niger Delta have been losing a lot since oil was discovered in their land. The Nigerian State is very ill. All is not well.”

Whyte maintained that the solution is to remove President Umaru Yar’Adua because “he is not capable of ruling the Nigerian State.” On calls for the resignation of Jonathan as initiated by the MEND, Whyte said: “The people of the Niger Delta existed before Goodluck Jonathan existed. We never saw Jonathan as a messiah of even his own home, not to talk of the Niger Delta.”

Whyte later issued a statement which read in part: “On behalf of the (MEND) and its alliance groups thereof, we wish to declare forthwith that the Armed Forces of the Nigerian State and those who were responsible for bombarding the palace of the Agadagba of Gbaramatu must be made to pay by any means necessary. The bandit Armed Forces also attacked school buildings, school libraries, etc.

“Let us also warn that any soldier of the Nigerian State who breaches the rules of engagement in this campaign will be summarily executed. Any attack on unarmed and innocent village-folk will be revenged. Any attack on community people will result in an equal attack on families of soldiers in any barracks we choose to attack. It will be an eye for an eye henceforth.

“It is laughable and ridiculous that the Nigerian Army and Rabe Abubakar of the JTF Media Centre have been beating their chest and giving themselves great credit for the destruction of Camp Five. Let it be known that Camp Five had long become a tourist centre and haven of sorts for various Ijaw organisations that seek to keep the peace.

“Let us remind all men of goodwill that the attacks on Gbaramatu Kingdom represent the height of an attempt by a Northern cabal to fully sink their teeth in oil production operations in the Niger Delta. This cabal, comprising largely of serving and retired Army Generals, will no longer be given free passage through the creeks of the Niger Delta anymore. “The Gbaramatu engagement was the culmination of an attempt by these elements to cage the rising stature of Government Ekpenkpolo, a true Ijaw freedom fighter and emancipator who has over the years been at the forefront of the delivery of peace to the people of the Niger Delta and Delta State in particular.

“Government Ekpenkpolo’s resolve to stop the extortionist enterprise founded by these thieving Generals remains the cause of the upheaval in the Gbaramatu Kingdom today. “This cabal of serving Generals own large sea going vessels and have enjoyed long term contracts with many oil majors. They operate strategic business alliances with cheap Filipino and Russian companies and now claim our creeks as part of their estate. Not any more.

“If Yar’Adua is serious in his campaign, let him probe these Generals now and get them to explain the source of their stupendous wealth which came not too long after their appointment. ” Meanwhile, the Federal Government on Wednesday described the loss of lives in the conflict as sad. Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Odein Ajumogobia, told journalists after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja that crude oil production has been cut by half since the crisis escalated.

The meeting was chaired by President Umaru Yar’Adua.

“The loss of lives, whether the militants or members of the Armed Forces, is sad. I mean, they are all Nigerians and so we will try and do what we can to prevent loss of lives,” he stressed. “Everything this administration has been doing is to restrain the military in its activities to try and minimise the loss of lives. It is best to hear from the military; they will be able to give you a more accurate account (of the casualties). ” On the economic cost of the conflict, Ajumogobia noted that “Nigeria has a production capacity of 3.2 million barrels per day (bpd); today we are down to about less than half of that. We are over one million (bpd) down in shut-in. I think it is something that should concern all of us.

“To take one example, Shell has lost most of its production in the East or is completely shut down, and the irony of it is that onshore oil is the cheapest to produce, and therefore the return on that investment is greater, but that is where we have most of the shut-ins. The financial loss is huge. I mean, multiply today’s oil price by a million barrel per day.” At $60 per barrel, the loss is calculated to be $60 million or about N8.7 billion per day.

Ajugomobia said domestic fuel supply has improved significantly because “we have conquered the supply problem. There are still some distribution bottlenecks so you will still see some queues in some areas of some cities, but we will get around that as well.”

Minister of Information and Communications, Dora Akunyili; her minister of state, Ikra Bilbis; Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Adamu Aliero; and Minister of Environment, John Odey, also briefed the press on the the FEC meeting.

Odey added that “we went to Council today with an oil spill response boat and other equipment that will be used in Niger Delta and other parts of the country”.

The FEC approved the purchase of the boat and equipment for the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) at a cost of N558.99 million. Aliero announced the FEC’s decision to set up a committee headed by the National Planning Minister to review his request for variation of costs, as well as prioritise and suggest funding for abandoned engineering and infrastructure projects in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

By Ofonime Umanah (Port Harcourt),Chesa Chesa (Abuja) and Tunke-Aye Bisina(Asaba) 

“Other countless examples of the exploitative, oppressive, dirty games of intrigues of its class, where people and stooges that can best be described by the fact that even though they contribute very little economically to the well being of Nigeria, they have over the years served and presided over the supposedly national wealth derived in the main from the Middle Belt and the southern part of this country, while the people from these parts of the country have been completely deprived from benefiting from the resources given to them by God”
Gideon Orkar.

The fight over resources has been in the forefront of our underdevelopment with greed and banditary  on both sides (Niger delta leaders and Federal Government)Who says we are not revisiting the nightmares of the  1967 war.
Dim Ojukwu was right, and please note, I am not an apostle of war. But remember, we lost over 2 million people in that war, which was fought as a result of injustice and overbearing attitude of a chosen few. We have not learnt anything as a nation and we are almost 50 years old. Something has to give, and trust me we are moving gradually towards anarchy in Nigeria. A  tortoise is slow, but definitely it will get to its destination.The day of the masses is coming slowly, but surely.