Agip pipelines go up in flames in Bayelsa’s fresh militants attack

NNPC-pipeline-explosionNiger Delta Avengers are not freedom fighters, says Osinbajo

Unrelenting and rampaging militants have shifted their campaigns against oil production in the oil rich region to Bayelsa State yesterday morning, attacking and destroying pipelines belonging to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC).

Though it could not be ascertained if the militants were the Niger Delta Avengers who have resumed hostilities after the proposed talk with the Federal Government stalled, The Guardian gathered that the marauding gunmen engaged operatives from the state command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), who tried to stop them in a duel.

The attacks on the Agip pipelines in Bayelsa came in the wake of the bombing of major oil installations in both Delta and Rivers states by the Niger Delta Avengers, who have since refused to dialogue with the Federal Government.

The spokesman of the Ijaw Youth Congress, IYC, Eric Omare blamed the Federal Government’s no clear-cut direction on the proposed talks with Niger Delta leaders as the reason for the renewed hostilities in the region.

Omare, in a telephone interview with The Guardian, said it was rather unfortunate that there was a resumption of attacks on oil facilities after the seeming ceasefire.

“However, for some of us, before these attacks, we had our fears that there was no progress as per attempts to discuss. This is so because we had expected that after the federal government did a unilateral declaration of ceasefire, they would have taken drastic steps to start engagement with stakeholders in the region. However, this was not the case as there is no clear-cut direction by the federal government as far as discussions are concerned and I think that this is mainly responsible for the situation we find ourselves now.”

The early morning attacks of yesterday occurred at Goulubukori manifold in Nembe axis and Lagos Gbene pipeline in Southern Ijaw local council, close to Ekeremor area of Bayelsa State. A source who spoke in confidence said a speedboat operated by NSCDC tried to dislodge the militants to save the pipelines but to no avail as they hit their target before speeding off.

“The NSCDC engaged the saboteurs in a gun battle. There was a heavy exchange of gunfire between them. But the militants were heavily armed and large in number. They ensured that they destroyed the pipelines before zooming off”, the source said.

They were said to have arrived the affected areas on speedboats with two double 200 horsepower engines which security operatives and the Bayelsa state government had banned from moving in the waterways of Bayelsa.

Another source from NAOC, who spoke in confidence, described the attackers as “heavily armed youths” and identified the damaged pipeline as the Tebidaba-Brass Agip pipeline, adding that the facility was ruptured at three different points.

He said: “Reports from the swamp area indicate that last night and early hours of this morning, a gang of heavily armed youths with two double 200hp speedboats used explosives to blast three different points on the Tebidaba-Brass NAOC pipelines.” The source further said that the company was about carrying out an investigation to confirm the blast areas and extent of damage. It was gathered that the affected areas were raging with fire and thick smoke while spilled crude oil was spreading and permeating the environment. The Bayelsa Commandant, NSCDC, Mr. Desmond Agu, confirmed the incident and said his men exchanged gunfire with the attackers. Agu urged the youths to stop destroying their environment in the name of agitation noting that any attack on a pipeline was an attack on the future survival of the region.

He said: “We are not relenting because we have the mandate to protect all critical assets of the government within our areas of responsibility. We are asking troublemakers to leave the creeks and embrace peace. There is no alternative to peace because without it there will be no development.”

Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) has been at the vanguard of campaigns to cripple Nigeria’s oil production in the Niger Delta region.

Meanwhile, the Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has described the new militant group in the Niger Delta region of the nation, Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) as saboteurs. Osinbajo said this yesterday when delivering the Second Foundation Day Lecture at Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State, titled:
“The Future Is here, Earlier than We Thought.”

The Vice President faulted the agitations of the new group in the southern part of the country, noting that they are a group of individuals driven towards selfish interest and a questionable move to frustrate the anti-corruption policies of the Federal Government. “The Niger Delta Avengers are not freedom fighters. They are not fighting for the people, they are only fighting for themselves. You cannot be blowing up pipelines and making governance difficult in the state and say you are freedom fighter.”

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