• Oshiomhole, Ohakim, Uduaghan scamper for safety
• Why we struck – MEND
• Says more attacks under way

AT least two people were feared killed and several others seriously wounded, on Monday, with three governors scampering  for safety, following three bomb explosions that rocked Government House Annexe in Warri, Delta State.
Nigerian Tribune witnessed the incident and observed that the bombs exploded three times in three different parked vehicles on the premises of the Government House Annexe.
The explosions took place shortly before the commencement of a conference organised by the Delta State government, in conjunction with Vanguard Media, entitled “Post-Amnesty Dialogue- Restoring Hope in the Niger Delta.”

Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has claimed responsibility for the bomb explosions, saying the deceit of endless dialogue and conference would no longer be tolerated.

Shortly before the detonation of the three bombs, MEND had sent a warning through journalists of  its intention to attack the venue of the conference with bombs planted in three vehicles close to the venue of the event.

“In our usual effort to prevent the loss of innocent lives, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta advises the immediate evacuation of the Government House Annexe, Warri, and its immediate surroundings up to the Delta State Broadcasting Corporation.

“The time given for this evacuation before the detonation of the first bomb is thirty (30) minutes, which will elapse by 11.30 hrs Nigerian Time. The primary school bordering the Government House Annexe should be evacuated immediately”, the body stated in a  statement issued  before the explosions.

MEND had warned that the first bomb would be detonated at exactly 11.30 hrs, adding “we will advise on the other devices planted within and around the venue of the Vanguard Newspapers organised and Delta State-sponsored conference. Organisers and participants at this jamboree will ignore this warning at their own peril.”

The group made its threat real when the event which started on a cheerful note was disrupted, when a mini-explosion heralded the convoy of the governors, eminent leaders, and other notable invitees into the venue.

The first incident was initially taken for a mini explosion from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) installation within the Government House premises.

The worst, however, happened 30 minutes later. The publisher of Vanguard, Mr.  Sam Amuka-Pemu, was making a speech when a thunderous sound ripped open the ceiling of the conference hall where the summit was holding and injured many people.

Scores of people, including Governors Adams Oshiomhole of Edo, Chief Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta states respectively and other special invitees struggled to exit the hall to safety.

The three governors and other members of the high table were smuggled out of the hall through the exit door by hordes of security operatives while several others sustained varying degrees of injuries.

Other eminent dignitaries that witnessed the incident included Chief Ufot Ekaette, Minister of Niger Delta, who also represented Acting President Goodluck Jonathan; representative of Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State ; General Andrew Azazi (rtd), former Chief of Defence Staff, who chaired the occasion, and the host governor, Dr.  Uduaghan, as well as the Vanguard publisher, Mr Amuka-Pemu.

Nigerian Tribune observed that the incident could have been avoided if the security men were alive to their duty, even as no less than three bomb detectors were seen at the venue.

A statement issued by MEND spokesman, Jomo Gbomo,  gave the reason for the action: “After receiving the baton of ignorance from his Bayelsa State counterpart, the governor of Delta State declared in the Vanguard newspaper, of February 22, 2010 that “the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is a media creation.”

“This assertion coming from the same person who claimed publicly that an oil pipeline can be destroyed by one man armed with a bottle of petrol, is hardly surprising. What is surprising is how he managed to obtain a science degree.

“Thinking of no better way to announce our continued presence in the Niger Delta to Mr Uduaghan, operatives of MEND today, March 15, 2010, successfully breached the security at the Delta State Government House in Warri  and planted three explosive devices in and around this compound which is the venue of the Vanguard Post-Amnesty Dialogue organised by the Vanguard Newspaper.

“We hope the actions, which will follow, will persuade Mr Uduaghan that we exist outside of cyberspace,” it stated.

MEND stressed that the land of the people of the Niger Delta was stolen by the oil companies and Northern Nigeria with a stroke of the pen.

It noted that the Vanguard-organised and Delta State-sponsored conference was one of such tools of deception, stressing that the Niger Delta had been  partitioned into oil blocks, which had been distributed among mostly northerners while indigenes of the Niger Delta could barely survive. One such example being General T.Y. Danjuma.

“It is common knowledge that no southerner can lay claim to an inch of land in the North. So why should we continue to talk as the occupation of our land and theft of our resources by the oil companies and Northern Nigeria persists?

“The governors of the Niger Delta are shameless and visionless stooges who are more concerned with looting their state treasuries and seeking a second term in office, even against the wishes of their people,” the group added

MEND said it would attack any such gathering designed to “propagate more falsehood” and warned the public to avoid such gatherings “as they may not be fortunate to have a warning before detonation.”

In the coming days, the group said it would carry out a number of attacks against installations and oil companies across the Niger Delta and it would spread out to companies such as Total, which, it said, had been spared in the past.

The General Manager (Publication)/Editor-in-Chief of Vanguard newspapers, Lagos, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, on Monday, gave account of how explosions sacked guests as they converged, on the venue of the post-amnesty dialogue.

According to his account, which was conveyed to the Nigerian Tribune in an email in Lagos, the explosions rocked the outside perimeter wall of the  Delta State Government Annexe, Warri, as the guests were trying to settle down.

He said the early morning explosion aborted the dialogue, which, he explained, was a contribution of Vanguard newspaper to promote sustainable peace and development in the region.

Besides, he stated that the event was meant to ginger governments into  action and not misconstrue the current amnesty as the final  solution to  the Niger Delta agitation for equity and justice.

“For a successful dialogue, Vanguard had lined up all representatives of all tiers of government to come and discuss their scorecards for development in a way that must ginger all to action. These were supposed to be discussed by the militants, members of the civil society, international organisations and the road map for development clearly re-defined with stated deliverables and timelines.

“It is, therefore, most regrettable that this noble project was aborted by the same people for whom it was designed to elevate.”

Adefaye, who is the current president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), said the organisers, as a public trust, had diligently invited all, including the known leaders of the militants to the  event. Despite the incident, he said the organisers remained committed to peace and development in the Niger Delta and “shall purse this noble initiative after due consultation with all stakeholders. We shall not relent in our pursuit of the common good, equity and justice in our federation,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, reactions have continued to trail the development, on  Monday.

Ray Ekpu said “this is crazy. I can’t understand because the conference was supposed to find a way out of the problem and deal with the post-amnesty plans after they had surrendered their arms. And this sort of things just happened. I don’t understand. Who can please tell me what is the meaning of this? I thought militants would be happy to have these eminent people gathered here. Now the conference has been disrupted. It is amazing.”

Senator Stella Omu, former Chief Whip of the Senate and now member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees (BOT), said “It’s a shame. In a country where we have security agents, a thing like this is happening without being checked. I want to appeal to all Niger Deltans to ensure the region is developed.”

President, Ijaw National Congress, (INC), Dr Atuboyedia Obianimi, also said: “It is unfortunate. I don’t know who would have done this. To the best of my knowledge and as a lover of humanity, what happened was wrong and unacceptable. We should be quick to find out the motive for the disruption. INC condemns the action. But for God, many lives would have been lost.  This is not good for our region. The organisers and the government should look into details to find out why this occurred. We should look at this matter because it is at the heart of security and confidence building.”

Former governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie Oyegun  said “I am just surprised. It is most, most unfortunate that this kind of thing could happen. We should not rush to blame any group. This country is so confused now that a lot of things can happen. Really, we are here for a well thought-out and good intentioned programme put together for the good of the region. It is obvious that somebody somewhere does not want peace, otherwise this kind of thing should not happen.”

Chief Solomon Edebiri, a governorship candidate in Edo State during the last election, said “it was a blatant shock, multidimensional shock in the sense that this was a programme put together by a man who believes in the Niger Delta course, a man who believes that the post-amnesty programme should move faster. The enemies of progress came to disrupt the programme. How can the region move forward? This call for a quick review of the amnesty programme. Government should move with speed to fast track the post-amnesty programme. We are still living in fear of government sincerity. Government needs to restore hope and confidence in the people. No youth will have time to plant bomb if they are engaged. You are aware the bomb blew up from a vehicle. It shows that it was a high powered thing.”

Professor Victor Perete-mode, former Delta State Commissioner on the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), in his reaction, said “I am so disappointed and disillusioned. We are all oppressed; an oppressed man can’t come and kill an oppressed. We are here to discuss and find solution to problems in the area. They should allow it to take place. No development can take place in an atmosphere of chaos. They should allow us to find solution to the problem.”

Bishop God-Do-Well Avwomakpa said “I will say this is one of the greatest mistakes that have ever been made. Probably enemies of Niger Delta did this thing. Whoever did this, God should intervene.”

Earlier in his address, chairman of the event, General Andrew Owoeye Azazi, had warned that the Niger Delta situation was like a litmus test.

According to him, the way issues in the region would be resolved would tell how the nation would resolve its own problems.

Lamenting challenges in the region, he said before now, the region was the most peaceful in the country, adding that “this was the most peaceful part of Nigeria several years ago and today we are here to discuss peace in the region.”

He called on Niger Deltans and Nigerians at large to use what he termed their “combined wisdom to manage the post-amnesty situation in the region, adding that “let us try to achieve a high lot of success.”

Meanwhile, ex-militants of Urhobo extraction, under the aegis of Niger Delta Freedom Fighters, have threatened to bomb the multi-billion Utorogu Gas Plant located in Ughelli, Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State.

They also threatened other oil facilities in Delta Central, in protest against their alleged marginali-sation by the Delta State governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan and his deputy, Professor Amos Utuama.

Speaking with newsmen in Ughelli, on Monday, John Ozikabu, Wilson Gbaire, Indiami Fineboy Okpolotor and Figbele Joseph said the Federal Government recognised them as ex-militants, yet the state government, led by Uduaghan, refused to recognise them.

According to them, “Uduaghan recognise Ijaw generals more than we the Urhobo generals, but we want to let him know that if he doesn’t attend to us within seven days from now, we will have to return to our usual life of bombing oil facilities in Urhoboland.

“We will make sure that the eight local government areas in the central senatorial district of the state remain ungovernable until our requests are meant.”

They said while the Federal Government was giving them their  entitlements,  the state had failed to recognise them as ex-militants, but allegedly favoured a popular Ijaw ex-militant and his cohorts with juicy state government contracts.

“Even the Federal Government gave an approval that we should be employed to guard oil facilities in our area but the reverse is still the case,” they added.

Nigerian Tribune gathered that even the Joint Task Force (JTF) was not involved by the organisers in the security arrangement.

“We were not involved at all. The only thing was that we merely provided skeletal security measure because a former Chief of Army Staff and, indeed, a Chief of Defence Staff was coming,” a source told the Nigerian Tribune.

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