Soldiers on Sunday, January 17, invaded Okpelama community, Gbaramatu kingdom, Warri South West Local Government Area, Delta State, in search of militants, who began bombing of crude oil and gas pipelines in the state, just few days after a Federal High Court in Lagos issued a bench warrant for the arrest of ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, last Thursday.
According to a security source, the militants are believed to be from Okpelama.
“There is information that some of the boys sponsored to carry out the attacks are from Okpelama, which is why soldiers went to the community in search of them.” the source said.
Thus, the soldiers are also monitoring Kurutie, the hometown of Tompolo and Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of Gbaramatu kingdom. Tompolo, however, has denied involvement in the attacks, saying he did not carry out any bombing and did not send anybody to destroy oil installations, insisting his enemies sponsored the mayhem to spite him.
A source told newsmen that the soldiers stormed the community with gunboats at about 10.45 pm on Saturday, broke into homes of the villagers, many of whom ran into bushes on sighting them as they alighted at the jetty front.
Chairman of the community who confirmed the invasion said that soldiers did not contact leaders of the community on the reason for their invasion and that the people were surprised that soldiers invaded the town, as they had nothing to do with the ongoing attacks by militants. He added that people have deserted the communities, “At the moment, my community is practically a ghost town, the people are running away to Warri and other places.”
The Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF), Major-General Alani Gafar Okunola, who led other military officers and men to some of the sites of the destruction yesterday, said the government would hold leaders of the communities where acts of sabotage take place responsible.
During visits to the affected sites, It was discovered that Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) owned by the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC) and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) were used in bombing the pipelines.
Gen. Okunola who was accompanied on the visit by Brigadier General F. Yahaya, Commodere Raimi Mohammed (Commander, NNS Delta), Lt. Col. Igwe Patrick Omoke (Commander, 3 Battalion, Effurun.) said:
“The pipeline was blown up three days ago. We are going to fish out those responsible. It is a national sabotage and critical asset. There is no way we can fold our hands and allow the perpetrators to get away with it.”