AS Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, struck again, yesterday, blowing up Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, pipeline at Eleme, Rivers State, President Muhammadu Buhari insisted that Nigeria’s unity was not negotiable. He also warned looters of the nation’s treasury to return their loot for peace to reign, saying government would continue to ask for the funds until they were eventually returned.
|President Muhammadu Buhari|
But the NDA claimed, yesterday, that the Federal Government was negotiating with fraudsters, distancing itself from recent violent attacks in the South-West. President Buhari, who gave the warning while receiving a cross section of Nigerians, most of whom were Muslims, in his official residence located within the Presidential Villa, Abuja to pay him sallah homage, recalled the famous quote of former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, on the indivisibility of Nigeria.
Buhari, who spoke yesterday while receiving a cross section of Nigerians, mostly Muslims, who paid him Sallah homage at his residence within the precinct of the Presidential Villa, recalled the famous quote of former military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, stating that the task of keeping Nigeria as one indivisible entity was a task that must be done.
The president said the slogan in the 1960s “Go on With One Nigeria (GOWON)” was very apt now, as keeping Nigeria one was a task that must be done.
He also used the occasion to call on those who had stolen public funds to return them to the treasury otherwise they would not know any peace.
President Buhari He said: “We have to concentrate on the militants to try to know how many of them, in terms of groupings, try to get in touch with their leadership to try to persuade them to please give Nigeria a chance.
“I assure them that when we were very junior officers, we were told by our leaders, by the Head of State, who was Gen. Gowon, that to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done…we never thought of oil.
“What we were after is one Nigeria. Please, pass the message to the militants that one Nigeria is not negotiable. And I pray they better accept it. The constitution is very clear as to what they should get and I assure them there would be justice.
“Please persuade those who have plenty of money that do not belong to them to try and negotiate, return it in peace so that both them and us will be in peace, otherwise we will continue to request.
” Hunger in the land Noting that there was hunger in the land, the President expressed optimism that the country would soon start feeding itself as the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and 13 states were working hard to ensure that Nigeria achieved self- sufficiency in the production of rice.
He said the programme had reinvigorated confidence in many farmers, who had already returned to the field.
The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Bello, who led the delegation, prayed for God’s wisdom, good health and success for the president as he steers the ship of state.
The president during the homage was presented with Sallah greeting cards and a mirror.
Those in attendance included the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal; Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Nicholas Okoh; acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar; National Security Adviser, Babagana Mongunu; and acting Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
Also in the delegation were the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) FCT chapter, Israel Akanji and Dr. Kabir Adam of the National Mosque, Abuja.
But as Buhari reiterated his appeal to militant groups in the oil-rich region to end their destructive activities, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), the new face of violent agitation in the region, yesterday accused the federal government of opening negotiations with people they described as “fraudsters”, in a bid to end the current crisis in the area.
Wednesday’s assertions by the Avengers, which has claimed responsibility for the recent wave of attacks on oil and gas installations in the Niger Delta, came just as another militant group – the Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force (JNDLF) – threatened to blow up 10 oil and gas facilities in Bayelsa State, to express their displeasure over the handling of the ongoing crisis in the region.
Directing its anger at a recent article by the president’s media aide, Mr. Garba Shehu, on the rising militancy in the Niger Delta, the Avengers quoted him as having written: “My conversation on this issue with General Babagana Munguno, the National Security Adviser precisely two weeks back, he informed this reporter that he met 14 groups claiming leadership to the renewed onslaught on the nation’s economic jugular vein.
“Each of the groups had been brought to him by a serving governor or a former one; a serving minister or one that had left office with assurances that ‘this group is the one to talk to’.
“The amazing discovery he made from his meetings is the lack of unity among them, as each group that came attacked the one that came before it as inconsequential.”
Responding to the president’s media aide, the spokesman of the group, Mudock Agbinibo, denied ever meeting with any contact committee from the federal government, insisting that those engaged in negotiation with the government were doing so in order to swindle it.
“We, the Niger Delta Avengers, have not negotiated with anyone. So we don’t know where Mr. Garba Shehu and General Babagana Munguno, the National Security Adviser, are getting their information from.
“If they have been negotiating with anybody, it clearly shows they had been negotiating with fraudsters and their (national security agency) created militant group,” the Avengers stated.
The group also dismissed assertions that its members were killing soldiers and raiding homes.
“We want Garba Shehu to go and get his record straight. Niger Delta Avengers has not killed and kidnapped oil workers, we are not into sea piracy, and we have never killed policemen.
“The Buhari-led government knows the people attacking soldiers and killing policemen. It’s their sleeper agents that are doing it. So they should stop tagging Niger Delta Avengers to killings, kidnappings, ransacking of policemen, soldiers and individuals in the region,” it said.
The JNDLF, on the other hand, which said its members had been meeting in Yenagoa, threatened to destroy oil and gas pipelines running from Ogboinbiri in Southern Ijaw of Bayelsa State to Obrinkon in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State.
It said: “Oil and gas pipelines running from Ogboinbiri in Southern Ijaw of Bayelsa State to Obrinkon in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State are to be finally cut off from transmission.”
It added in a statement by Gen Akotebe Darikoro (Commander, General Duties), Torunnanaowei Latei (Creeks Network Coordinator) and others, that the group would immediately proceed to bomb the flow stations in Ogboinbiri, Oporoma, Peremabiri, Tabidaba, Nembe, Brass, Chevron’s platform in Koluama, Okordia-Zarama and Biseni, as well as the Gbarain-Ubie gas gathering plant.
“We further warn those staying around and within those areas to please leave because our mission is to cripple the economy of the country and not to kill any human being on earth.
“The Nigerian security forces which claim they are securing the oil facilities in the region should stay away at their dwelling places and see whether their safety will be guaranteed by the music on those days,” it threatened.
While commending the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, “for the bold steps he personally took to resolve the injustice created and sponsored by the wicked companies and government in Nigeria”, the group claimed that its struggle transcended monetary gains.
“Our field commanders have been instructed on what to do and those who are on standby in Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Delta and Cross River await after Bayelsa State operations.
“We further warn that henceforth, any attack on Ijaw communities or person(s) by the military or para-military bodies in the region, we will not hesitate to order our shoot-at-sight squad of any uniformed personnel in the region.
“For the record, the Niger Delta Avengers are not in Delta State, they only go there to strike and return back safely to the struggle base, Bayelsa State,” the group said.
The Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force, NDLF, in a statement by the Commander, General Duties, Akotebe Darikoro, said:
“The oil and gas pipeline running from Ogboinbiri in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State to Obrinkon in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, is to be finally cut off from transmission.
“The flow stations of Ogboinbiri, Oporoma, Peremabiri, Tabidaba, Nembe, Brass, Chevron platform in Koluama, Okordia-Zarama and Biseni, including Gbarain-Ubie gas gathering plant, are to be set ablaze since the oil companies are a major hindrance to the development of the region.
“We further warned those staying around and within to please leave those areas because our mission is to cripple the economy of the country and not to kill any human being on earth.
“The Nigerian security, which claims to be securing the oil facilities in the region, should stay in their dwelling places and see whether their safety will be guaranteed on those days.
“We thank the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources for the bold steps he personally took to resolve the injustice created and sponsored by the wicked companies and government in Nigeria.
“The initiative he took has been relegated to the background by the self-acclaimed Minister of Petroleum Resources, Muhammadu Buhari, who has no knowledge about the suffering of the people in the Niger Delta, but only with a mission to milk the region and pay deaf ears to the plight of the region.
“Our struggle is beyond monetary gains and we cannot be bribed by the Nigerian government to the detriment of our suffering people and the struggle is unstoppable until justice is done to the region.
“Our field commanders have been instructed on what to do and those who are on standby in Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Delta and Cross River are to wait after Bayelsa State operations.
“We further warn that, henceforth, if any attack is launched on Ijaw communities or person(s) by the military or para-military body in the region, we will not hesitate to order our shoot-on-sight squad to attack any uniform personnel in the region.
“For the records, Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, are not in Delta State, we only go there to strike and return safely to the struggle base in Bayelsa State.”
The avengers also warned the governor of Bayelsa State to pay the salaries of workers. It stated:
“We are warning Governor Henry Dickson of Bayelsa State to, without further delay, commence final payment of all workers, including the old pensioners, being owed several months of salary.
“Dickson is to pay these workers/pensioners in full and not 50 per cent or half of their legitimate salaries. He will not lay claim to no funds to pay them, the funds are with him, based on the allocations he received from the federation account known to the people.
“No fund but the government is busy doing projects and erecting personal buildings within and outside the state, while these workers are dying in abject poverty in the state.
“This is unacceptable and it must stop forthwith in the region because our parents, brothers and sisters are not to suffer unnecessarily simply because they work for government.
“Enough is enough, he should go and bring money from wherever he is keeping it, and fully pay these workers and pensioners before the end of this month.
“His mother, who is over 70 years, is a staff and still drawing salaries from Sagbama Local Government council. What type of injustice is this?”