Gbaramatu Kingdom in Delta State, hometown of wanted ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo.
This followed the bombing of strategic gas and crude pipelines belonging to Shell and Agip on Saturday in an increasingly fierce campaign that has chopped Nigeria’s oil production in half, militants and residents said.
A new militant group, calling itself the Niger Delta Avengers, reported in social media that they had dynamited the trunk line linking the Dutch-British Shell Company Bonny terminal and the Brass export terminal of the Italian company Agip.
Eye-witness accounts said women and children are missing as soldiers opened fire on the community forcing residents especially women and children to jump into the swamp in panic while others sought refuge in forests.
It was gathered that soldiers invaded the community Saturday in commando style and have vowed to occupy the communities indefinitely just as a local community leader Eke-Spiff Erempagamo confirmed the attack.
An indigene of Gbaramatu Kingdom and human rights lawyer, Alowei Cleric, said it was the height of governmet’s inhumanity to the plight of citizens under its protection.
“The attack on the peace-loving ancient town, the headquarters of the Gbaramatu Kingdom, is an abuse of the traditional institution of the Gbaramatu people. The unprovoked attack on the oil-rich, but pauperised shantytown at a time the Federal Government is engaging stakeholders in the region to dialogue with the militants shows that government is not sincere in exploring peaceful means to resolve the crisis.
“This is the height of government inhumanity to the citizens under its protection. What is the offence of Oporoza people to warrant this invasion? This is a declaration of war against the people of the Gbaramatu Kingdom whose offence is to have oil in their land.
“President Buhari should know that he couldn’t win this war with the use of force. The military action will only worsen the situation, as some other miscreants will take this gesture, as an excuse to unleash mayhem on the oil facilities. What the soldiers are doing will not do the country any good. We call on President Buhari to call his marauding soldiers to order,” he said.
Nigeria’s oil production had already fallen from a projected 2.2 million barrels a day to 1.4 million barrels before the latest attacks on the oil industry in southern Nigeria, including three within the past week on facilities of the U.S. oil major Chevron as several companies have evacuated some of their workers.
The Niger Delta Avengers has given the oil companies a May 31 deadline to leave Nigeria’s southern, oil-producing Niger Delta.
“Watch out something big is about to happen and it will shock the whole world,” the Avengers warned Saturday, addressing international and indigenous oil companies and Nigeria’s military.
In a surprise development, community leaders and non-violent activists have recently sided with the militants, saying residents of the Niger Delta support their demands for a greater share of the country’s oil wealth. Oil pollution has destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of farmers and fishermen.
The militants are also angry that the government is winding down a 2009 amnesty program that had paid 30,000 militants to guard installations they once attacked even as the Nigeria’s government has deployed thousands of soldiers to defend oil installations.
But the militants announced on Friday that they had blown up a state-owned gas and crude line, noting it was “heavily guarded by the military.”
Thousands of civilians have fled the fallout from the military campaign, though the army denies reports that uninvolved civilians have been killed.
Supporters of Nigeria’s government and the southern based opposition party are accusing each other of funding the Avengers.
This year’s renewed campaign targeting the oil industry in the Niger Delta have caused Nigeria to lose its position as Africa’s largest oil producer.