Less than 48 hours after the Federal Government offered to hold peace talks with rampaging militants in the Niger Delta, the Niger Delta Avengers, on Wednesday morning, blew up another Chevron oil well.
The NDA has claimed responsibility for the series of attacks on oil facilities in the region.
The facility, identified as Dibi Flow Station, is operated by Chevron around Usor village in the Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State.
Local residents told one of our correspondents on Wednesday that the incident occurred at about 1 am on Wednesday.
A prominent activist in the area, Mr. Graham Abulu, confirmed the incident in an interview with The PUNCH.
Abulu said the loud explosions of the attack sparked panic among residents of the area.
Another source in the area, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told one of our correspondents that the flow station burst into flame after the explosion.
A senior military officer, who also did not want his name mentioned, also confirmed the attack.
The source said a technical team had already been dispatched to the spot of the incident to assess the damage.
The dreaded Niger Delta Avengers, which claimed responsibility for similar incidents in the past, also claimed responsibility for the attack through its tweeter handle, @NDAvengers.
“At 1am today, the @NDAvengers blow up(sic) Well RMP 20, belonging to Chevron, located 20 meters(sic) away from Dibi flow Station in Warri North LGA,” it stated.
The group also denied agreeing any ceasefire deal with the Federal Government to pave the way for negotiation.
“This is to the general public: we’re not negotiating with any Committee. If Fed Govt is discussing with any group, they’re doing that on their own,” the group said.
The Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, 4 Brigade Command of the Nigerian Army, Benin, Captain Jonah Unuakhalu, said he was not aware of the incident, but promised to confirm and get back to one of our correspondents.
But the team, set up by the Federal Government to hold talks with the NDA, said it had not commenced negotiation with the group.
A top member of the team, who confided in one of our correspondents on Wednesday, said talks with the group had not started because the terms and reference of the committee had not been unveiled.
“You mean modalities? No! It is not clear yet. They have not come out with the terms of reference yet. We have not started,” the source added.
The Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who announced the setting up of the committee on Monday, said the government’s team would be coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser.
He listed the members of the committee to include the Minister of Niger Delta, Usani Uguru; himself, traditional rulers and influential individuals from the group.
Meanwhile, a former President of the Ijaw Youths Council, Dr. Chris Ekiyor, has hailed the decision of the President to set up a committee to negotiate with the Avengers.
Ekiyor told one of our correspondents on the telephone on Wednesday that declaring a ceasefire in the area for the commencement of dialogue was commendable.
However, Ekiyor, who is the Secretary of the Delta State Government Advocacy Committee on Pipeline Vandalism, set up Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, advised that efforts should be made to include stakeholders, who were known by the government and the people of the area to build trust.
Also, former Niger Delta militants, under the aegis of Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative, have appealed to the Niger Delta Avengers to lay down their arms and embrace the Federal Government’s call for dialogue.
The LPCDI, which made the appeal in a communique it issued on Wednesday, said the move would engender sustainable peace, save the environment and prevent the annihilation of the Niger Delta people.
The National Coordinator, LCPDI, Reuben Wilson, aka ‘General’ Pastor, condemned the actions of the NDA, and appealed to them to give peace a chance.
Wilson said the LCPDI stood for peace and would always do so because of the greater interest of the entire Niger Delta region.
He stated, “If you take an honest look at the actions of the NDA, you will see that the bombing of pipelines and other vices will have a lasting negative effect on our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters and even children in the communities, who will not have a source of livelihood if the whole area is polluted.
“We also don’t want soldiers to invade our communities like they did in Borno State and rendered thousands of persons homeless. Rather, we advise them (NDA) to channel their grievances through the right method instead of destroying their own land and heritage to make their point.
“We wish to appeal to the members of the Niger Delta Avengers and any other groups involved in the recent destruction of oil facilities in the region to reconsider their activities and yield to the call from the Presidency for dialogue as a means of finding lasting solutions to their grievances.”
The national president noted that President Muhammadu Buhari’s desire to commence the Ogoni clean-up was a clear demonstration that Buhari had the region’s interest at heart and would do anything possible to alleviate the suffering of the people.
In a similar vein, the Ijaw National Congress has pleaded with members of the Niger Delta Avengers not to turn down the offer by the Federal Government to engage them in a dialogue.
The INC expressed dissatisfaction that the militant group had rejected a call for a ceasefire by the Federal Government, elders and youths of the Niger Delta.
Speaking in a telephone interview with the The PUNCH, the spokesman for the Ijaw apex body, Mr. Victor Burubo, argued that since the people of Niger Delta, who the NDA members claimed to be fighting for had told them to embrace peace, it was necessary for the militants to listen.
Burubo explained that the agitators had been able to make their point, adding that the Federal Government had since expressed its readiness to engage them in a negotiation.
“Let them appreciate that the people they are fighting for are suffering from their actions. Since the elders and youths of the region have appealed to them to cease fire, it is necessary that they stop the attack on oil installations. Let them give peace a chance,” Burubo stated.
The INC spokesman, however, urged Buhari to hold talks with the Niger Delta people rather than reaching them through his political party.
Burubo called on the President to urgently implement the relevant portions of the 2014 National Conference recommendations and the Ledum Mitee’s report to enhance the development of the Niger Delta.