Nigeria’s Defence Headquarters on Wednesday issued a warning to militants and oil pipeline vandals across the Niger Delta, saying the nation’s military would not abandon the confidence reposed in it by Nigerians.
The warning came ahead of President Muhammadu Buhari’s trip to the region on Thursday.
It also came hours after the militant group, Niger Delta Avengers, claimed responsibility for the destruction of two oil wells belonging to Chevron Corporation.
“The Defence Headquarters wishes to emphasize that the Nigerian Armed Forces will not relent in their efforts to flush out economic saboteurs masquerading under whatever guise to perpetuate evils in the Niger Delta,” Rabe Abubakar, the Acting Director of Defence Information said in a statement.
The Avengers, a new militant group that has claimed responsibility for a string of attacks on oil and gas installations across the Niger Delta since February, wrote on its Twitter page that it blew up the Chevron wells in the early hours of Wednesday.
“With the heavy presence of 100 gunboats, 4 warships and jet bombers, NDA blew up Chevron oil wells RMP 23 and RMP 24 3:44 a.m. this morning,” the group tweeted.
The group also ridiculed the Nigerian military, saying its successful activities had shown “the whole world that Nigeria military is good in harassing innocent civilians”.
In his statement, Mr. Abubakar said the military would not be intimidated by the tactics of the suspected militants.
“The military is not unmindful of the campaign of calumny against our soldiers by paid agents claiming that soldiers are harassing members of the public while performing their constitutional responsibility,” Mr. Abubakar, a brigadier-general, said.
“It is pertinent to state that it is the same group of people that are wreaking havoc on the critical national assets that are blackmailing the Armed Forces and other security agencies to divert attention.”
The military denied that it was harassing innocent people in Niger Delta communities.
“The security measure put in place is not meant to intimidate any innocent individuals but to bring normalcy to our land. We urge the communities and well meaning Nigerians to cooperate with the security agencies in their bid to apprehend the perpetrators.”
Mr. Abubakar, therefore, reinstated military’s commitment to discharge its duties within the ambiance of the law.
“The military and other security agencies will continue to discharge their lawful duties in the Niger Delta and any other part of the country in a most professional manner devoid of the claim by the criminal elements of harassment, intimidation and arrest. Our job is to secure infrastructural facilities and property of innocent citizens as well as containing the activities of criminal.”
Mr. Buhari’s journey would take him to Ogoniland where he is expected to flag-off the cleanup of the area which has been polluted for decades as a result of oil exploration there.
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