Sunday, December 20, 2009

MEND resumes attacks

Citing delayed negotiations with government, due to President Yar'Adua's absence, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) yesterday breached its 56-day ceasefire by attacking a major Shell/Chevron crude pipeline in Abonemma, Rivers State.

The attack is coming on the heels of MEND's complaints that President Yar'Adua's over three weeks absence from the country has stalled the ongoing talks between the government and the group's appointed negotiators, the Aaron Team.

The group's spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo, described the attack, which was launched at about 2am, as a warning strike.

He said five boats involving 35 of MEND's fighters armed with assault rifles, rocket launchers and heavy calibre machine guns, carried out the attack.

The Guardian could not independently confirm the MEND's attack.

A faction of the armed group loyal to repentant militant leader, Government 'Tompolo' Ekpemupolo, said its commanders were not aware of any attacks on oil installations.

In an online statement, Captain Mack Anthony, the spokesman to both 'Tompolo' and his (Anthony's) boss, Togo, said that the group had no hand in the reported attack.

MEND, he insisted, had not decided on any joint attacks in any of the Niger Delta States.

"Although we have our own grievances over how we were treated since we surrendered arms, if there is an attack somewhere, our General Commander, Government 'Tompolo' Ekpemupolo and my boss, Togo, are not aware," he said.

"But don't forget; there could be some pockets of misunderstanding resulting from communal differences against oil companies in the Niger Delta.

"The amnesty is not instrument of continued suppression by soldiers and multi-nationals. MEND is standing by the conditions of the peace deal," he stressed.

Tompolo had embraced Federal Government's amnesty programme, which the mainstream MEND scoffed at as doomed to fail.

Contacted, the Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF) (Operation Restore Hope), General Sarki-Yarki Bello, said in an SMS that there was "no confirmation yet."

Similarly, spokesman of the JTF, Lt. Col. Timothy Antigha, explained that they were yet to verify any attack as alleged by MEND.

According to him: "There is no verification yet by the JTF that a pipeline has been sabotaged around Abonnema.

"If this unpatriotic act is confirmed to be true, at a time the Federal Government is doing its utmost to consolidate on the gains of the amnesty programme, then the criminals behind the act are enemies of the Niger Delta and, indeed, Nigeria; and they don't deserve any sympathy."

Shell spokesperson, Mr. Precious Okolobo, in an SMS, said: "We don't have reports of our facility being attacked, and cannot comment."

He had earlier told The Guardian on telephone that he did not have details of what might have actually transpired, promising that, "if I confirm, I will get back to you."

An official of Chevron said he had not been able to ascertain the true situation since he was in Houston, United States.

 MEND'S mouthpiece, Jomo Gbomo gave reasons why the attack on Shell/Chevron pipelines was carried out yesterday in Abonemma in Rivers State.

According to him, the Federal Government had conveniently tied the advancement of talks on the demands of MEND to President Yar'Adua, who is currently receiving medical attention in far away Saudi Arabia.

However, he noted that the same government "has not tied the repair of pipelines, exploitation of oil and gas as well as the deployment and re-tooling of troops under the aegis of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the region to the President's ill health."

Gbomo said: "While wishing the President a speedy recovery, a situation where the future of the Niger Delta is tied to the health and well being of one man is unacceptable."

MEND accused the government, through the Bayelsa State governor, Timipre Sylva, the Ministers of Defence, Gen. Godwin Abbe (Rtd) and Ministry of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili of disseminating propaganda aimed at foreign investors, claiming that the situation in the Niger Delta is under control.

This assertion, according to him, is far from the truth.

Gbomo also accused the government of offering bribes to a number of militants, who surrendered their weapons under its amnesty programme in the form of contracts.

He said while the government perceives these individuals to wield some kind of influence in the region, MEND wants to make it abundantly clear that all those who had capitulated were of no significance to the continuation of the struggle.

According to him: "MEND is committed to continue its fight for the restoration of the land and rights of the people of the Niger Delta, which has been stolen for 50 years."

Jomo added that while MEND remains open to dialogue, "the indefinite ceasefire ordered by the group on Sunday, October 25, 2009 will be reviewed within 30 days from today, December 19, 2009."

MEND had last week told The Guardian in an online interview that the absence of the President had made it impossible for the Aaron Team to meet with the government after the first exploratory meeting last month.

He said: "At this point in time, the fragile peace process is hanging on to the thin thread of a ceasefire. Our demands have not been addressed because there is dialogue ongoing.

"We expect that when the President returns or if we find ourselves with another President, the process must continue with the current tempo and enthusiasm or else peace talks may collapse and the unrest will resume."

The Guardian

Related stories: The oil must flow - video report on amnesty deal in Nigeria 

Oil War - Video recap

Video - MEND threaten ceasefire

No comments:

Post a Comment