• Say attack Gbaramatu, Niger Delta goes
From MONDAY WHISKY, Regional Editor, South-South
Militants in the Niger Delta sub-region have issued stern warning to the Federal Government and the Armed Forces to have a rethink over any consideration to invade any community or state in the zone, threatening that they will match force with force in the advent of any military attack.
Tension has continued to rise in the Niger Delta over threats from some northern leaders and security operatives to launch military attack on Gbaramatu kingdom over recent explosions on oil pipelines in the region.
National Daily learnt that should the military make good it’s threat, it will be matched force for force as the militants have sworn that when the next bomb goes off anywhere in the oil-rich Niger Delta, it would be a full blown war aimed at seceding from the Nigerian State.
Ex-militant warlord, General Amapei Brown, from Rivers State is one of those said to be ready and has issued stern warning to the military and the Federal Government to shelve such an action.
His Command of Niger Delta Freedom Fighters is spitting more fire and brimstone than other militant groups who have been falling over themselves in their threat to destroy national assets if the northern leaders persist in inducing the Federal Government to use the Nigerian Armed Forces to shove Gbaramatu’s elders or invade the community in Delta.
Other youth groups swelling the flank of rebellion brewing in the region include the Niger Delta Security Watch Organisation (NDSWO) and the Ijaw People Development Initiative (IPDI).
“The Federal Government action is only showing desperation to wage a premeditated war against the armless and defenseless people of the South-South,” General Brown told National Daily.
President Muhammadu Buhari had directed leaders of the Ijaw community in Delta to handover Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo) and others believed to have bombed oil facilities in Bayelsa weeks ago.
The heat has been turned, particularly, on Tompolo since a former militant lynchpin, Afrikanus Ukparasia, pinned the recent bombing on him, whom the EFCC has declared wanted over a N32-billion land sale scam.
“Tompolo and General Shoot-at-sight conspired to bomb the pipelines to send a message that they have the capacity to disrupt oil production and, therefore, cripple the economy of the country,” Ukparasia had said. Tompolo has since refuted the allegation, saying that APC leaders in the South-South only use the militants in their employment to frame him up.
A fortnight ago, a close associate of President Muhammadu Buhari and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Col. Hassan Stanislous-Labo, advocated for military invasion of the Niger Delta communities where pipelines were bombed recently.
Colonel Hassan being a guest on Channels Television, Lagos, on Monday, January 25, 2015, had said that the Nigerian Army should invade the communities in Delta State and massacre the people of the communities as the military did to the community of Odi during the President Olusegun Obasanjo regime.
He declared that, “the communities that refuse to produce the militants should be leveled.”
It will be recalled that the military invaded Odi community in Bayelsa State in 2006 and murdered about 2,500 unarmed civilians, with every building in the village burnt down by the rampaging troops except an Anglican Church and the community health centre.
In 2013, a Federal High Court ordered the Federal Government of Nigeria to pay N37 billion damages to the residents of Odi for the act of genocide perpetrated by the Nigerian Army but the Federal Government ignored the court order.
Colonel Hassan undermined the reality that the genocide in Odi was an abuse of human rights.
Stanislous-Labo Hassan is known to be a leading media surrogate of the Buhari administration who is widely perceived to have set an agenda for the APC-led federal government.
The militants, after deliberating on the statement of Colonel Haassan resolved to put their Commands at alert and prepare for rapid response to military invasion of any community in the region, sending warning signals that it would not be business as usual in entertaining military violence in the region.
In the heady days of arms struggle in the Niger Delta, General Shoot-at-sight, whose real name is Bibopiri Ajube, held sway in Ondo, the southwestern part of the oil-producing south-south.
Ukparasia said the two have been mobilizing materiel, including a fleet of speedboats, and young men in Ese Odo Local Government Area of Ondo to resume militancy in the region.
The informant, also known as General Africa, comes from same Warri South of Delta as Tompolo, and was once a loyalist of the embattled billionaire ex-warlord. Africa was also among the horde of PDP members that jumped ship after the party lost in the 2015 general election. He is presently a stalwart of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Tompolo has already made his own case known to the President on the activities of the boys in the Creeks. “They (the defectors) have been involved in illegal bunkering and oil theft activities over the years, which I have been fighting against because of love for our country,’ Tompolo had said in an open letter he wrote President Buhari last week.
Tompolo was particular about one of them, his kinsman, who, he said, has sworn to kill him because he refused to manipulate the ascension to a traditional stool in his (Africa’s) favour.
“And so he looks for any opportunity to deal with me,” Tompolo had said of General Africa, now an APC apologist.
He also maintains that Bayelsa’s APC leader Timipre Sylva had persuaded him, too, to join the APC before the governorship election. “For that,” he says, “the former Bayelsa State Governor and Gen. Africa are feeding the president with information that now puts him in the thick of the bombing allegations.”
But, many of his Ijaw kinsmen also hold the opinion: that Tompolo is being persecuted for not joining the APC. And the federal government will have a hard time forcing the Ijaw leaders to surrender their son.”
The NDSWO and IPDI had said in a joint statement recently that, “The ljaw will never sacrifice their bravest to satisfy the quest for neo-colonialism.” They added among others: “… When the moment comes, we shall stand with Tompolo.”
But the community elders aren’t as belligerent as the youth. The senior citizens have rather made the federal government realise there is no rhyme or reason in asking them to produce either Tompolo or the vandals.
“I do not see how anybody expects us to handover Tompolo to security agencies because we do not have the power to do that, except they want to humiliate us,” said Bare Etolor, Chairman of the Ijaw Council of Elders, Delta.
According to Etolor, that approach is making them lose confidence in the APC government.
“Which of the Northern elders did they tell to produce the Boko Haram leaders that are bombing in their areas; so, why are they telling us to handover people who bombed pipelines here,” he had protested.
Even the EFCC quarry, Tompolo, has never said anything defiant since he went dark. His media statements have always insisted the APC members in Delta and Bayelsa are those behind the bombing intrigue.
“Tompolo will never wedge a war against the Federal Government as he swore in 2009 when he accepted the Presidential amnesty declared by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua,” his media consultant Paul Bebenimibo said while debunking Gen. Africa’s claim.
According to him, the speedboats mentioned in the allegation were acquired in 2011 for the surveillance of oil installations, part of the contract Tompolo got from former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
Bebenimibo said the military is also aware of these because the ex-militant was working hand in hand with them then.
The EFCC manhunt for Tompolo started in December, some days before the bombing. It’s just getting hot up now that the Joint Task Force descend on the community, and allegations swirl around him that he’s daring the federal government.
But he has said he will turn himself in at the appropriate, and that appropriate time could be any moment from now, even though there is hope that Tompolo’s change of mind to honour EFCC invitation to attend the prosecution in court could douse the tension.