FIVE suspected members of the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, captured by soldiers after the bombing of Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, pipeline at Makaraba community, Gbaramatu clan, in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State, on Friday, have been relocated to the 19th Battalion, Nigerian Army, Koko, Warri North.
Military sources told our reporter that the suspects were transferred to the Army facility in the early hours of yesterday, just as fierce-looking soldiers invaded Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom in search of militants bombing pipelines in the state.
The incursion was the second time security agents were storming Oporoza in five days. The security agencies have instruction from President Muhammadu Buhari to crush the NDA which has claimed responsibility for attacks on oil installations and pipelines bearing petroleum products in recent times in the Niger Delta.
Our reporter’s efforts to get the spokesperson for the Joint Task Force, Col Isa Ado, to comment on the latest development on the new wave of militancy in the Niger-Delta, yesterday, were unsuccessful, as he did not respond to calls and text messages to his cell phone.
A security source, who spoke to our correspondents on the Friday attack, however, said: “They (suspected Avengers’ militants) were arrested immediately the blast occurred following the cordoning off of the scene of the incident by security operatives stationed to protect oil facilities in the area.
“The suspects were taken into the custody of the army in the area, but are yet to make statements or admit if they are members of the Niger Delta Avengers or otherwise.”
Unlike the previous attacks, which the Avengers claimed responsibility, it did not admit it carried out the most recent Makaraba pipeline attack.
How soldiers struck again
TheBreakingTimes sources in Oporoza said the military men, numbering about 30, stormed the riverine community at about 7.30 am, yesterday, in four gunboats and strutted about, evoking suspicions of imminent brutalization in the fatigued villagers.
Last Monday, at about 12.30 am, soldiers visited the community on a similar mission and did not depart until 5.00 am.
A community leader, who narrated the incident, said: “They came at about 7.30 am and left several hours later. It was obvious that they had come to intimidate us because soldiers do not just come to your community in that way for the fun of it.
“But because they were not talking to us, some of the villagers approached them to find out what their mission was and they said they were in search of militants, who bombing pipelines.”
Ijaw leader and Ibibenimowe (Chief Mobilizer) of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, who confirmed the invasion by soldiers, told Sunday Vanguard on phone: “There was tension as the about 30 military personnel moved into the community marching towards the palace and people thought that should be the right thing to do.
“The Pere (traditional ruler) of Gbaramatu Kingdom, HRM Oboro-Gbaraun II, Aketekpe, Agadaba, already alerted about the invasion, was pleased that they were heading towards his palace, but when he saw that they hesitated to move in, he sent an emissary to them to come so that he would know what was amiss.
“Curiously, the soldiers asked those he sent that they had no reason to see him.
Gbenekama went on: “Gbaramatu people are not Niger Delta Avengers. We have nothing to do with the militant group. This is the second time soldiers are invading our community in five days and causing a lot of fear among the people.
“Oporoza is not the only community in Delta State; they should leave Oporoza and Gbaramatu Kingdom alone. I have read media reports that Niger Delta Avengers membership is spread across Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, South East, South West and other parts of the country. So, why is the military intimidating the people of Oporoza.
“The people are worried because the military had invaded the community in the past. The memory is still fresh in their minds. They are not militants, but under a similar situation, they bombarded Oporoza.
“As a community, we have no link with Niger Delta Avengers. We do not know them and we do not wish to be part of them, soldiers should leave in peace.”
‘Stay away from Urhobo land’
Meanwhile, the National Leader of Urhobo Nationality Council, UNC, Olorogun Jaro Egbo, asked the NDA to keep away from Urhobo land, saying the ethnic group would not sit down and watch people from other nationalities vandalize national assets on its territory for private reasons.
Egbo stated: “Our position is that we shall not allow our territories to be used as launching pads for criminal elements out to destroy our national assets.
“We advise anybody, who has issues with the security agencies bordering on criminal breach of trust and financial misfeasance, to summon the courage to face the charges, rather than plunging innocent inhabitants of the riverine communities into untold hardship.”
Count us out, NDLF tells Avengers
In a related development, Niger Delta Liberation Front, NDLF, a non-operational militant group, founded by the late militant leader, “General” John Togo, yesterday, distanced the cluster from the proposed declaration of Niger Delta and flag-off of Niger Delta currency by the NDA in October 2016.
Spokesperson for the NDLF, “Captain” Mark Anthony, told our reporter, yesterday: “We were made to understand the fact that the group is fighting sinister ambition by trying to drag all of us into its fight. We have not discussed Niger Delta Republic in any meeting. How can some few misguided youths deceive Nigerians into dragging us into their failed battle?”