There are strong indications that the Defence authorities will withdraw some war-tested soldiers from the North-East and deploy them in the Niger Delta as part of efforts to curb the attacks on oil installations in the region.
It was gathered on Sunday that the troops would form part of the newly formed Operation Delta Safe, which was formed to replace the defunct Operation Pulo Shield in the oil rich region.
The source was, however, not specific on when the troops would be deployed in the Niger Delta for the intensified campaign against pipeline attacks and oil theft.
The Defence headquarters had scrapped the Operation Pulo Shield and replaced it with Operation Delta Safe, which was designed to ensure security and protection of oil installations in the Niger Delta.
The new Task Force, with its operational headquarters in Yenagoa, is designed to have three sectors and five operational bases to cover the entire Niger Delta.
The Acting Director, Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Rabe Abubakar, said the military authorities would ensure effective equipment for the new task force to enable it to achieve the purpose for which it was established.
Although Abubakar neither confirmed nor denied the planned deployment of troops, he explained that the “reorganisation of the task force” was in the interest of the country and would have the best arsenal and equipment.
He said, “The overhauling was meant to ensure pro-activeness of the new outfit. We will, as much as possible, continue to inject new system, new equipment and new prescriptions to ensure that what happened before will not happen now.
“And so, the Defence Headquarters came up with the reorganisation, and it meant well for the country and it meant well for the industries there. So we are doing all these things to ensure that we do our best, with the best arsenal, with the best equipment, so that we can handle the security threat.
“But injecting new men or injecting more men is not the issue. The most important is that the reorganisation has been done and it is for the goodness of country, for the good of that general area.
“And we will do everything to secure all necessary spots, human, equipment and what have you to ensure that it performs optimally.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Government will soon publicise its official position as regards the conditions set out by the militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers, for peace talks on the ongoing security threat in the Niger Delta region.
The NDA had, on Saturday, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to visit the Niger Delta region to see the difficulties the dwellers were experiencing despite the huge revenue accruable to the country from the region.
Buhari had, on Friday, reportedly appealed to the group “in God’s name” to stop destroying oil installations.
On when the government would visit the region officially based on the militants’ request, officials at the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation said the Federal Government was working on the issue and would make its position public very soon.
“Any official position from the government will be issued very soon on this development, but I cannot tell when precisely,” the spokesperson for the NNPC, Mr. Garba-Deen Mohammed, told one of our correspondents on Sunday in Abuja.
“It is going to come from the government. This thing is a very delicate issue and it is not something that one will just make or issue a statement about because it concerns all of us.
“So it is not just a petroleum ministry or NNPC issue. It is something that affects us all and so the government is working on the matter.”
Another official at the petroleum ministry told The PUNCH on Sunday that the Office of the National Security Adviser and the Presidency were collaborating with the ministry as the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, was among key government officials involved in talks with the militants.
“As you know, the Minister of State (petroleum resources) is among those spearheading talks and, of course, we are working with other agencies of government on this issue and very soon, an official position will be made public,” the official, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said.
The Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, has said dialogue remains the only solution to the crisis in the Niger Delta region.
Speaking with reporters after his conferment with a honourary Doctorate Degree in Public Administration by the Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, on Saturday, Dickson, while admitting there were grievances in the region, advised parties to embrace peace in resolving the insurgence.
He received the honour alongside the Chancellor of the University and the Alara of Aramoko Ekiti, Oba Abdul Azeez Adeyemi, and the Ekiti State-born legal practitioner, Mr. Gbenga Oyebode, who is also involved in banking and oil and gas industries.
Dickson said, “We are all concerned about the development; all the leaders there are concerned about the recent tough surge of insurgency. We are collaborating on the way forward.
“Those of us, who are governors in our states, are working hard with traditional leaders and opinion leaders and security agencies and also collaborating with other private and corporate bodies to ensure that we put it under control.
“The way forward is not war, war. It is jaw-jaw. The way forward is peace and dialogue, it is consensus building and that is quite what some of us are in support of.
“We are not in support of violence; we are not in support brigandage. We are not in support of destruction of strategic national assets and killings. We know there is an issue and this issue can only be addressed when all stakeholders work together for unity, peace, prosperity and stability and progress of our country.”