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Army Challenges Dokubo as Obasanjo Gets Nod to Crush MASSOB, Others
|September 29, 2004
September 29, 2004
Posted to the web September 29, 2004
John Ighodaro, Hector Igbikiowubo, Charles Ozoemena With Agency Reports
THE Armed Forces, yesterday, dared an insurgent group-- Niger Delta People's Volunteers Force-- led by Mujahid Dokubo-Asari to "strike first" and see the manifestation of Nigeria's "full military colours."
Meanwhile, the National Council of State (NCS) yesterday gave President Olusegun Obasanjo the go-ahead to crack down on all groups including MASSOB threatening the country's existence.
Asari had threatened to attack international oil facilities and personnel in the Niger Delta. An "all time war against Nigeria," he said, would be launched from October 1.
His threats and activities of his group are partly responsible for the current all-time high crude oil price which went above $50 a barrel yesterday, unsettling financial market.
In a statement in Port Harcourt, the Joint Task Force in Rivers State set up by the Federal Government to quell the insurgency said "any gang that doubts our resolve should strike first."
The statement: "Attention of the Joint Task Force (Operation Flush Out 3) has been drawn to statements credited to one Alhaji Asari Dokubo threatening to destroy oil installations and asking oil companies to evacuate their staff from parts of Rivers State.
"The JTF wishes to state that since inauguration (of the JTF) on September 4, 2004, it has been using the kid glove in dealing with the gangsters because of past antecedents of military involvement in internal security operations and the resultant public opinions. But with such unguarded threats from the gang leader, the JTF is being catalysed to manifest full military colours in the creeks of Rivers State.
"The JTF is, therefore, cautioning Asari Dokubo and his likes to stop steering internal insurrection in the state. The entire citizenry of Rivers State and expatriate oil workers are advised to go about their usual businesses. The JTF has instituted a 24-hour patrol in Port Harcourt and its surrounding creeks. There are also crack teams of standby troops to reach any part of the state on short notice. Any gang that doubts our resolve should strike first."
Dokubo threatens oil majors
The Dokubo group advised oil majors to leave the Delta region, which pumps all of Nigeria's 2.3 million barrels per day production. It also accused Royal Dutch Shell, Nigeria's largest oil producer, and Italy's Agip of "collaboration with the Federal Government in acts of genocide" against the Ijaw.
Dokubo-Asari warned that his group would not take responsibility for any harm that might come to foreign nationals and advised government and embassies to withdraw their citizens.
An Ijaw leader and member of the Ijaw Youth Council, Mr. Patterson Ogun, distanced the Ijaw from Dokubo-Asari. "It is true that he used to be our national president, but we have since held elections and appointed new officers. The Ijaw don't believe in his approach of violence because it will heighten tensions," adding: "It is only Asari who can explain why he is doing what he is doing. We are not part of it."
Shell and Agip dismissed the militant group's threat, insisting it would not affect production. "We are not in any way moved by the threat. We believe the Nigerian security forces are equal to the task of safeguarding oil installations and protecting workers," said Don Boham, a Shell spokesman.
A spokesman for Agip said the company would continue with business as usual. "We will not halt production because of the threat. We are still up and running," the spokesman, who asked not to be named, said. "We know the Nigerian government will not close its eyes and allow disgruntled elements to disrupt its main source of livelihood," he said.
A spokesman for French oil group, Total, said in Paris that the threat would have no impact on Total's production in Nigeria, but added: "We are closely watching to see how the situation develops."
Rivers State spokesman, Mr Emmanuel Okah, said Dokubo-Asari's group did not pose a threat to Nigerian oil production. "Dokubo-Asari is a joker. He does not have the capacity to destroy oil installations. The government will not allow it. The security forces are fully mobilised and combat-ready to dislodge this criminal group," he said.
Defence spokesman, Colonel Ganiyu Adewale, also dismissed the threat. "It is an empty threat that should be ignored. The military are in control of all oil facilities in Nigeria. The Nigerian military will never allow any armed gang or a group of bandits to toy with the nation's destiny," he said.
General Manager (Public Affairs) of the Nigerian Agip oil Company (NAOC), Mr. Akin Aruwajoye, in a statement denied that the company had been providing helicopters to support the army in the Niger Delta. He said the company's helicopters "are licenced for civilians and are deployed exclusively for the business of oil and exploration."
OPEC to halt rising prices
Meanwhile, OPEC struck back at record oil prices yesterday with top producer, Saudi Arabia, saying it was ready to put 1.5 million more barrels per day (bpd) on the world market. Saudi Arabia will increase oil production capacity to 11 million barrels per day (bpd), Saudi Oil Minister, Ali al-Nuaimi, said yesterday.
The kingdom will use the Abu Safah and Qatif fields, "which are now on stream, to hike its production capacity to 11 million barrels per day by intensifying well drilling in producing fields," he said. The Arabic version of Nuaimi's statement said that the increase would take place "within the next few weeks."
NCS backs Obasanjo to crush MASSOB
Meanwhile, the National Council of State (NCS) yesterday gave President Olusegun Obasanjo the go-ahead to crackdown on all groups threatening the existence of the country, including the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). The council, which met at the State House Abuja, also found solution to the lingering problem of sharing the excess revenue made from sales of crude oil. The total amount realised so far is N629 billion with 50 per cent of the fund allocated for sharing among the three tiers of government.
Former President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari; former Military President Ibrahim Babangida; Chief Earnest Shonekan, former President Interim National Government; former Justices of the Federation; Speaker, House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Massari and 36 state governors attended the meeting.
But former Military Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, was absent.
Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief Sam Egwu, who addressed State House correspondents along with his colleagues from Borno, Osun and Anambra States said that the issue of MASSOB threat was discussed at the meeting, declaring: "Generally, the issue of threat by whatever group that is trying to threaten the sovereignty of this country came into focus during our meeting. It is the view of the council that the President takes measures to deal with any group that threatens the sovereignty of the country. And we gave Mr. President our full backing. So government is not playing about it."
Osun State Governor, Prince Olagunsoye Onyilola, who spoke on the revenue sharing formula, said that council "approved that 50 per cent of the total amount would be set aside to take care of whatever fluctuations that may occur during the fiscal year in the price of crude oil. Thirteen per cent will go to the producing areas, while the rest of us will take the balance."
Council also endorsed the recommendation of the Federal Executive Council for the people to be granted pardon under the presidential prerogative of mercy and those to be given honours awards. One person is to receive the GCFR award, 23 to receive CON, 49 OFR, 55 OON, 44 MFR and 13 MON
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