The Nigerian Presidency over the weekend, asked Ijaw communities in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, where ex-militants carried out a three-day bombing of crude oil and gas pipelines some weeks ago, to hand over to the security operatives, perpetrators of the bomb attack believed to be hiding in their areas.
The presidency also urged the communities not to entertain fear of bombardment by security agencies, but to demonstrate patriotism by handing over suspects behind the recent bombing.
The Presidential directive came through the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, yesterday, just as the JTF, which boasted, penultimate week, that it was closing in on the perpetrators, started arresting more suspects for interrogation at the weekend.
The crackdown on the suspected bombers by the task force heightened tension in most Ijaw communities with some leaders, the Ijaw Youth Council, Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative, IPDI and others, calling on the government and task force to be lawful in their action.
Adesina said: “Ijaw communities need not fear. What they can rather do is to hand over culprits hiding in their midst to the authorities. If they have identified those who blew up pipelines, and who are taking refuge in their communities, as good citizens, they should hand them over to law enforcement agents.
“Ijaws are Nigerians and good ones too. They should not allow a little leaven to destroy the whole lump. Rather, they should demonstrate patriotism by giving up evildoers. Such exists everywhere, and the onus is on good people not to shelter them.
“There are rules of engagement for every operation, and you can be sure that the Nigerian military will do what is right,” he stated.
Spurning suggestion that the Presidency was out to disgrace ex-MEND leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, because of his alleged closeness to former president Goodluck Jonathan, he said: “The question of anybody being humiliated due to closeness to the former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan does not exist.
“This is not a vengeful government, and right on inauguration day, President Muhammadu Buhari had indicated that nobody needs fear that he would be out for vengeance. In his National Day broadcast on October 1 last year, the President also said people should not be afraid of his person, but fear the consequences of their actions. Therefore, nobody should fear humiliation on account of being close to anybody, as long as such person has clean hands.”
On whether the Federal Government was looking into the allegation by Tompolo that some chieftains of the All Progressives Congress, APC, were behind the bombing, he said: “The Presidency should not be looking into allegations, when already security agencies have been empowered and positioned to do so. Anybody can claim anything, and the President has too much on his hands to allow such to constitute distraction.”
According to him, “every Nigerian is the same, no matter his status or standing. If anybody says there is attempt to rope him into anything, the security agencies are there to establish the truth. When the President said he belonged to everybody, it meant that a level playing field would be created for all Nigerians.”
Responding to the call for political solution to the Tompolo face-off with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and his linkage to the bombing, he said: “The President will always be open to dialogue and finding of political solutions. That was why he said the government was ready to dialogue with Boko Haram, if the authentic leadership was determined. With respect to the Niger Delta, the same will subsist, but it would not translate to condoning sheer criminality.”
He, however, pointed out that “if anybody has committed a crime, he must be ready to answer for it. Being open to political solution does not mean indulging criminality. Do not forget, people must always be ready for the consequences of their actions. It is only natural.”
Commenting on the widespread allegation that the EFCC had acquired a bad image with its handling of suspects, he said: “EFCC allegedly having a bad image is your opinion. It does not mean you are correct.”
Authoritative sources confided in Vanguard, yesterday, that the JTF has made remarkable progress in the arrest of some suspects connected with the pipelines bombing, but it was not willing to make public comments on its investigations so far.
We can’t speak on arrests now- JTF spokesman
Spokesperson for Operation Pulo Shield, Col Isa Ado, who spoke on phone to Vanguard took time to explain that it was detrimental for the task force to disclose the arrests it had made.
He said the mandate of the task force was to protect crude oil and gas pipelines in the Niger Delta region and because of the recent bombings, it has intensified its operations more than ever before.
Col Ado said: “Please, we do not want to make comments until the operation to fish out the perpetrators is over. Statements will jeopardize our investigation, but what I can tell you is that we are in hot pursuit of them and we have made tremendous progress.”
He said the oil and gas facilities were very critical to the economy of the country and the task force would stop at nothing to smoke out the bombers, who he described as saboteurs.
Ijaw groups demand proper investigation
IYC spokesperson, Mr. Eric Omare, told Vanguard when contacted, yesterday: “I heard that some Ijaw youths were arrested but I do no not know their identities. In line with our condemnation of the act, we want the culprits brought to book.
“However, we want to warn against arresting innocent people, whoever is being arrested must be a product of proper investigation and the rule of law should be followed.”
An Ijaw leader claimed that security officials arrested an aide to a local government chairman in the state, last Thursday, in Warri, as soon as he came back from a trip to Port-Harcourt and whisked to an unknown destination, while the Navy picked up another suspect the previous day, Wednesday.
IPDI alleges siege on Tompolo family
National president of IPDI, Austin Ozobo, cautioned the military against arresting innocent members of Tompolo family and ex-agitators, saying the group would sue the military in ECOWAS Court and International Criminal Court if it violates fundamental human rights in Gbaramatu kingdom.
He said that a member of the Tompolo family was one of those arrested and called for his release, saying, “he and others are being blackmailed because being a member of the Tompolo family should not form the basis for arrest and they are just being implicated by enemies of Tompolo, who are hellbent to humiliate the family.”
Ozobo asserted, “The assumption by security agents that every member of Tompolo family and Ijaw nation is a militant is a dangerous and such is a big threat to the peace coexistence of Nigeria as a nation,”
His words, “Meanwhile, we no regrets over being Ijaws and I know that one being a member of Tompolo family does not constitute a crime. We know that betrayers and informants are behind this, but they should not members of Tompolo family and innocent agitators to danger”
“It is unfair to blackmail someone because of his or her strong positions on the current issues in the media. After all, Tompolo is not linked to the current bombings,” he added.