Posted by By Daniel Alabrah on
* No Deal! Militants rebuff Niger Delta elders
The current ‘oil war’ in the Niger Delta may yet drag on as peace overtures by some Ijaw and Niger Delta elders have been rebuffed by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and its allied fighters.
The militia group, which ‘Operation Hurricane Barbarossa’ enters the eighth day today, has vowed to continue the destruction of oil installations in the Niger Delta until its incarcerated leader, Henry Okah, is set free by the Federal Government.
Sunday Sun gathered that for the first time, the elders sent by the government to the insurgents came back empty-handed as their appeal was turned down.
Prominent Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, said during the week that Niger Delta leaders would intervene to stop the violent confrontation between soldiers and the insurgents.
It was learnt that the militants shunned the peace move because of what a source described as “past betrayal by some of the elders.”
MEND’s spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo, who confirmed this in an electronic mail response to Sunday Sun enquiry, said: “We have decided to ignore the appeal from the elders this time with all due respect. We will halt hostilities the second Henry Okah is released.
“We have said this before. That will begin the next phase of dialogue towards the country practising true federalism.”
Okah is being tried in camera at a Federal High Court sitting in Jos, Plateau State, on a 62-count charge bordering on treason.
The MEND leader was arrested in Angola late last year for alleged gun-running and has been in detention since his extradition to Nigeria early this year.
On how they have been able to contain the aerial and marine offensive of the soldiers, Gbomo contended that the militants had an edge “(because) they (military) are doing what they do for a salary and we are doing what we do voluntarily.
“Secondly, our knowledge of and adaptation to the terrain has been crucial because we can launch attacks at night in pitch darkness and move at top speed of 200km per hour (in boats). These nocturnal operations, which we refer to as mosquito raids, have been very effective.
“This is a guerrilla war targeting the oil infrastructure. You do not need a large army or sophisticated weaponry to execute it.”
It is also believed that the new alliance between MEND and the Mujaheed Dokubo-Asari-led Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF) on one hand and that with other hitherto feuding militant groups had bolstered the resolve of the fighters.
Tuesday’s attack on the Shell-operated Orubiri flow station was carried out by a combination of the MEND and NDPVF men.
“All the factions and groups, including pirates and cultists, have understood that united we stand,” Gbomo stated, adding that so far they have lost only “nine gallant fighters.”
Unofficial sources, however, put the casualty figure on the part of the soldiers at more than 30, although this was disputed by the JTF spokesman, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, who insisted that no soldier had died in the conflict.
But a source close to the military said any official disclosure at this time would engender panic in the barracks, so the military authorities were being cautious because of the sensitive nature of the Niger Delta crisis.
Official figures put Nigeria’s daily oil revenue losses so far at N360 million and over 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) shut-in following destruction of flow stations and pipelines operated by three of the oil majors - Shell, Agip and Chevron.
Asked to disclose its next target, MEND refused, saying the information was classified. It, however, warned that soldiers and oil workers should vacate the Bonga and Agbami offshore rigs operated by Shell.