04 April 2013, Lagos – Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), one of the largest militant groups in the Niger Delta region, said it will resume attacks on oil installations in the region, beginning tomorrow (Friday) to drive home its protest over the sentencing, of Henry Okah, leader of the group to 24-year jail term recently by a South African court.
But the Joint Task Force, JTF, codenamed Operation Pulo Shield has dismissed the threats and asked persons “parading themselves as MEND” to embrace the peace in the region or face its wrath.
Okah, accused of masterminding the October 1, 2010 Abuja twin bombing was sentenced to 24 years in prison by Justice Neels Claaseen of the South Gauteng High Court, South Africa after finding him guilty.
Okah was found guilty in January for the October 2010 bombing in Abuja, which killed at least 12 people and wounded three dozen during a celebration to mark the country’s 50 years of independence.
But MEND said that the case against its leader was politically motivated and would therefore embark on “sustained attacks” on oil and gas infrastructure under an operation codenamed “Hurricane Exodus” as from midnight on Friday.
Gbomo Jomo, spokesman, MEND in a statement said that the planned attacks were provoked by the way and manner the trial of its leader, Henry Okah, on terrorism charges, was handled in South Africa.
According to the group, the conviction of Okah was based on “a forged threat letter contrived by the Nigerian and South African governments purporting to have originated from MEND.”
“This fake letter was used as evidence against Henry Okah for which a 13 years sentence was passed. To make matters worse, the prosecution’s second witness Mr. Sele Victor-Ben exclaimed in court that the letter was fake after failing to catch the prosecutor’s eye who wanted him to lie under oath.
“We are now determined to conjure this imaginary trumped up threat into a painful reality.
“The attacks will be sustained until an unreserved apology is offered to MEND and the Nigerian government shows their willingness to dialogue. The same way they are willing to dialogue with Boko Haram,” MEND said in the statement widely circulated to the media.
Elsewhere, Lt. Col Onyema Nwachukwu, media coordinator, Joint Task Force, dismissed the threats by MEND and said that the JTF has positioned its troops in strategic places and put them on alert to tackle any possible upheaval.
The statement said: “Niger Deltans are not in any bondage and therefore do not require armed struggle or emancipation as claimed by this threatening gang.
“What Niger Deltans are in a dire need of now is peace for sustainable development having emerged from the dark days of turbulence in the region.
“Informed by this development we have effected some redeployment to tackle any upheaval. This set of people are advised to toe the path of law and order in addressing whatever grievance they have and to desist from any action that will upset the peace and development of the Niger Delta.
“The good and peace loving people of the Niger Delta are enjoined to dissociate themselves, their communities and leadership from this unwholesome approach as portrayed by this group.”
The MEND threats came amid fresh tension already brewing in the Niger Delta over the allocation of 11 oil blocks located in the region to non-indigenes of the area under an asset redistribution programme by the Federal Government targeted at facilitating more indigenous participation in the industry.