Despite the government’s efforts to stem the bombings in the region, suspected Niger Delta militants early yesterday morning bombed the Tebidaba to Brass pipeline belonging to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) at Ikienghenbiri community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State for the second time in one week.
Last Tuesday, militants blew up a gas pipeline belonging to the Italian oil giant that supplies crude oil through Tumor community in Bomadi, Delta State to Ogbuasiri in Ekeremor and Ogbembiri in Southern Ijaw, both in Bayelsa State.
Yesterday’s attack made it a dozen times this year that various oil installations operated by the company have been destroyed by the armed youths suspected to be militants in the state.
Before the two attacks in one week, armed militants breached a pipeline located at Brass Local Government Area (LGA) of Bayelsa State, leading to an oil spill in the area.
Earlier in the year, there was an attack at Kpongbokiri, which came on the heels of two attacks at Orukari and Golubokiri. That was just before a suspect, Seimghale Perekeyi, was apprehended for planting and detonating the dynamite that killed three oil workers in an oil platform belonging to Agip.
During yesterday’s attack, the gunmen suspected to have been led by persons identified as Suoyou, Iyelawei and Fynboy, believed to be residing within the community were said to have vandalised the pipeline and setting it ablaze.
It wasn’t clear what the motive for the latest bombing was, however, sources from the community claimed that a bloody clash between rival pipeline contractors over a surveillance contract led to the attack of the trunkline.
A resident of Ikienghenbiri who preferred to remain anonymous, disclosed that the groups were struggling for control of the Ogboinbiri-Tebidaba crude trunkline which passes through the area, revealing that the latest bombing was meant to sabotage the group that had been awarded the surveillance contract.
“We understand it is a conflict between two armed groups for access to the crude pipeline. One group claimed to be working to safeguard the pipeline and said the other group were vandals; they were shooting at one another,” he said.
It was gathered that the pipeline was set ablaze when the two groups engaged one another in a gun battle even as a thick cloud of smoke billowed from the scene.
But operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) who stormed the community shortly after the incident reportedly apprehended one of the suspects.
Confirming the incident, the state Commandant of NSCDC, Mr. Desmond Agu, said one of the militants identified as Peregbakumo was arrested through the help of the community leaders in the area.
The civil defence chief said he had summoned an emergency meeting of senior officers of the command and given them marching orders to secure all pipelines, oil installations and other critical national assets in the affected areas.
He identified the facility attacked by the militants as a pipeline along the Azuzuama axis of the Tebidaba-Brass trunkline, adding that the facility was attacked with dynamites at about 12.30 am yesterday.
The commandant said after the attack, the armed youths laid ambush in the community and shot a civilian member of the Oil and Gas Task Force in the leg.
He said the youths took off on sighting the gunboat of NSCDC, adding that his operatives later arrested Peregbakumo following the assistance of the community.
“At about 0300hrs, a gang of armed youths allegedly led by one Suoyou, Iyelawei and Fyneboy, all of Ikienghenbiri community, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, vandalised the pipeline along Azuzuama axis of the Tebidaba-Brass pipeline with dynamites and ignited fire on the line.
“Through community help, we were able to arrest one of the suspects and he was used to identify some of the fleeing suspects. There was a lot of community collaboration and we are grateful to the community because they don’t like what the armed youths are doing,” Agu said.
Later yesterday, a statement issued in Yenagoa by the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Jonathan Obuebite, said the leaders of the pipeline vandals – Suoyou, Iyelawei and Fyneboy – were apprehended by youths of Azuzuama community, who got wind of the planned action.
They were arrested with the support of operatives of the NSCDC and one of them was shot in the leg while trying to escape.
Obuebite expressed delight that the arrests were coming on the heels of Governor Seriake Dickson’s meeting with traditional rulers and Chairmen of Community Development Communities (CDC), during which the governor directly placed the responsibility of maintaining peace and safeguarding oil facilities in their domains on their shoulders.
The commissioner praised the youths of Azuzuama community “for their galantry, patriotic disposition and commitment to the peace and economic well being of the state and Nigeria as a whole”.
According to him, Dickson would “invite them and reward them for responding positively to his clarion call when it mattered most”.