There was apprehension among riverine dwellers, yesterday, as the Nigerian Navy and Army deployed fighter jets and gunboats to the creeks and other strategic locations in Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, in response to last Friday’s threat by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) to resume bombing of oil facilities.
Some oil servicing company workers, who returned to Warri from Escravos, on Monday night, said that they sighted the massive build-up by the armed forces on their way back from work. However, yesterday afternoon, riverine dwellers, especially in Gbaramatu Kingdom, reported that fighter jets and helicopters hovered around the communities, causing some of them, mainly women and children, to run into hiding in the forest.
Ijaw leader and Ibibenimowe (Chief Mobiliser) of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, who confirmed the “invasion,” asserted: “At about 1:00 p.m., a military chopper, fighter jet and navy boats roamed the length and breadth of Gbaramatu, while the chopper continued hovering around the palace of the Pere (King) of Gbaramatu kingdom.
“The jets hovered over the place for some minutes before they left. Why this is happening, we do not know. Gbaramatu is not at war with the Federal Government. The Niger Delta Avengers do not live in Gbaramatu nor do they live in Gbaramatu palace and we do not know them. We do not know what their plans are. The people are afraid. We don’t want what happened to us in 2009 and 2015 to repeat itself in 2017. We have struggled to maintain peace in Gbaramatu Kingdom. The traditional ruler of Gbaramatu Kingdom has issued a statement calling for peace and admonishing the Avengers not to embark on hostilities. The kingdom had also issued a statement pleading with the Federal Government to look at the problems agitating the minds of the people of the Niger Delta with a view of solving them immediately.”
Contacted, the Commander, Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS, Delta, Warri Naval Base, Commodore Ibrahim Dewu, said: “What they are speculating as military deployment is routine patrol along Escravos and the Trans Forcados Pipeline. Once we sense any security concern on that line, our men usually move in to patrol the area. Nobody is deploying any gunboat or jets to specific communities. It is a normal patrol.”
Commander, Operation Delta Safe, Col. Alhassan Grema, and Spokesperson, Joint Task Force, Major Ibrahim Abdulahi, declined response when called on the situation.