By Shola O’Neil:
• Experts comb blasts’ scene •Police haunt for suspects
Some repentant militants and Ijaw leaders have fled Warri, Delta State, over Monday’s bomb blasts at the Government House Annex.
The police have launched a manhunt for the perpetrators of the act.
Bomb experts and detection equipment were yesterday deployed to sweep the scene.
Unconfirmed reports said some former militants were arrested by soldiers at Ogbe-Ijoh Waterside, shortly after the explosions. But this could not be confirmed.
One of the leaders at Ogbe-Ijoh said security personnel swooped on the area in the evening and took away some former militants.
But police spokesman Charles Muka said no arrests had been made.
It was gathered that the exodus of the former militants followed reports that they might be arrested over the blasts.
Our source said as soon as reports of the explosions spread, a Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) leader in the area directed his followers to flee to the creeks – a development that created security concerns.
“The order was given through telephone and it directed the boys to flee into the creeks. They were particularly warned to avoid the Warri Waterways and to instead make their getaway through Koko and Sapele routes,” the source added.
The development initially heightened fears of attacks on oil and gas facilities, but it turned out to be anxiety over possible arrest of the former militants.
Police Affairs Minister Ibrahim Lame said yesterday in Abuja that the incident was being probed.
He spoke after commissioning 134 Toyota Hilux patrol vans for the seven-city community policing programme at the Force Headquarters, Abuja. Lame said the government was determined to bring the perpetrators to justice to deter others.
Lame said: “The bomb blast is being investigated and the Inspector General of Police (IG), Ogbonna Onovo, is on top of the situation. He just briefed me this morning (yesterday) about what they did before the incident. Even before the actual thing took place, they took certain measures to ensure that this thing did not happen and if they did not take the steps they took the casualty figures would have been something else.
“Because everybody who entered the building was screened; every vehicle that was supposed to go there was stopped some distance from the area. I think only the governors and the minister were allowed to enter there.
“So, if all these vehicles were allowed to enter there, you can imagine what would have happened that day. So, it was really something bad; it is something that we could say a lot of work went into; a lot of work is going into it to ensure those who perpetrated it are brought to justice.”
Lame denied that the blasts were indications of increased terrorist activities in Nigeria.
“We are very worried about the security situation in the country, but we don’t have terrorism in Nigeria. We have kidnapping and kidnapping is a community issue,” he said.
He urged Nigerians, especially the media, to help educate the public on the need to give information to the police to help them fight the menace.
“The communities must be able to identify and help the police with information about individuals within them that do these activities,” Lame said, adding: “They don’t live inside the river; they live on land with their own parents and brothers.”
Onovo said the vehicles would facilitate police movement, urging the Minister to ensure that the police get helicopters and other crime-fighting equipment to enhance their effectiveness.
Delta Deputy Governor Amos Utuama declared the state safe for business, despite the explosions.
Speaking when he received the management of United Geophysical Nigeria Limited in his office in Asaba, Utuama said the incident should not deter any genuine investor who wants to do business in the state.
He said: “Delta State is very safe, despite what happened yesterday (Monday).”
The leader of the delegation and chief executive of United Geophysical Company Limited, Mr Babjide Owootori, said the firm’s management came to tell the government of its plan to carry out seismic activities in some parts of the state.
Owootori said the operation would generate about 1000 jobs.
The operations will cover Ughelli South and North, Bomadi, Burutu, Patani, Ika South, Ika North-East, Aniocha South, Ukwuani and Ndokwa West local government areas.
The sweeping of the scene for bomb remnants began amid claims by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta(MEND)that the death toll could have included governors and other dignitaries if it had detonated a third bomb.
Police spokesman Charles Muka said bomb experts were “sweeping the place to recover anything that could be of use in the ongoing investigation.”
He, however, said no suspect had been arrested.
The attack was said to have been carried out by a MEND faction opposed to its former commander, Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo).
Our independent investigation revealed that the conference may have been a victim of infighting within the top hierarchy of the militant group.
It was learnt that a section of the top commanders of MEND were not happy over the perceived overbearing influence of Tompolo.
A source said: “The Federal Government and others think that if they have Tompolo’s support that every other person can go to hell, but this has now shown that it is not like that; every segment involved in the struggle is important.”
However, sources close to Tompolo said he was shocked by the incident. He was quoted as saying, ‘’This came as a surprise to us. We had no prior knowledge of this. We are calling on the security services to arrest those behind it.”
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