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Inside the militants’ kingdom

Posted by By PATRICK ASONYE (patrickasonye@sunnewsonline.com) on 2008/07/21 | Views: 1911 |

Inside the militants’ kingdom


As with the proverbial bird that dances in the middle of the road, with the supplier of the melodious beats sequestered somewhere in the bush, Sunday Sun can authoritatively reveal that the Niger Delta militants may in fact have good reasons to challenge the military to a combat in the creeks.

As with the proverbial bird that dances in the middle of the road, with the supplier of the melodious beats sequestered somewhere in the bush, Sunday Sun can authoritatively reveal that the Niger Delta militants may in fact have good reasons to challenge the military to a combat in the creeks.

These days, so audacious is their threat to life and property in the Niger Delta that observers sometimes sympathise with them ostensibly for embarking on suicide mission such as the boast to stand up to the might of the military.

Indeed, if the militants were seen to be grandstanding all along, what Sunday Sun discovered last week as constituting their combat capabilities would make even the British government think twice before sending its troops to assist Nigeria contain the militancy in the oil region.

Without exaggeration, in the camps of some of the militants can be found weapons that are far from available in the armouries of some African countries.
Yet the Niger Delta militants do not have in short supply such weapons as the notorious AK 47 rifles, assorted machine guns, dynamites and rocket launchers.
Uninhibited by the marshy terrain, which they are masterfully adapted to, Niger Delta militants are an intriguing lot.
Operating as major and minor groups, their areas of influence cover Bayelsa and Delta States. More importantly, each group has a “formidable” armoury hence they readily beat their chest in readiness for confrontation.

The gangs
There may be more, but the known militant gangs that have so far raised the stakes in the Niger Delta struggle include Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ijaw National Congress (INC), Movement for the Survival of Ijaw Ethnic Nationality (MOSSIEND), Movement for Reparations to Ogbia (MORETO) and Ijaw Youth Council (IYC).
Others are the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF), Federated Niger Delta Izon Community (FNDIC) and recently, the vociferous Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).
Arguably, the MEND is the largest and most organized. It is also the major torn in the flesh of both the government and the oil companies operating in the region.

BAYELSA STATE
In Bayelsa State for instance, there are about five major militant camps, each parading between 150 and 200 fighters with an identified leader. Olugbobiri, one of the camps, is led by Joshua Mckiver .
The others are Korokosei led by Africa Owei; Ikeberi 1 & 11 and Okiegbene/Ebrigbene led by Gibson Kala, aka Prince Igodo.
The others are Robert Creek and Cowthern Channel.
The minor camps include Azuzuama led by Commander Jackson, alias Young Shall Grow; Gbekeregbene, Ezetu and Agge (led by Victor Ben alias Boyloaf). Others are Bilabiri, Kurutiye, Forupa, Okubie and Clough Creek.

DELTA STATE
Under the same leadership of Government Ekpempolo, the militants have three camps in Delta State. They are Camp 5, Okerenkoko and Opuraza, while the minor ones are Ubefan and Berger camps.

Command structures
Having recorded “successes” in the areas of hostage taking, political thuggery and extortion of money from their state governments and oil companies, the militants are not only well equipped, they also maintain fairly well organized communes.

Combat readiness
In most major camps, Sunday Sun learnt that no fewer than 150 to 200 youths could be mobilized to fight at any given time. Sometimes, however, the leaders could muster as much as 500 fighters depending on the exigency.
Curiously, as Sunday Sun was further told, some of the militant groups are usually antagonistic to one another as a consequence of supremacy contest.
Notwithstanding the apparent division within their ranks, Sunday Sun also learnt that the militants readily unite to fight a “common enemy” whenever there is one. More often than not, the “common enemy” is the military, particularly the Joint Military Task Force.
In that circumstance, each of the camps could mobilise as much as 1000 fighters, including reinforcement from outside its immediate territory.

Weapons
Although they are believed to be largely without military training, the weapons in the camps of the militants and their ability to handle them during combat call that assumption to question.
In their various camps are such firearms as AK 47 rifles and others categorized as GPMG, BMG, RPG 7, speed boats an as well as Gun boats mounted with GPMG and BMGs.
It is also believed that Ekpempolo’s Camp 5 has an Anti-Aircraft machine gun.

Gang leaders
African Owei
Specifically in Bayelsa State, Africa Owei is said to have his camp – Osiaperemo - near a creek along the waterways in Korokorosei community. Besides, he is also believed to have another camp, which serves as his hideout, at Azuzuama community.
Currently he is said to be the commander of no fewer than 400 diehards, including his concubines and domestic staff.

Among his weaponry are three General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG), 50 assorted rifles, including AK 47 and Pump Action guns with “inexhaustible” rounds of ammunition and dynamites.
To aid patrol in the creeks, he has about 17 speed boats, three of which look like locally configured gunboats, on which are usually mounted the GPMGs.
His adversaries say he is an ex-prison inmate who started out as a political thug before chancing on illegal oil bunkering rackets.

Joshua Mackiver
The story is the same in the camp of Joshua Mackiver, commander of one of the contending militant groups.
With a camp that is difficult to access because of the swampy terrain, Mackiver, Sunday Sun learnt, operates from a fishing port around the Olugbobiri area in Southern Ijaw council. Even at that, he is in charge of about 300 loyal fighters. They are armed with AK 47 rifles and GPMGs.
In fact, he might as well have acquired what is called RPG 7 launchers and even hired mercenaries to train his boys in weapons handling.
In all, Mackiver’s amoury could boast of at least 100 AK 47s, 15 General Purpose Machine Guns and seven pieces of RPG 7.
Like Owei, he was said to have bolted out of the Port Harcourt prison during the 2006 jail-break.

Victor-Ben Ebikabowei
Victor-Ben Ebikabowei, it would appear, is the most ambitious of the ring leaders. He operates three camps in Ezetu, Azuzuama and Agge, a border community between Ekermor and Southern Ijaw council.
Again, he is credited with the most organized and disciplined fighters estimated at between 200 and 300.
Until he became a Commander himself, Victor-Ben was said to be a “true ally” of Asari-Dokubo, and reportedly operated in the Port Harcourt axis along with Dagogo Farah. He is believed to be “well armed” and close to detained Henry Okah.
In his arsenal could be gleaned the following: 15 GPMGs, about 120 AK 47 rifles, 15 Long Range BMGs, 3 RPG 7 AND about 20 double-engine, 150 horse power speed boats that literally fly in the water.
For some reasons, his gang is said to be affiliated to the MEND.

Gibson Kala
Gibson Kala has his camp at Okigbene Community, southern Ijaw, while his personal residence serves as armoury and operational headquarters. In his camp are about 50 fighters, mostly teenagers and youngsters in their early twenties.
Sunday Sun learnt that in his armoury are some Uzi Machine guns, GPMGs and AK 47 rifles.
To facilitate his movement in the waterways, Kala is believed to have two boats usually mounted with machine guns often serving as gunboats, as well as seven Speed boast, double 175 engines.

Jackson
With his own camp at the Azuzuama area of Southern Ijaw, Jackson was described as an “up start” in militancy. Currently, he is believed to be loyal to Government Epkompolo, the militant leader based in Okerenkoko, Delta State.
Even then, Jackson is said to be well armed with AK 47 rifles while no fewer than 40 boys are ready to lay down their lives for him.

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