Ten suspected members of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) – the group of militants smashing oil facilities in the Niger Delta – have been arrested in Delta State.
Besides, a military patrol team prevented some gunmen believed to be its members from attacking pipelines in Bayelsa State.
The Army yesterday paraded the 10 suspects in Benin, the Edo State capital, yesterday.
The suspects were arrested at about 1:40am on Saturday in Oporaza community, Warri South-West Local Government Area, following a cordon-and-search operation conducted in the community.
The 4 Brigade Commander, Brig. –Gen. Farouk Yahaya, who paraded the suspects, explained that there had been several cases of sabotage by suspected militants and vandals in Delta State since January 1, and warning and threats “to shut down all operations” in the sector.
He listed the arms and ammunition recovered from the suspects as: 28 detonator cords (also known Detonator 33), one pistol, two empty pistol magazines, 196 rounds of 7.62 special ammunition, one round of nine-millimetre ammunition, a live cartridge and five daggers.
Also recovered were 15 handheld radio sets, 18 phones, 203 SIM cards belonging to three major network providers, five swimsuits, two headlamps, a laptop, two ipads and a camera.
There were also seven wraps of substances suspected to be hemp, five speedboat throttle cables, six pairs of hand gloves, N23,000 cash and a cheque book.
Gen. Yahaya said that although investigation would reveal the true identity of the suspects, recent explosions carried out by the Niger Delta Avengers suggested that the suspects may not be unconnected to the group.
He added: “Within the period under review, you can see that the Niger Delta Avengers have claimed virtually all acts of criminal activities against oil and gas and they continue threatening a shutdown of the whole sector. So, most likely, they (suspects) will be the people; who else would they be?”
On the speculation that the militants may have used charms to evade arrest, Gen. Yahaya said: “Whatever a person wants to use, he can use it. But I know that God is always on the side of the truth.
“We are not worried by voodoo. It did not stop the suspects from being arrested and others that have been arrested before now.
“Operations that led to these arrests and recoveries were conducted professionally, guided by our mandate, operation orders, code of conduct and rules of engagement. Our operations are strictly targeted against perpetrators of all criminal acts in our area of responsibility and not innocent citizens,” he added.
The brigade commander, who noted that the suspects would be handed over to prosecuting security agencies at the end of the preliminary investigation, however, urged the public to provide the Army with information the militants.
The Army said its troops yesterday averted attacks on oil pipelines located at Gulobokri and Eweleso communities in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The acting Director of Army Public Relations, Col. Sani Usman, confirmed this in a statement.
Col. Usman said the attack was averted by the troops on patrol of areas around Brass.
According to him, the patrol team had an encounter with some militants in two speed boats with intent to blow up the Nigerian Agip Oil Company pipeline at Gulobokri.
“In the early hours of today, May 29, troops of 343 Artillery Regiment of 2 Brigade, 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, carried out patrol within the general area of Gulobokri and Eweleso.
‘’This was around Brass area in Bayelsa State.
“The troops encountered some armed militants who opened fire on the patrol team.
“The troops responded with overwhelming superior firepower and as a result, the suspected criminals sped off from the area with many of them sustaining gunshot wounds.
“Unfortunately, a personnel of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) attached to the team sustained gunshot wound and has since been evacuated and he is in a stable condition,’’ Col. Usman said.
He also said that another patrol team of the same unit of 82 Division, averted another attack on an oil facility at Perigbene House Boat in Bayelsa.
He said the troops on patrol to the area encountered militants in three speed boats, also on a mission to attack another critical infrastructure in the area.
Col. Usman said the troops killed most of the militants while others escaped with gunshot injuries.
He said the casualty figure on militants could not be ascertained as it was raining heavily, adding that the raging storm could not allow troops to go on in pursuit of the escaping criminals.
Col. Usman added that a mop-up operation had been organised for those militants who escaped with gunshot wounds, adding that they might be receiving treatment in the neighbouring communities.
He said troops would continue to intensify patrols in the area to further halt planned attacks on key public infrastructure in the area.
The Federal Government and ex-militants have resolved to end the ongoing pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta.ý
Brig.-Gen. Paul Boroh, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger-Delta Matters and Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme, broke the end of a meeting he had with some ex-militants in Benin.
Boro told reporters that the pipeline vandalism in the Niger-Delta was reducing the economic fortune of the country and inflicting pains on Nigerians.
He urged the agitators to dialogue with the authorities over their grievances and shun destruction of oil installations.
He said plans were in the pipeline to provide the ex-militants with welfare and a housing scheme in addition to the existing programme and projects.