• Defence Headquarters Denies Claim
• Clark Insists On Withdrawal Of Military Barely 24 hours after leaders from the six coastal states of the Niger Delta met in Warri, to formulate a road map to achieve peace in the region, Ijaw leaders from Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South West Council, Delta state, yesterday, raised the alarm that the Nigerian military was warming up to bombard their communities. They alleged that military drones and fighter jets have been encircling the communities followed by unannounced visitations of naval and Army gun boats to the communities.
But the military yesterday dismissed the claim of the Gbaramatu Kingdom, saying it’s a false alarm and just a figment of the imagination of some individuals.Director of Defence Information, (DDI) Brig-Gen Rabe Abubakar told The Guardian on phone that with the ongoing negotiation between the Federal Government and the militants, it would be out of place for the military to deploy its men to the area.
He noted that the presence of military planes in the Nigerian airspace, especially now that there is general insecurity in the country, is not to scare anybody, but to assure the Nigerian people of the safety of their lives and properties.The headquarters of the Gbaramatu Kingdom, Oporoza, was invaded and occupied for two weeks, in June by soldiers searching for militants allegedly destroying oil facilities.
The spokesman of the Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekema, told The Guardian they have uncovered a secret plot by the Presidency and the military to bombard the Ijaw communities in Delta State the way they bombed alleged militants’ camps in parts of Lagos and Ogun states recently. He said the planned bombardment was being orchestrated to scuttle the prospect of the Maritime University at Okerenkoko resuming, as the government would now have excuse to scrap the university and substantiate it’s earlier claim that where the varsity is sited, is not a peaceful environment for learning. Gbenekema said the body language of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Presidency shows that they are not interested in dialoguing with the Niger Delta people or the militants.He said while the leaders of the Niger Delta region have been meeting in order to find solution to the problems in the Niger Delta, the Federal Government is looking the other way and has not shown any serious commitment to dialoguing with the Niger Delta people.
The Gbaramatu leader said if the Federal Government is sincerely interested in peace talks, it would have established a team to drive the talks.He said, “We are aware that while leaders, Kings, Chiefs and stakeholders of the Niger Delta are struggling to bring about peace because of the destruction of critical oil infrastructure by the militants, the Federal Government is making arrangements to bombard Gbaramatu. We have said it before that the king, leaders and people of Gbaramatu Kingdom don’t know who the Niger Delta Avengers are, they don’t live in Gbaramatu.”
He said the agitation for the development of the Niger Delta region is not limited to the Gbaramatu people alone, wondering why the Gbaramatu people were always made to bear the brunt of the agitations in the region. Gbenekema said the kingdom took the Federal Government to court and won the case and that the courts asked the government to pay N99. 97b to the Gbaramatu people but the government pretended not to know.
The Gbaramatu spokesman urged all parties including the Niger Delta Avengers and other militant groups to sheath their sword and to discontinue the destruction of oil facilities in the region as the people of the region were the ones most affected. Meanwhile, the Director of Defence Information, Rabe has explained that, “They are only raising a false alarm. There is no iota of truth or evidence in what they are claiming, there are over 6000 pipelines in that region, though some of the major ones have been attacked by the militants recently, the Armed Forces cannot deploy war planes to the region for several reasons.
“The major reason being that there are ongoing negotiations between the government and the militants, so we cannot do anything while our political leaders are negotiating to end whatever that has been happening there.
“The presence of military planes in the Nigeria airspace as a whole would be understood, but to say the focus is on Gbaramutu or Ijaw communities does not make sense, it lacks credibility as there is also no basis for that, at least for now”.
The DDI said most of the insinuations being peddled are just to put the military in the wrong psyche of the people. He recalled that a few weeks ago there was an advertisement in some papers “that the military had occupied these areas, but there was nothing like that. All over the country, especially where there is insecurity, to ensure the safety of the citizens, the military must monitor, carry out aerial surveillance to ensure that the people are secured.”
“So they are not saying the truth. It is just a figment of the imagination of some people, just a false alarm. It not true and we are completely in compliance and aligned to the current negotiation the political leadership is into with the militants. So the issue of saying we deploy troops or fighter jets is just an insinuation and a figment of the imagination of some other people.” The leader of the Ijaw nation, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, has advised the Federal Government to withdraw all the troops deployed to the Niger Delta, and to enter into talks with the people.
While condemning the destructive activities of the Niger Delta Avengers and other militant groups, Clark said the threat by the Avengers to declare a Niger Delta Republic on October 1, was unacceptable.He urged the Federal Government to come clean on its alleged plan to engage the region in peace talks saying “there are rather conflicting reports about who the Federal Government is discussing with, and who, indeed, represents the government and our people”.