08 February 2012, Sweetcrude, WARRI- FEAR enveloped the oil industry, Wednesday, as the fear-provoking militant group, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta, MEND, renewed, its warning to carry out more serious attacks on the Nigerian oil industry in the next few weeks.
In response to the threat, however, the Joint Task Force, codenamed, Operation Pulo Shield, which dismissed the forewarning as propaganda, has put its men on the alert in the Niger-Delta.
Investigations showed that oil companies, including Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company, SNPEC, Chevron Nigeria Limited, Agip and others, have put in place some measures, which an industry source described as “normal” to avert danger.
Corporate Media Relations Manager of SNPEC, Mr. Tony Okonedo, while speaking on Wednesday, said, “We continue to take normal precautions for our staff and facilities, but government is actually in-charge of security”.
It was gathered that some oil companies were already recalling expatriates from the locations in the creeks to the cities because they would be easy target for abduction by militants in the swampy locations.
Some of the workers in the creeks have also indicated interest to return onshore so as not to be caught in an awkward situation.
Media coordinator of JTF, Lt. Col Timothy Antigha had in a press statement stated that those who issued the warning in the name of MEND were impostors that want to swindle Niger Deltans by appropriating the identity of the estwhile leadership of MEND to advance their selfish interest.
“For the avoidance of doubt, people who were the leadership of MEND are now responsible members of the society, having accepted the amnesty,” he added.
The JTF named about seven persons, who it said were responsible for the attack on Agip trunk line at Brass in Bayelsa state, which the militant group claimed responsibility for.
MEND in an internet post by its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, clearly frowning, at the dismissal of its threat by JTF, stated., “The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) advises Nigerians to disregard the pathetic attempt at propaganda by a very unintelligent spokesperson of the Joint Task Force (JTF), Col Timothy Antigha”.
“ As confirmed in early 2011, all statements posted on Sahara reporters and the times of Nigeria websites are authentic MEND statements.
“Just as Goodluck Jonathan attempted to blame our bomb attacks of 1 October, 2010, on northern politicians, it is very convenient for the Nigerian government to again frame innocent people.
“We hope the government of Nigeria has apprehended all persons declared wanted as in the next few weeks we will carry out more serious attacks on the Nigerian oil industry. Then, we wonder what tales the daft spokesman for the Nigerian military will have for the media,” the group added.
JTF had in response by its spokesman, Lt. Col. Antigha over the claim by MEND that it carried out last Friday night’s Agip blast, stated that the dastardly act was not carried out by MEND, but a group of seven person, who it identified.
According to the JTF statement, “Following the dynamite explosion which compromised AGIP manifold at Brass on Friday night, the Joint Task Force OPERATION PULO SHIELD have identified the following as the brains behind the dastardly act”.
“They are: Friday Burutu, Lord Onipa, Robinson Agagudu, Eyala Karo, Stanley Uduorie, Para Ekiyes and Rasmus Omukoro.
“Consequently, these suspects are advised to turn themselves in for interaction with authorities of the Joint Task Force in Yenagoa, latest 12 noon, 8 Feb 2012”, the task force stated.
It added, “The Joint Task Force wishes to reiterate its earlier warning that the suspects and their cohorts are out to swindle Niger Deltans by appropriating the identity of the estwhile leadership of MEND to advance their selfish interest. For the avoidance of doubt, people who were the leadership of MEND are now responsible members of the society, having accepted the amnesty”.
“In the light of these, the general public is advised to remain calm and discountenance the tissue of lies issued by these suspects as their raison d’etre, because the relevant stages of the amnesty which was granted to authentic ex militants and all the attendant benefits are still on course,” Lt. Col Antigha asserted.
Before its latest reaction, Wednesday, MEND, had described the comments of the army spokesman as misplaced.
According to the group, The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta(MEND) wishes to respond to the ignorant comments of the spokesperson of the Joint Task Force, JTF, Col Timothy Antigha and the government of South Africa through its Ministry of International Affairs. The JTF spokesperson in his little mind is failing to comprehend the gravity of the situation unfolding in the Niger Delta and attributes our attack on the Agip pipeline to instigation by imaginary persons interested in benefiting from the fraud that was the disarmament process in the Niger Delta”.
“The Nigerian government claims to have disarmed more people than exist in the Nigerian Army with only two thousand weapons to show for all their trouble. The lull in fighting by all groups in the Niger Delta is being used to acquire more sophisticated weapons to ensure that our next assault on the Nigerian oil industry expels western oil companies once and for all. There is nothing the Nigerian military can do to halt us.
“Agip cleverly indicated that 4000 barrels of its production is affected by our attack. The reality is that close to 200,000 bpd of Nigerian crude exports is affected by our attack as that trunk line served to transport crude oil for other oil companies as well. This translates to a daily loss of at least 20 million us dollars”, it said.
“To the South African government, which expressed confidence in the ability of the Nigerian goveremment to handle insurgents like MEND, it said, “ we accept your challenge and will show you how easy it is to drive your investments out of our region. If the Nigerian government cannot protect companies like Shell and Chevron, how will they manage to protect an insignificant Sacoil?
“Within the next few weeks, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta will carry out a few major attacks on oil installations to demonstrate to the world the helplessness of oil companies and the Nigerian military.
After these next attacks, there will be a brief pause as we await the time agreed upon by all groups in the delta for the resumption of hostilities in the Niger Delta”, Jomo Gbomo stated.