A new twist has been added to the suspended militant attacks on Nigeria’s oil facilities, resulting in the reported killing of no fewer than six soldiers and unspecified number of suspected militants in the Ijaw communities of Ondo State.
Though there have been conflicting reports on the actual cause of the clash, described by the security operatives as a fresh hostility by some group of people, who are not comfortable with the ongoing olive branch offered to the Niger Delta militants by government.
However, the villagers said the military unjustifiably laid a siege on them over unreported militants’ attack in the area.
But a military task force officer, who spoke with a foreign news cable without identifying his full name confirmed that some skirmishes erupted in the Ajakpa community, a swampy area in Ondo State through which crude oil from the major Wells in the area are evacuated.
He denied that this was a confirmation that the government’s peace programme had failed, adding that those behind the unmitigated attack were using propaganda to paint government black before the International community.
The southern swamp land has been largely quiet since the beginning of 2017 because militants halted attacks against oil pipelines to give the government a chance to conduct peace talks.
But in a new confrontation, army and security forces, reportedly moved into a region west of the state, to hunt down militants involved in oil theft and kidnapping.
“The attack saw us losing some of our men but the situation is beyond control following successful operation, but our troops are after those behind the unprovoked attack.
“There is no campaign that will deter us from doing all possible to clear remnants of miscreants, using the militant camps, shrines and hideouts to launch attack on the military”, the officer said.
But a spokesman of the Ijaw Youth Council, representing the biggest ethnic group in the region, Mr. Godspower Whisky, said the army had been laying siege to the community since the past one week on allegations that there was an attack on its men.
“They (the soldiers) have not allowed people to come in or go out from their homes as all the water ways have been blocked by them”.
He stated that mostly affected were women and children, who may starve to death if nothing was done to dismantle the siege, in the next few days.
Observers have, however, expressed worry that at a time Nigeria is about recouping its loses over long militancy of 2016, which saw the country unable to meet its 2.2 million barrels per day production output, another set of conflicts could erupt in the area.