Niger Delta region is beginning to witness resurgence of violence by militants targeting key oil and gas infrastructure.
A pipeline explosion early Wednesday sent a signal that a recent warning by a militant group that infrastructure attack was imminent appear to be real.
Oriental News Nigeria recalled that a Nigerian militant group recently issued a warning to operations in the Niger Delta, including pipelines and vessels.
The Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) has abandoned talks with the government. The group said President Muhammadu Buhari had failed to properly recognise the Niger Delta. Furthermore, they disagreed with the choice of Effiong Akwa to head the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in mid-December.
The RNDA’s head General Johnmark Ezonebi issued the statement. The group has “strike force units” throughout the Niger Delta. It will “kick start bombing and destruction of oil facilities and oil pipelines and major oil ships and vessels coming from Lagos to the creek of Niger Delta”, he said.
The RNDA named its plan Operation No Mercy Alfa Piper Zero Oil.
It intends to “save NDDC from the hands of politicians”. These include the Nigerian Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Senator Godswill Akpabio and the agency’s head Akwa.
“RNDA wants to say that President Buhari does not mean well for the development of the Niger Delta,” the statement continued. The president should pay attention to the demands of the people of the area, it said.
The group has “decided to declare curfew with the expiration date of 21 days in the entire Nigerian water ways from the Lagos sea Atlas Cove manifold, NLNG Bonny waters to the gulf coast of Guinea to Nigeria waters”, it said.
There have been some signs of increased militancy recently. An attack on Eni facilities in November appears to have been intended to disrupt exports.
Another group, the Niger Delta Liberators (NDL) issued threats against foreign majors in December. The NDL raised a number of points, including concerns about the NDDC and its lack of a proper board.
Akwa, in a statement on December 15, said the NDDC intended to redeem its image and increase work with state governments. “There should not be any competition, we will work together as a team and the tax payer’s money would not be wasted,” he said.
The NDDC head said Buhari had a “deep seated love” for the Niger Delta people.
A Rivers State official, speaking at a meeting with Akwa, complained about shortcomings with the NDDC. The agency had started, and then abandoned, a number of projects.
Buhari ordered an audit of the NDDC in October 2019. Police attempted to arrest a head of the NDDC in July 2020 but were prevented from doing so by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike.
In the 2021 budget, Nigeria allocated 64 billion naira ($168 million) to the NDDC. The government also provided another 65bn naira ($170.6mn) for the amnesty programme.
Meanwhile, it is Yet to be confirmed if the early morning pipeline explosion that rocked the Oduoha community in Emohua local government area, Rivers state on Wednesday was carried by the same group.
The pipeline, which supplies gas through the community to a terminal in Bonny Island, in Rivers, belongs to Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) and Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC).
Two separate gas pipes operated by NLNG and NAOC, ran on the same line where the incident occurred, making it difficult to ascertain who the exact operator of the affected line was, as at the time of filing this report.
It was further learnt that as at 12 p.m., the vibration and leakage from the gas pipeline were still raging, as residents of the community ran for safety.
The Paramount Ruler of Oduoha, HRH Chief Ferdinand Ogbuehi, said “since the incident happened by 4 a.m. people have been living in fear. The vibration from the explosion sent many packing.
“We are not at rest at all and have not seen this type of thing before. We want the government to come and see what is happening.
“We have announced to the people that nobody should go there (the scene of the explosion). We want the government to come, because we are afraid of going closer to the place,” Ogbuehi said.
Also commenting, Mr Napoleon Ewule, the Chairman of Oduoha Community Development Committee (CDC), said the community had already contacted both NLNG and NAOC, and they had promised to visit the scene to determine whose facility was affected.
The CDC chairman said the explosion, which occurred in the early hours of Wednesday, shook the community with many thinking that an aeroplane had crashed in the community.
“So, after I heard the explosion, I immediately called and mobilised youths of Oduoha to see what had happened. Later, when we discovered what had happened, we came back and informed our people to avoid the area.
“There are two pipelines running on the same line that belongs to NAOC and NLNG. We will know who owns the exploded pipeline when both companies come for inspection,” he said.
Ewule pleaded with the government to come in and stop the leakage, saying that the gas emitted from the damaged pipeline was endangering the lives and livelihoods of residents.
Officials of NLNG and NOAC were not immediately available for comment as at the time of filing this report, according to News Agency of Nigeria.