*Claim govt not sincere with negotiations
*Air Force spends N2.8bn to fuel fighter jets for nationwide security operations
08 January 2017, Lagos — More than a month after cessation of hostilities, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) has threatened to resume attacks on the nation’s oil assets in the oil-rich Niger-Delta region.
The militants, who issued their threat yesterday in a statement, expressed disappointment that the federal government was not sincere in acceding to their demands and reaching a peace deal with their representatives, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) led by Chief Edwin Clark.
To make good its threat, NDA stated that it had placed its fighters and commands on high red alert. The militant group in the statement titled “Operations Walls of Jericho and Hurricane Joshua”, signed by its Spokesperson, Murdoch Agbinibo, said that all fighters and commands have been placed on high readiness for the operations to hit and knock the enemy very hard.
It claimed that the planned showdown was in response to the refusal of the Federal Government to dialogue with Chief Edwin Clark led Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) set up to negotiate a peaceful means of finding lasting solutions to the crisis in the region.
NDA, which met with Buhari last November and made 16 demands from the federal government, recalled that since the suspension of attacks in the region by all its fighters and affiliates, it had been evidently clear that the federal government was not ready for any form of dialogue and negotiation with their people to address the issues sustaining the unending sufferings and deprivation of the people of the Niger Delta.
“The world is aware that, after listening to calls from our Royal Fathers, Community Leaders, Stakeholders and members of the comity of nations especially the governments of the United States of America, Great Britain and the European Union, we halted all actions.
“This prospect for hope for a genuine dialogue and negotiations have been dashed and rejected. The world knows that PANDEF as a team of critical stakeholders was mandated to engender a genuine dialogue and negotiations process that will be made of apolitical committed Niger Deltans to engage with the government and people of Nigeria, representatives of the International Oil Corporations and neutral observers.
“But this government decides to go around to politicising and blackmailing the process to forestall any genuine dialogue and negotiations,” noted the militant group.
NDA, however, assured that its next line of actions to ‘redeem Operation Red Economy’ will be unannounced with surely overwhelming signatures to the Federal Government and humanity adding, “The world is aware that, the government of Nigeria has ear problems but we never knew that it has taken a deteriorating deaf level dimensions. It is only through hard knocks we can speak to the Nigerian government henceforth”.
The militant group expressed its belief that, the 2017 national budget is not based on the crude oil production output from the Niger Delta but that on the newly found oil deposits in the North and the new pipelines construction from the Niger Republic.
It accused the International Oil Companies (IOCs) and their partners that have been awarded the 2017/2018 crude oil term contracts by the federal government of conspiracy against the people of the region. “Their contract at a time when the Nigerian State has turned deaf ears to the Niger Delta Agitation is seen as a conspiracy against our people that will fail. These contracts will make or mar the destinies of your companies in our Niger Delta.”
Since the militant attacks were put on hold, Nigeria’s crude production, which had been draining witnessed increases, which translated to accretion to the foreign reserves. For instance, on November 1, the gross foreign reserves stood at $23,946,448,274 and by November 30, the level was raised to $24,771,597,897, representing an increase of $825,149,623 or 3.45 percent in the review month. Only a few days ago, the reserves recorded a remarkable rise to $26.2billion from $25.8billion on December 30, 2016.
But NDA noted that it was declaring “Operations Walls of Jericho and Hurricane Joshua” simultaneously to “reclaim our motherland and dislodge all cleavages the Nigerian Ruling oligarchy has foisted on the region that is sustaining the on-going primitive accumulation by dispossession”.
“As we get prepared for the challenges ahead 2017, We make bold to tell the people of our Niger Delta, sane minds in Nigeria and the comity of nations that the remaining 11 months and couples of weeks in 2017 will be filled with surprises and a reconfiguration of the struggle for the liberation of our motherland”, it added.
It could, however, not get a reaction from the Nigerian government to the threats issued by NDA.
However, the Federal Government has recommenced the payment of monthly stipends owed ex-militants under the Presidential Amnesty Programme in the Niger Delta.
The arrears, which had already started causing ripples among the repentant warlords were being paid in trickles as only two months out of about five months arrears of stipends owed the former agitators have been offset.
A leader of Phase 3 of the Amnesty Programme, Mr. Ramsey Mukoro, who spoke on Saturday in Yenagoa, confirmed that some former agitators had received two out of their arrears.
“The Amnesty Office has started paying but my third phase people have yet to get alerts. We are hoping that we in the third phase will benefit soon as well.
“It has really been difficult for us. We spent Christmas and New Year on empty stomachs. The government should try to make the payment go round quick”, the ex-militant leader said.
In his reaction, the Liaison Officer, PAP, Bayelsa State Office, Mr. Piriye Kiyaramo, also confirmed that the Amnesty Office has recommenced the payment after the New Year holidays.
“The Amnesty Office commenced payment of the outstanding stipends this week after the new year.
“The Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Brig.-Gen. Paul Boroh (retd.), is concerned about the welfare of beneficiaries in the programme.
“He would stop at nothing until a sustainable reintegration of the ex-agitators into the society with a sustainable source of livelihood,” Kiyaramo said in a statement.
The commencement of payment of allowances came a few days after chairmen of Phase 1 and 2 of Bayelsa State Amnesty Programme, Mr. Excel Divine, and Salvation Ibina-Rufus, respectively, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene.
They had contended that the President’s quick intervention would douse the tension already mounting in the region over the unpaid arrears.
Ibina-Rufus, had urged Buhari to order the Federal Ministry of Finance to release money to pay the ex-agitators to avoid another round of restiveness in the region.
However, they added that based on the meeting they held with Boroh, the Amnesty boss had shown sincerity and commitment towards their pay.
They had blamed the Ministry of Finance over the delay in the release of funds for the Amnesty office for the payment of the five-month arrears.
Meanwhile, in the spirit of transparency and accountability, the Nigerian Air Force has revealed that it spent N2.8 billion on 10.9 million litres of aviation fuel to ensure security across the nation. The amount covered a period of January to December 2016.
The Air Force noted yesterday at a press briefing that various aeroplanes were flown for 7,316.9 hours to maintain the security of lives and property in the country.
This disclosure was made even as the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said the Air Force would continue to fly day and night over Sambisa Forest to ensure that the Boko Haram insurgents never regroup again.
Addressing a press conference in Maiduguri on the efforts of the Nigerian Air Force to ensure the security and unity of the country, Abubakar said that the dangerous terrain of Sambisa Forest was being monitored daily to ensure that the insurgents did not restrategise against Nigerians.
He argued that there was no way for the terrorists to regroup in Sambisa Forest as aeroplanes were hovering on it day and night.
According to him, in the last one week, there had not been any life in the Forest as no movement had been allowed in the area.
Abubakar said the Air Force was on red alert to deal with any threat in the former Boko Haram enclave. He expressed excitement about the comradeship existing between all the arms of the military especially in the counter-insurgency in the North-east.
Earlier presenting the assessment for the year ending 2016, the Air Officer Commanding Tactical Air Command, Air Vice Marshall Nurudeen Balogun, said that the year was a good year for them especially in the various theatres where they are battling with criminals like Sharan Daji, Delta Safe, Awatse and Lafiya Dole.
He revealed that in Operation Awatse, warplanes flew for 25 hours which translates to the consumption of 21,350 litres at N5.4 million; Sharan Daji with 181 missions which took 275.9 flying hours with 65,494 litres of fuel at the cost of N16.7 million.
The two other operations, Delta Safe had 382 sorties in 516 hours and 341,264 litres of fuel at a cost of N87 million; in Lafiya Dole where 1,994 missions were undertaken in 3,353 sorties in 6,500 hours of flight costing N2.7 billion.
Balogun said the potency of air power of the Air Force was displayed in the campaign against insurgents.
“The spread of security challenges led to the various operations like Awaste which has been on since 2010 where gunboats and illegal oil containers were taken out. Operation Sharandaji was a response from July to September 2016.
“Others include patrol of Kaduna-Abuja railway tracks to ensure security and reduction of vandals where footage showed that criminals scattered as a result of aerial pounding.
Also, 181 missions were conducted in this operation.
Balogun said that “The above statistics underscores the immense contribution of the NAF towards decimating the BHT leadership, degrading major BHT lethal capabilities and blocking their supply routes.
“Additionally, these operations facilitated the recapture of other BHT occupied territories and paved the way for the establishment of government controls in these territories.”
He said the Air Force also in the course of 2016 complemented the efforts of Federal Government by providing significant humanitarian assistance to various IDP camps in Borno and Adamawa states.
He said the people of the country should expect more from the Air Force as the experiences in the North-east, North-west, South-west and South-south axis of the country had brought to the fore a number of operational gaps in the application of airpower.
According to him, “It is the ability to learn from these experiences that would make the NAF more effective in the Year 2017. This experience underscores the need for a more effective intelligence gathering capability, as well as night capability and precision, guided munitions, good communication network and availability of aircraft critical spares.
“Also, the need for better synergy and understanding between the NAF and the surface forces as well as the need to enhance reach and endurance of NAF platforms called for the need to establish additional FOBs. The overall objective is to improve capabilities, methodology and refine processes with a view to ensuring effectiveness and efficiency in the application of airpower.”
*Michael Olugbode, Sylvester Idowu and Emmanuel Addeh – Thisday