Fresh hostilities appear to have resumed in the Niger Delta as the Federal Government takes decisive efforts to curb resurgence of violence by criminal elements in the area. Men of the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) have been placed on red alert over the threat by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) to resume hostilities in the region.
According to Daily Sun investigations, security has been beefed up around major oil installations as well as the water ways where sea-pirates have rendered water transportation a nightmare for passengers. Security sources told Daily Sun that the JTF would move against pipeline vandalisation and combat the gangs who have been carrying out robberies along the waterways.
It was gathered last night that the JTF had commenced raids on at least two suspected criminal camps in the Niger Delta creeks.
Agency report quoted the JFT as saying that it was carrying out operations in Delta and Bayelsa, two of the main oil-producing states.
“At the moment we have ongoing operations in several locations simultaneously,” JTF spokesman Timothy Antigha said, but added he could not immediately give any further details. The military warned on Saturday it planned to carry out raids on suspected criminal camps in the Niger Delta and told civilians in the vicinity to leave.
It is the first major military offensive since an amnesty brokered by President Goodluck Jonathan began in August 2009. Recently four people were killed along four Rivers-Lagos Camp axis in Akassa, Brass Local Government Area. The incident prompted the maritime workers’ chairman, Mr. Kunegha Adam to express displeasure over the upsurge of incessant sea-pirates attacks on passengers by calling on security agencies to do something about securing the water ways.
Similarly, the Programe Officer of the Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Mr Morris Alagoa alerted security agencies of the attacks by sea-pirates along Igematoru, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. Checks indicated that the threat to security in the region through the activities of sea-pirates, aggrieved ex-militants and newly recruited militants informed the directive by the Defence Headquarters that the military should clampdown on acts of terrorism and resurgence of militancy in the region.
Sources said the JTF recent statement on Wednesday that it would rid the region of criminals was a veiled signal to sponsors of the groups and that the military is battle ready to move against them. Lt. Col. Antigha had issued a statement advising communities harbouring some of the criminals to report to the JTF. According to him, criminal gangs masquerading as militants have been engaging in all manners of atrocities like kidnapping, sea- robbery and illegal boarding of oil production platforms.
He said law-abiding citizens of the region should go about their lawful business as the JTF is determined to sustain the peace in the region.
Sources said the JTF was confident the communities would turn in the criminals in their midst as the people were desirous of a lasting peace in the region.