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Tension Heightens In N’Delta As Army Deploys Fighter jet, Gunboats; As Okowa, Activist Call For Restrain

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Tension has heightened in the Niger Delta region as military deploys fighter jet, gun boats and troops to Gbaramatu Kingdom, perceived as hotbed of renewed oil crisis in the region.

The development which forced many to withdraw into their homes, and others fleeing for cover, is coming few days after dreaded militia group, Niger Delta Avengers threatened to wreck havoc on oil installations.

However, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has call on the agitators to abandon their threat saying that Delta State would lose more if the group make good their latest threat to withdraw from further cooperation with the federal government and begin massive attacks on oil facilities.

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This is also coming as spokesman of Gbaramatu Traditional Council, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, warned against the use of force on accounts that it would hurt civilians.

BigPen Online learnt that tension had particularly mounted Gbaramatu Kingdom, hotbed of the region s oil crisis, since dreaded militia group, Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), which brought Nigeria oil output to its lowest ebb in 2016, calls off its cease-fire agreement with the federal government.

Gbenekama, a known activist in the region and spokesman of the paramount ruler of the Kingdom said that targeting  communities each time there is crisis in the region was injustice, and repression to good people of Gbaramatu.

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Niger Delta Activist, Chief Godspower Gbenekama

He warned that launching operations in the creeks and swamps of the Delta region because of NDA’s threat that doesn’t concern Gbaramatu people would jeopardise the gains of the relative peace in the area.

“Some few hours ago, military aircraft was roving round our palace and there were troops with gun boats all over Gbaramatu Kingdom.

“While we are appealing to the Niger Delta Avengers to sheathe their sword, we don’t know the rationale behind and why the deployment of troops and gun boats.

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“Gbaramatu people are not at war with the Nigeria government, why is it that anytime there is crisis anywhere; something happens in Bayelsa, or Rivers state,the first port of call is Gbaramatu?

“We don’t want what happened in 2009 and 2016 to happen again. So let the military restrain itself and we are still appealing to the Avengers to sheathe their swords. 

“The Avengers that were operating in 2016 that would say something, the next day they take drastic action are same people still operating but somehow they are now listening to us including the traditional ruler that they should sheathe their sword and give government sometime. 

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“And thank God nothing has happened since the renewed threat so why the deployment? Military presence in Gbaramatu and other part of Niger Delta region is capable of escalating the crisis.

“Let the military back down. We are also appealing to agitators to sheathe their sword. While we still appealing to the agitators, the military should back down so that we can sustain the peace while the federal government embark on one or two projects in the region.

He however said that the different military operations in the Niger Delta region would not help the peace process in the region, urging all parties including Avengers to exercise restrain on grounds that civilians could be cut at the firing line.

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Meanwhile, Commander, Operation Delta Safe Army, Col. Alhassan Grema, and spokesman of the army, Maj. Ibrahim Abdulahi, failed to response when called on the situation.

However, 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”, he said. 

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Meanwhile, Delta State Governor, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa has sent a passionate appeal to the Niger Delta Avengers not to embark on further attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta. 

Okowa made the appeal in a statement issued on Monday in Asaba by his Chief Press Secretary, Charles Aniagwu wherein he noted that Deltans will lose more if the group make good their latest threat to withdraw from further cooperation with the federal government and begin massive attacks on oil facilities.

“We passionately appeal to the Niger Delta Avengers not to resume hostilities, because Deltans will be the greatest losers. We are barely recovering from the effect of previous attacks and it is our honest appeal that they still give peace a chance by allowing for peaceful engagements with the Federal Government and other stakeholders.

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“This appeal for peace remains imperative, because without the atmosphere of peace, no meaningful negotiations and development can take place, adding “resumption of hostilities will not be in the interest of our people but a major set back to the plans and aspirations of the state.

“We have continued to appreciate our brothers in the struggle for their continued patience and cooperation while we engage the Federal Government on ways to attend to the various issues being raised by the group.

“As a state, we have made several interventions to make life more meaningful for oil bearing communities especially in the area of road construction in the creeks and without the enabling peace we cannot progress in that direction.” he said.

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