Nigerian Army rolls out tanks against militants in Niger Delta

There was tension in Bayelsa State yesterday, following the presence of armed troops at the Kaima Community of Kolokuma/Opokuma local government over threats by the militant groups to hoist a flag and declare a separatist republic in the region.

Kaima community, venue of the 1998 declaration by Ijaw youths for the emancipation of the region, was taken over by security agents led by armed personnel of the Military Task Force known as ‘Operation Delta Safe.’

Residents of Kaima Community confirmed to LEADERSHIP that the movement of troops to the community started on Saturday night with a stop-and-search operation on vehicles moving along a section of the East-West road.

The president of the Ijaw Youth Council, Udengs Eradiri, however denied knowledge of the planned hoisting of a Niger Delta Republic flag.

Attempts to get reactions from the spokespersons of the security agencies failed as they refused to comment on the development.

Inhabitants of the communities however confirmed that the movement of troops had thrown the area into panic as many have abandoned their homes and relocated to the state capital, Yenagoa.

A native, Miss Preye Angari, said though the movement of troops surprised many locals, the community’s leadership had alerted the state government on the development.

LEADERSHIP recalls that the federal government had on Friday, confirmed the gradual deployment of troops into strategic positions in the Niger Delta region and the possible use of force against the new militants who had been attacking and destroying oil and gas pipelines if the ongoing dialogue between the groups and representatives of the government fail.

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It has also unveiled its sustained security plan in the region to tackle militancy and other criminal activities with the proposed recruitment of natives of oil bearing communities of the Niger Delta into the local arm of the Joint Military Task Force, the setting up of emergency military brigade team to respond to attacks and engage the militants and the engagement of trained Amnesty beneficiaries in intelligence gathering in the region.

The minister of defence, Mansur Mohammad Dan-Ali, while speaking in Yenagoa, during a visit to the Governor Dickson, confirmed that the military was engaged in special personnel rotation and deployment within strategic areas of the Niger Delta. He added that the newly formulated security plan and infrastructure for the region would be community driven with natives of oil bearing communities serving as local JTF and intelligence components.

On the possibility using force against the Niger Delta militants if the ongoing dialogue with the federal government fails, Dan-Ali responded by saying, ‘it cannot be ruled out.”

Chief of defence staff, Gen. A.G. Olonishakin also told journalists after the call on the governor that the military was on ground in the Niger Delta region and ready take on the militants.

Military action will not work – Dickson

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Bayelsa State governor, Governor Seriake Dickson, yesterday reiterated that the only way out of the militancy and other security breaches in the region is dialogue and not military force.

The governor, according to a statement by his chief press secretary, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, made the observation in Warri, Delta State, during a meeting of Ijaw elders and leaders of thought to deliberate on the way forward for the Ijaw ethnic nationality, at the wekend.

The meeting was attended by Ijaw leader and First Republic minister of information, Chief Edwin Clark; deputy governor of Delta State, Kingsley Otuaro; former deputy governor of Rivers State, Sir Gabriel Toby; one time minister of aviation, Tonye Graham Douglas; former executive director (Finance), Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Pastor Power Aginighan; president of Ijaw National Congress (INC), Chief Boma Obuoforibo; former chairman, Bayelsa State Flood Committee, Chief Francis Doukpola; Ebenanaowei of Ogulagha Kingdom, King Joseph Timiyan, and Amakosu of Ogbe-Ijoh, Warri Kingdom, King Kopul Orumini, among others.

Governor Dickson told the Ijaw and Niger Delta leaders at the meeting that the federal government should engage in dialogue with the youths, “because military option is not a solution” to the problems in the Niger Delta.

Dickson, who applauded the efforts of Clark and other prominent leaders for championing the cause of the people, urged them to work together for peaceful co-existence of the region and the country as a whole.

The governor said he was at the meeting “to lend support to the on-going discussions for the enthronement of peace, stability and development of the Niger Delta area.”

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According to him, Ijaw leaders and elders have always provided leadership and support to the various state governments where the Ijaw people are domiciled towards strengthening the bonds of unity and protection of the collective interests of the Ijaw nation.

Dickson reiterated his administration’s preparedness to continue to contribute its quota to the wellbeing and development of the Ijaw nation as the leader of the only homogeneous state for the Ijaw people.

He said, “I have always said that issues which call for collaboration are not to be resolved by war. I have said that there is no need for war in the Niger Delta; certainly not in Ijawland, but rather we should dialogue.

“A few days ago, most of you must have heard comments that I made to the right authorities along the same line and I am delighted that our leaders of the Ijaw nation are thinking along those lines. I am talking about the need for dialogue, peace and development of our states and ultimately the country as a whole.”

Dickson offered to host the next edition of the meeting in no distant time and thanked all Ijaw leaders for their commitment to the welfare and well-being of the people.

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