Less than 24 hours after another key pipeline of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was bombed by militants, the military authorities in Delta State yesterday said it has apprehended a suspected pipeline vandal with some gadgets and wires, which they suspect are used to blow up pipelines.
Although military authorities said they were still interrogating the suspect, they were not sure if he played any role in the bombing of the NNPC and Chevron pipelines.
The Niger Delta Avengers between late Thursday and early yesterday simultaneously coordinated the bombing of several pipelines around Batan community in Warri South-West Council of Delta State. The multiple explosions caused panic among residents of the area.
A source told The Guardian on phone yesterday that the military appear overwhelmed because the militants usually strike in the night and near locations where their camps are located.
“The NNPC/NPDC pipelines that were blown yesterday are not far away from the military camp/checkpoint on the river. “Most of them don’t know the terrain very well and without guidance by the locals, they get lost in the creeks,” the source, who does not want his name in print, told The Guardian yesterday.
The military authorities have confirmed the attacks, but said the have stepped up patrol of the areas. The military said it was planning a number of operations geared towards stopping the criminal acts, which it would not disclose.It added that security of oil facilities cannot be done alone by the military, but with the cooperation of members of the communities and urged the public to come up with useful information that could help track the militants. “We are trying our best. We have increased surveillance of oil installations and we are planning more operations,” the military authorities said.
The damaged pipelines are said to be operated by the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC) and Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), both subsidiaries of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The facilities were said to be severely damaged and may further affect the country’s oil production.
The group tweeted yesterday morning: “At 11:45pm on Thursday, NDAvengers blew up another NNPC Gas and Crude trunkline close to Warri. Pipeline that was heavily guarded by the military.”
The militants described the Niger Delta stakeholders meeting held on Wednesday in Abuja as an insult to the people of the Niger Delta, saying what they need is a sovereign state, not pipeline contracts.
It further said: “To the International Oil Companies (IOCs) and the Nigeria military, watch out, something big is about to happen and it would shock the whole world.”
The militants on Tuesday blew up Chevron’s main pipeline that supplies gas and provides electricity to the Escravos tank farm in Delta State and also claimed responsibility for most attacks on oil pipelines in the Niger Delta, warning that it would destroy more till it gets a sovereign state.
“Despite the heavy presence of military in the creeks, it will not stop us from carrying out our operations. We are ready to destroy more pipelines, we won’t only destroy pipelines, but will bring the fight to your tank farm and your headquarters in Lekki, Lagos,” it stated.
A spokesperson for the group, Mudoch Agbinibo, had earlier warned government of further attacks if their demands were not met.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole, and other top government officials on Wednesday met with stakeholders from the Niger Delta region over the resurgence of militancy.
Kachikwu told journalists at the end of the meeting that the federal government was ready to check sabotage in the region, adding that both parties had resolved to work together to stop the recent upsurge in attacks on critical oil and gas installations and ensure security, stability and economic development of the region.
Kachikwu said the stakeholders resolved that solutions to the incessant attacks on oil and gas pipelines are within the communities, which are now saddled with the responsibility of ensuring the protection of pipelines within their domain.
He said it was resolved that all threats from the region should end, because violence was not an option in resolving the problems of the Niger Delta.
Meanwhile, an Itsekiri businessman, Chief Ayirimi Emami, has expressed support for federal government’s efforts to rid the area of those he called “criminal elements” and urged those behind the attacks on oil installations to embrace dialogue and consultation.
He decried the call for a sovereign state in the Niger Delta, saying: “I don’t understand what they mean by sovereign State of Niger Delta. We did not agitate for such when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was President and I wonder why such call now.
“For six years, our people occupied and headed the Presidency, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and even the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, but there is very little to show, in terms of the impact of these agencies.
“The federal government needs to talk to genuine Niger Delta leaders who have the interest of the region at heart and not an individual or individuals that use violence for personal gains.
“We had the opportunity to give ourselves oil blocs for six years, but we didn’t.”
He urged the military to fish out those responsible for the attacks without laying siege on communities and resorting to collateral punishment.