Written by Julius Osahon, James Ume, and Golu Timothy:

FG committed to N/Delta devt – Jonathan The Movement for the Emanc ipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) yesterday claimed responsibility for two bomb explosions that rocked venue of the Post-Amnesty Dialogue in Warri, Delta State.

The group said its action was informed by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s statement which referred to its group as “a creation of the media.”This development is seen as a setback for the Federal Government’s Post-Amnesty programme as the pan-Niger Deltans’ dialogue organised by Vanguard newspaper was aborted by the bomb explosions outside the perimeter fence of the Delta State Government House Annex, Warri, venue of the event.

The first blast occurred at about 10.45 a.m., a few seconds after the arrival of the host governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, his Edo and Imo state counterparts, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Chief Ikedi Ohakim respectively, while the second occurred five minutes into the programme attended by people from the Niger Delta region.Our correspondent, who was at the scene of the first explosion, which was a few metres away from the Government House Annex along the NPA Express Way, Warri, learnt that the explosives were planted in a car parked a few metres from the government house. The make and registration number of the car could not be ascertained as it was burnt beyond recognition.

The confusion caused by the first explosion had hardly died down when at about 11.35 a.m., the second one occurred as the publisher of Vanguard, Mr. Sam Amuka, was delivering his speech, thereby prompting the already seated governors and other invitees to scamper for safety. The three visibly shaken governors were later moved to safety by their equally shaken security operatives.

The first explosion, which occurred opposite the venue, was not taken seriously by organisers of the programme as the security operatives had said there was no problem, but the velocity of the second blast sent a strong message to every person present. The impact of the second explosion, which vibrated through the hall with full capacity, shattered window blinds and glasses, just as the invitees, security operatives, the state governors and  journalists dashed through the exit, causing a stampede within and outside the building.

The guests were applauding a statement made by Mr. Amuka, who was praising the amnesty initiatives of ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, when the second explosion rocked the very foundation of the hall. The police have confirmed that one person died in the explosion. The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in Delta, Mr Charles Muka, confirmed this in Asaba, even as he said the police headquarters in Asaba had received the report of the death of a woman in the explosion, which also injured an unidentified number of persons.He, however, could not ascertain the number of those who were injured in the blast, which twice rocked the venue of the meeting.The explosions caused palpable fear in the oil-rich city of Warri and its environs. Armed soldiers and other security operatives immediately deployed to the area closed all roads leading to Wellington Hotel, Effurun, where the governors and the dignitaries ran for cover, causing a heavy traffic snarl in the city.

Guests at the hotel were turned back  and one side of the Warri-Port Harcourt Expressway was closed down to motorists, causing untold hardship for travellers and residents who had to stay up to four hours inside the hold-up. In a statement, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, General Manager/ Editor-in-Chief of Vanguard Newspapers, the organiser of the aborted event, said his organisation remains 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 common good, equity and justice in our federation”, he added.

According to Mr. Adefaye, the dialogue was a contribution of Vanguard, “designed to promote sustainable peace and development in Niger Delta region was also 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.”MEND had in the early hours of yesterday e-mailed a one-sentence press release warning participants of the impending explosion. “The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) will be making an important time related announcement about 1100 hrs Nigerian time”, the statement signed by spokesman of the group, Gbomo Jomo, read.

But in a more detailed statement, where the group claimed responsibility for the bombing, MEND said: “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”. Giving a warning to members of the public and participants in the event, MEND recounted thus: “In our usual effort to prevent the loss of innocent life, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta advises the immediate evacuation of the government house annex, 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 1130 hrs Nigerian time.

The primary school bordering the government house annex should be evacuated immediately!  “The first bomb will be detonated at exactly 1130 hrs.  We will thereafter advise on the other devices planted within and around the venue of the Vanguard newspaper-organised and Delta State-sponsored conference. Organisers and participants at this jamboree will ignore this warning at their peril!!! “People must not remain in their cars and attempt to drive their cars and maintain safe distance from all cars and the area.” It was unclear if security operatives knew about this warning before the explosions, as no effort was made to evacuate people from the venue of the programme.  Giving further reasons why MEND is not in support of any more talks, it said: “The deceit of endless dialogue and conferences will no longer be tolerated. The lands of the people of the Niger Delta were stolen by the oil companies and northern Nigeria with the stroke of a pen. “The Vanguard-organised and Delta State-sponsored conference is one of such tools of deception.

The Niger Delta has been partitioned into oil blocks which have been distributed amongst mostly Northerners while indigenes of the Niger Delta can 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?” MEND blasted the governors of the region as shameless and corrupt. “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. “MEND will attack any such gatherings designed to propagate more falsehood.

Members of the public are hereby warned to avoid such gatherings as they may not be fortunate to have a warning before detonation. “In the coming days, we will carry out a number of attacks against installations and oil companies across the Niger Delta and will spread out to companies such as Total which have been spared in the past. We hope the actions which will follow will persuade Mr. Uduaghan that we exist outside of cyberspace”. Meanwhile, the Federal Government has expressed total commitment to pursuing its post-amnesty programmes for the development of the Niger Delta region.

Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, therefore, urged the Niger Delta people as well as indigenous and foreign companies operating in the area to be patient with the government as it will leave no stone unturned in engendering an enduring infrastructural and social development in the region, and also address the challenges of doing business in the area. He gave these assurances yesterday when he received in audience Mr. Kenneth Yellowe, Chairman/CEO of Global Gas and Refining Limited, at the State House, Abuja.

Jonathan said, “We are on top of the situation in the Niger Delta. The problems in the region, being human and development-related, are such that require time to be addressed. I encourage the Niger Delta people and major companies in the region to keep faith with government, as we are determined to reinvigorate post-amnesty plans and programmes for the region.” The acting president also expressed the government’s commitment to maintaining peace and security in the oil-rich region, being the indices of development in any society.

Yellowe had thanked the government for the peace achieved through the amnesty programme, but appealed to the government to encourage companies operating in the area by keeping the peace. He said achieving security in the region would be a needed boost to the government’s call for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country. Yellowe was accompanied by Peter Goedvolk, Chairman/CEO of Angos Oil and Gas, reputed to be the largest private owned oil and gas firm in Holland, and other company executives.

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