Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Egufe Yafugborhi and Perez Brisibe
THERE is a sense of danger in militant camps in the Niger Delta region over established report that some security agencies had broken into militancy enclave and using some militants as secret agents. Saturday Vanguard gathered that a former Commander of the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, is allegedly one of the moles recruited to track down fugitive ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, labeled a sponsor of the crisis despite his denials. Some Niger Delta activists angry at the devastation of oil and gas facilities by Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, were also volunteering information and spending their resources to trap the Avengers.
Investigation showed that militant groups have grown panicky over the depth of information the secret agents might have given out on their modus-operandi and hideaways. Though Niger Delta Avengers, last weekend, dismissed the arrest of Christian Oluba, alias Sensor and Selky Kile Torughedi, described as its members by the Department of State Services, DSS, which seized them, its spokesperson, self-styled Brig Gen Mudoch Agbinibo, affirmed, “They are sleeper agents of the DSS sent after the Niger Delta Avengers.” He said: “The boys has (sic) the right to demand for their money from DSS, why not pay them instead of arresting and labeling them as Niger Delta Avengers members.”
Denying any link with the boys and daring the DSS to parade them before reporters and allow them tell their story, the militant group warned: “DSS and Nigeria Army cannot win the Niger Delta war by feeding their President with false information about situation of things in the Region. It is all-good because as it seems the DSS is now having internal crisis with most of their sleeper agents and it a sign that God is on our side.” However, a dependable source confirmed the claim by DSS that one of the suspects, Selky Torughedi, also a former MEND commander in Bayelsa state, is known to Tompolo, adding: “But I am not saying that Tompolo sent him, everybody knows that Tompolo is on the run and Selky can take decisions for himself.”
“If the DSS said they caught him while he was finalizing plans to kill a serving military officer after carrying out reconnaissance on his residence in Kaduna, his previous relationship or closeness with Tompolo should not be used to incriminate the latter. Every man should be responsible for his action,” he added.
Information available to Saturday Vanguard indicated that security agencies have made inroad in their investigations into the operations of the militant groups with the aid of volunteers and seized suspects. Our source said a key suspect arrested by men of the Nigeria Navy Ship, NNS Delta, Warri, had let the cat out of the bag on the modus- operandi of Niger Delta Avengers. “In fact, due to the critical information he was releasing on the operations of Avengers and how he led in some of pipeline blowing escapades, they transferred him from Warri to Abuja for him to be in safe custody and there is likelihood of using him as prosecution witness,” he hinted.
We made a ‘breakthrough arrest’- Commander, NNS Delta
Contacted on the matter, Commander NNS Delta, Commodore Raimi Mohammed, was wary of giving out strategic information to the media: He simply said: “It is true that following the breakthrough arrest we made, this particular suspect has been giving useful information.”
“That has enabled us make more arrest of collaborators and it has been insightful, but that is all we can say now. Your inquiry and hunch are correct.” A Niger Delta leader privy to the arrest of the suspect, said: “With his confessions so far, I do not see any reason why the security agencies should not arrest the sponsor of Niger Delta Avengers. The boy vowed that he would never go down alone and he knows that they would kill him if he comes out, so he is talking as long as government will not kill him.”
Since the arrest of the suspects, the militant groups have tightened security around their camps. Some of the militants involved in the current operations no longer stay or visit their homes, while many relocated their families before they ventured into the creeks.
More deadly revelations
A group, Voice Delta, which acts as counter- force to the Avengers, has also been critical against the militant group. The group in a posting on its twitter handle alleged that the brain behind Avengers increased the number of his bodyguards in his hideout as soon as news of arrests broke. It said: “The news of the arrest of Christian Oluba alias Sensor, by the DSS did not come to us as a surprise because our intel (intelligence) saw to this.” The group had released critical information on the plan of the Avengers, movement of arms and ammunition and structure of the militant group.
Although the Avengers denied the killing of two soldiers and civilians in the houseboat attack, last month, the Voice Delta insisted it was its handiwork and named the militant that led the operation. The activities of the security agencies and informants collaborating with them have created so much panic among militants and their sponsors.
Avengers bitter with Oshimohole, Ateke Tom, Boyloaf, Emami
According to our findings, the Avengers already know that many of the ex-militant leaders and activists, including Ateke Tom, Ebikabowei Ben, aka Boyloaf, were against them. Strangely, on June 18, it dragged the Edo state governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole into the fray. It said: “The high command of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) condemn in strong term the continuous efforts of Mr Ebikabowei Ben (Boyloaf), Ayiri Emami, Timipre Silva, Adams Oshiomhole and their paymasters to link and catch-in (sic) our activities to promote their political MEND…”
“The people of the Niger Delta knows (sic) that the likes of Timipre Silva, Boyloaf and Ayiri Emami are professional conflict merchants in the region. The only surprised (sic) entry is the outgoing Governor of Edo state Adams Oshiomhole, which reason is not far fetch, as such he wants some assistance and machineries from the criminal elements of the defunct MEND,” it said.
What has given the Avengers and other so-called militant groups credence was the belief that they were fighting for the liberation of Niger Delta, which other ethnic nationalities disagreed with. But, as if letting the cat out of the bag, one of the Ijaw militant groups, Reformed Egbesu Boys of Niger-Delta, during the week, put the speculation beyond doubt, during the week, when it said: “We wish to state that the current crisis is purely and truly an Ijaw self determination quest involving grievous issues, which predate the current administration.”
General Officer Commanding, GOC of the group, self-appointed General Tony Alagbakereowei and others, in a statement, asserted: “As a matter of fact, we wish to state that the crisis is centered on Ijaw communities in the western flank and central axis, including Gbaramatu communities in Warri South West local government…”
“Parts of Ogbe Ijoh communities Warri South West local government; parts of Egbema in Warri North local government; and Ogulagha kingdom (Forcados Terminal) in Burutu local government. Others are Brass and Nembe Ijaw communities in Bayelsa State. These are exclusive Ijaw territorial communities and boundaries within the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the militant group revealed.
It added: “In this connection, we wish to state that any other group or group of persons outside these properly identified Ijaw areas masquerading as negotiators (mediators in the planned negotiation with government) are only deceiving themselves and the Federal government.” “In this wise, we wish to alert the Federal government, particularly the Minister of Defence, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and the Director General, State Security Services, that the purported MEND negotiators are not known to the Ijaw nation and they do not have our mandate in this subject matter.
“In fact, the so- called Niger Delta is synonymous with the Ijaw nation- the historical and traditional home of the Ijaws in Nigeria and the Diaspora.
This does not exclude the fact that there are other minor ethnic groupings, but we have always played the role of big brother to them,” it said. The militant group declared: “Consequently, we will not allow meddlesome interlopers and our traditional antagonists, who have always constituted cogs in the wheel of progress to the Ijaw nation to take credit for our sorrow, tears and blood.” The group asserted: “The Federal Government allowed miscreants and meddlesome interlopers seeking relevance in Abuja to gain pipeline contracts and appointments to deceive key actors of the government.”
Itsekiri group spits fire
Reacting to the declaration, the Niger Delta Movement for Socio Economy Inclusion, NDMSEI, an Itsekiri group, screamed: “You can see that the Egbesu Boys of Niger Delta have confirmed our earlier position that the struggle is not meant for other ethnic nationalities in the state.”
In a joint statement by its president and secretary, Oki Ajogun and Inama Ejukokoh respectively, it said: “We call on every other ethnic nationality in the Niger Delta region, to as a matter of urgency, come together and discuss this criminal and selfish struggle by the Ijaw, which has been stated clearly. That is why other ethnic nationalities are not part of it”. “We should be able to ask ourselves why the Ijaw come to bomb pipelines in our areas since the struggle is for themselves alone. We are also calling on the Federal government to put up a structure to guide and protect the lives and properties of other ethnic nationalities in the region.