Pipeline vandalism: Buhari spits fire
• Vows to deal with Militants • Military Sacks Tompolo’s town
• Avengers strike again • Stakeholders call for dialogue
President Muhammadu Buhari has sent stern warnings to members of the Niger Delta Avengers and other agitators operating within Nigeria’s territory. According to him, no group will hold Nigeria to ransom. He spoke during a session with editors of major newspapers last Thursday, insisting that government will deal with all militants and kidnappers who threaten the economy and geographical integrity of the country.
Meanwhile, armed soldiers have taken over Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of the Gbaramatu Kingdom and hometown of wanted ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo.
The Guardian gathered that the community was invaded early hours of yesterday in commando style. Precisely two weeks ago, soldiers had ransacked Oporoza community in search of militants. The soldiers, according to residents, had warned that the town would be taken over if bombings of pipelines persist.
The Guardian learnt yesterday, that the soldiers have vowed to occupy the community indefinitely. Unconfirmed reports said many residents, mostly children and women, are missing, as they ran into the swamp in panic.
Human rights lawyer and indigene of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Alaowei Cleric, described the invasion as an abuse of the peaceful traditional headquarters of the Gbaramatu people.
He said: “The attack on the peace-loving ancient town, the headquarters of the Gbaramatu Kingdom, is an abuse of the traditional institution of the Gbaramatu people. The unprovoked attack on the oil-rich, but pauperised shantytown at a time the Federal Government is engaging stakeholders in the region to dialogue with the militants shows that government is not sincere in exploring peaceful means to resolve the crisis.
“This is the height of government inhumanity to the citizens under its protection. What is the offence of Oporoza people to warrant this invasion? This is a declaration of war against the people of the Gbaramatu Kingdom whose offence is to have oil in their land.
“President Buhari should know that he couldn’t win this war with the use of force. The military action will only worsen the situation, as some other miscreants will take this gesture, as an excuse to unleash mayhem on the oil facilities. What the soldiers are doing will not do the country any good. We call on President Buhari to call his marauding soldiers to order,” he said.
According to him, no group will hold Nigeria to ransom. NIGERIA may have entered another phase of financial crisis, as the upsurge in attacks by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) has gradually crippled government’s capacity to produce crude oil optimally. Added to the poor crude oil prices in the international market, the impact of steady attacks on oil installations could hamper the implementation of the 2016 budget.
Buhari, however, insisted: “I think they have a problem. Kidnapping is a very serious thing, like the operations of the militants who are destroying installations (in the Niger Delta). I was going round the world, telling people that we are going to secure Nigeria and by our performance in the northeast, they believe us and people are prepared to come and invest in Nigeria. But nobody would invest in an insecure environment. Those who had been in Nigeria for so many years can conduct feasibility studies. But why do they put money paying militants or paying for corruption? This means with all the goodwill we are winning, we may not be able to benefit in the long run because of the kidnapping and the actions of the militants. So it is a top priority for this government to address. Once we settle down to make sure that we deal with militants, we will deal with kidnappers also.”
The benchmark for budget 2016, which was put at $38 per barrel, on assumption that the country would be producing 2.2 million barrels per day, is no longer sustainable, as production has dropped to below 1.5 million barrels per day, the lowest in two decades.
The implication, according to experts, is that the country is losing about 31.8 per cent of its production projections, with concomitant effects on the revenue projections.
The Avengers on Saturday morning launched multiple attacks on Nembe 1, 2 and 3 gas and crude trunk line that links Brass and Bonny. Shell Corporation was operating one of the two crude trunk lines before it was sold to Aiteo, while the second trunk line belongs to Agip oil.
Aiteo, had in 2014 acquired the 100km Nembe trunk line from Shell, which the latter still relies on to convey crude to the Bonny Export Terminal from Bayelsa State.
The group claimed via its Twitter account that it had blown up the main electricity pipeline to the US firm, Chevron’s onshore Escravos facility, and a Chevron source confirmed to Reuters on Thursday that the company’s onshore activities had been ‘grounded’, cutting a potential 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Nigeria’s production.
On Friday, the group claimed another attack, saying it had blown up a ‘heavily guarded’ pipeline close to the refinery in Warri, which is managed by Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC).
The Managing Director of Cowry Asset Management Limited, Johnson Chukwu, said the resumption of hostilities in the Niger Delta, is a serious threat to the realisation of the projected N3.8 trillion revenue, as the assumption of 2.2 million barrels per day is no longer feasible, when the current 1.4 million bpd production is disrupted. “I am afraid the ‘change budget’ is collapsing,” he said.
The oil and gas pipelines ruptured in Warri South West Local Government Area have also worsened electricity generation plan of government.
Confirming the attack on the oil pipelines, Mr. Jonathan Obuebite, the Bayelsa Commissioner of Information, condemned the twin attacks, describing it as one too many.
Obuebite, who lamented the economic impact of destruction of the key oil facility, wondered why the militants would go to that extent, knowing the economic implication to the state, the Niger Delta region and the country at large.
He, therefore, called on security agents to be more alert and to devise new means to protect very important oil and gas facilities and to prevent further destructions.
Meanwhile, to forestall further vandalisation, traditional rulers and community leaders in the region have called on government to assign them constitutional responsibilities, which would enable them manage, monitor and secure facilities.
The President of the Ijaw Youths Congress (IYC), Udengs Eradiri, described the latest bombing as unfortunate, and asked government to wake up from its slumber, as attacks have put the nation in crisis.
Eradiri, in a telephone conversation, said it was agonising irony that the Nembe attack happened, while soldiers who were meant to guide it were in Oporoza, Delta State, breaking into innocent people’s homes, beating up people and whipping traditional rulers.
Eradiri also told The Guardian that it was disheartening that the Federal Government has not begun negotiation with the militants to end the incessant attacks on oil installations, irrespective of the adverse implication of the attacks on the country’s economy.
“It is time for President Muhammadu Buhari to engage the militants and the people of the Niger Delta. Nigeria is crumbling. The oil sector, which our economy is hinged on, is crumbling. Our environment is being destroyed. The resort to use of the military will not work. The President should engage former President Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, to learn how they managed the crisis in the Niger Delta during their time in office,” he said
Eradiri said IYC is opposed to the award of pipeline protection contract to the ex-militants, but to the communities, which he said have the ability to safeguard them better.
Environmental activist and state coordinator of the Environmental Action, ERA, Alagoa Morriss, lamented the damage on the environment and the people.
The managing director of Niger Delta Petroleum Company (NDPC), Dr. Layi Fatona, said there is need for government and the Niger Delta militants to make themselves available for talks to end pipeline bombings, which has led to surge in the price of crude at the international market.
According to him, the pipeline host communities are also affected by the criminal activities because of environmental pollution. He added that the bombings are only taking money away from the people.
The President of South South and South East Professionals, Mr. Emeka Ugwu-Oju, said though government had initiated talks with the militants, the peace meeting is not inclusive, as many stakeholders were left out in the peace meeting of last week
He noted that what is happening in the region is a product of distrust between the government and the people, who are feeling that they are not part of the government.
“Government has started serious engagement with the militants last week. There is need to Build trust between agitators, and government, because there is a right or wrong impression that this government is not for the South South people and, we cannot wish that away. This has given opportunity for some mischief-makers, who now want to take advantage of that. The government will now need to match words with actions to show that it is interested in the marshal plan for the region. They must bring all partners together and say this is serious and that we need a window for security. When this is done the ill-feelings will stop and they can get the agitators to lay down their arms.”
Speaking with The Guardian, the traditional ruler of Opokuma Kingdom of Bayelsa State, King Okpoitari Diongoli and a community leader, Chief Thomas Okorotie, canvassed the involvement of traditional rulers and host communities in securing oil installations.
Okorotie said one of the fundamental problems, which in fact, led to the vandalisation, is caused by oil companies, who use divide and rule system to deal with communities, but added that genuine involvement of traditional rulers remained the best option to building a sustainable peace and security in the region.
King Diongoli, on his part, called on government not only to empower traditional rulers, constitutionally, but to involve host communities in the co-ownership, management, monitoring and securing of projects initiated by oil companies.