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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Militants bomb Agip facility in Bayelsa

Multiple explosions on Tuesday night rocked Agip flow station in Egbema-Angalabiri and Letugbene in Bayelsa State. In Port Harcourt on Wednesday, there was a bomb scare at the city’s airport, necessitating the evacuation of an Arik Air plane, while Aso Rock chose Lagos as its launch pad to ease tension.

Presidential Adviser on Niger Delta, Kingsley Kuku, disclosed in Lagos that the government is ready to talk to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) to stave off its threat issued on Monday to bomb Abuja, Lagos, and the Deep South. Abuja will engage the MEND to find lasting peace, Kuku stated, stressing that the line of dialogue is open, as there is no illusion that the MEND does not exist.
However, down in Bayelsa, Joint Task Force Spokesman, Lt. Col. Timothy Antigha, said the explosions were politically motivated as they did not occur anywhere close to the oil facility. But it was learnt that the explosions were planted by a militant group headed by the man with the alias of General Commander Plasma, who had a fortnight ago written to Agip for the payment of an undisclosed amount of money or face attack.
Leader of the Movement for Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ledum Mitee, condemned the blasts.

He said violence cannot be an answer to the issues in the Niger Delta, and we can achieve peace  by dialogue. We should continue to dialogue as that is the way forward for peaceful development in the Niger Delta.”
Former Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC) President, Chris Ekiyor  appealed to the perpetrators of the act that "if they have grievances they should bring them to the table so that we can solve them together. "Bombing will not solve the problem.”
Niger Delta Liberation Front (NDLF) Spokesman, Mark Anthony, urged the MEND to avoid terrorism and understand the fact that the principal rule behind Niger Delta struggle is to fight for freedom and justice, not by destroying the economy through bombing of oil installations and killing innocent persons through bomb attacks.”
In Port Harcourt, 98 passengers aboard an Arik Airline flight were evacuated due to a bomb alert raised by Hilda Dokubo, Nollywood actress and former Adviser to Rivers State Governor, Peter Odili. “Somebody called a female actress who then went and told the captain of the aircraft, Santopio, that there was a bomb in the plane,” recounted Henry Anyanwu, the Airport Manager. All the passengers and their luggage were screened again and the plane was scanned by bomb experts sent in by the Commissioner of Police, Suleiman Abbah.

Airk Managing Director, Chris Ndulue, confirmed that another aircraft was provided to convey passengers to their destination, Lagos. Kuku, the Presidential Adviser on Niger Delta, disclosed the willingness of Abuja to dialogue with the MEND when he spoke at the Lagos Airport during the departure of 75 amnesty programme trainees for undergraduate studies at the People’s Friendship University, Moscow.
He noted that peace has returned to the Niger Delta but the peace is not perfect, adding that some people are still aggrieved and President Goodluck Jonathan is extending his hand of fellowship to them.

“The threat I read about has been issued by the MEND and I am not one of those who believe that the MEND no longer exists, because I know that before the amnesty programme there was the MEND,” he stressed.  “Right now elections are close and politicians are at their game but this particular one we are not going to take lightly. We are going to look into this and engage those ones that are aggrieved. We will engage them and know the reason for their grievance.” The 75 trainees bring to 149 the number of former militants that have gone for degree studies since the commencement of the scheme. Up to 74 of them had recently left for Malaysia.
This batch went to Russia to study agriculture, medicine, and engineering.
Kuku said the Niger Delta “has risen from the doldrums of mediocrity and is fast becoming a destination of light and landscape of prosperity.

“We will not flinch at the opportunity to educate our people and equip them with modern knowledge and contemporary exposure that effectively position them to take the lead in the scheme of things, whether socially, economically or in government matters.”
He, however, warned the trainees against bad behaviour, stating that the amnesty office will repatriate any of them who tries to soil Nigeria’s name.
Eight of the 212 trainees sent to Ghana have been withdrawn.
Former Bayelsa State Governor, Deprieye Alamieyeseiga, advised those who left for Russia on Wednesday to take their studies seriously and shun acts of lawlessness.
He explained that human beings are the agents of development and development will come if they are well trained and intellectually capable.
He said going to Russia is not new as he had as Governor sent 360 youths to that country to study medicine, engineering, and in other fields, with many now graduates who are doing well in Nigeria.

It also emerged on Wednesday that some former House of Representatives members from the South South are holding talks with the MEND to sheath its sword.
Former Deputy Speaker, Austin Opara, told journalists in Abuja that the South South Caucus of former House of Representatives members is in dialogue with the MEND, as all hands must be on deck to ward off violence ahead of the elections next month.
He urged politicians to shun brigandage, saying: “We believe that the Jonathan/Sambo ticket will provide unity and stability for Nigeria’s development in this decade, as they are the most qualified and experienced team.
“Being endowed with uncommon humility, they are role models to millions of Nigerian youths. Their programme of encouraging increased participation of women in governance  is well recognised.”

By Sola Shittu (Abuja), Adeola Yusuf, Abel Orukpe, Emeka Umejei(Lagos), Daniel Abia (Port Harcourt) and Igoniko Oduma (Yenagoa)

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