The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) on Tuesday warned the various militant groups in the Niger Delta region who have vowed to cripple economic activities through pipeline vandalism, oil theft and kidnap of expatriate workers in that region, saying that they would be treated as criminals.
The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen. Rabe Abubakar, said resources would be mobilised to crush their resistance.
According to Abubakar, military “will not hesitate to deploy every available resources to deal decisively with any threats to the economic lifeline of the nation.
“The military will employ all available means and measures within its Rule of Engagement to crush any individual or group that engages in the destruction of strategic assets and facilities of the government in the Niger Delta or any other location and they will stand to regret the consequences of their actions.
“The whole world has seen what they are causing in terms of economic terrorism against the nation and would be treated as criminals in line with the laws of the land,” he stated.
He noted that while the military and other security agencies would continue to emplace more proactive measures within the creeks and other places to fish out those responsible for the heinous crime, it will remain focused and assure oil companies and law abiding community members of their safety and protection of their sanctity.
“The DHQ advises the community leaders, traditional rulers and the general public to cooperate with the security agencies to ensure the apprehension of the culprits for the interest of our great nation; as no individual or group interest is above national interest of this country,” he said.
In a related development, the DHQ, has denied and condemned the report in some media that 800 Boko Haram members had been granted amnesty.
Abubakar in a statement yesterday, called on members of the public to disregard it, adding that it would not tolerate acts of terrorism or criminality by any group.”
The Defence spokesman was reacting to the report credited to the Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mohammed Sani-Sidi, saying that no fewer than 800 repented members of the Boko Haram sect were currently undergoing various training and acquisition exercise which was being handled by the military and monitored by the Office of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). He insisted that the report is false.
He clarified that the decision to rehabilitate repentant members of Boko Haram was based on a United Nations (UN) convention and could not be considered as amnesty.
He said: “The attention of the Defence Headquarters has been drawn to online media stating that 800 Boko Haram terrorists were given amnesty.
“The story is false and has no iota of truth in it as DHQ has never mentioned amnesty in all its statement.”
He continued: “In line with United Nations Convention Charter, which Nigeria is a signatory, The Defence Headquarters came up with an initiative ‘Öperation Safe Corridor’, this initiative is geared towards rehabilitating and reintegrating the repentant terrorists back into normal life in the society.
“The general public should therefore disregard these insinuations as the initiative ‘Operation Safe Corridor’ should not be taken as amnesty.”
“We hereby emphasise and stand our position that no act of terrorism or criminality will be condoned in our nation by any group. Please be guided,” Abubakar advised.
Suspected Niger Delta militants yesterday continued their renewed onslaught on security forces in the region yesterday, killing three soldiers attached to the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, code-named Operation Pulo Shield.
The killing of the security operatives brings to at least 10 the number of soldiers as well as naval officers felled in the last one month by the suspected hoodlums in various locations in the area.
Still sticking with their latest tactics, the heavily armed militants were said to have ambushed their victims last night in Foropa, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
It was gathered that the slain soldiers had been stationed in the area since 2010 when the activities of the gangs spiked around the area.
The gunmen who operated on a speedboat were also said to have overrun a military outpost near the area, carting away two AK47 riffles, a General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) and other ammunition.
Last week, four naval ratings attached to an oil servicing company, were in the same fashion reportedly killed by some suspected criminals.
The militants ambushed the military personnel at the Nembe creeks, Nembe Local Government Area of the state, routing four of the naval ratings instantly. Their bodies were later found floating on the seashore.
Just a few days before that, a similar attack on some soldiers led to an officer sustaining serious injuries while about four of the suspects were killed by the army personnel on patrol at the time.
Following yesterday’s incident, residents of the community were said to be fleeing the community for fear of military invasion and indiscriminate arrest of innocent persons.
JTF operatives, attached to the security outfit established to halt all forms of criminalities in the oil-rich region, were said to have evacuated the bodies of the slain soldiers just before daybreak yesterday.
A top security source said it was a surprise attack, noting that there had been deliberately planned attacks on armed security agents and formations in the region by suspected militants.
According to him, the hoodlums have been attacking the security operatives with a viewing to seizing their arms and stockpiling them for the coming confrontation with the taskforce comprising all the security forces in the country.
“These militants attack security agents ostensibly to steal their arms and ammunition. Criminally-minded youths are stockpiling arms again. This calls for vigilance among security operatives,” he said.
Col. Isa Ado, spokesman of the JTF, did not pick up his calls, neither did he reply text messages sent to his phone, requesting him to react to the incident.
Meanwhile, condemnation has been trailing the over eight-hour long military takeover of Oparoza community in Gbaramatu, Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State last Sunday night.
The Concerned Ijaw Transformation Ambassador (CITA) yesterday condemned the act in statement signed by the acting President of the group, Arerebo Salaco Peters, and it’s Spokesman, Obiri Jonathan.
The group, which viewed the development as a bad omen, implored President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw the military troops from Gbaramatu kingdom.
They said the presence of the troops would only make the people in the area live in fear and insecurity especially given the preponderance of military bombardment of Ijaw communities in the Nigerian history.
The group said while it would not take sides with the vandalism of oil facilities in the Niger Delta region, it however expressed dismay that the Buhari-led federal government is sending troops to the peace-loving Ijaw communities, noting that that it is not the answer to the prevailing and emerging agitation pioneered by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).