Barely a few hours after the dialogue between President Muhammadu Buhari and critical stakeholders of the Niger Delta to resolve the crisis in the region, unrepentant militants Tuesday night bombed the Trans Forcados Pipeline (TFP) owned by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) in Batan community in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State.
The latest attack on the facility owned by exploration and production subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) forced some oil companies in the western Niger Delta that evacuate crude oil through the pipeline to suspend operations.
Sources told THISDAY Newspaper that the breach of the pipeline occurred at night, resulting in a huge fire that enveloped the site of the attack.
“Suspected militants attacked the NPDC pipeline in Batan with dynamites. As I am speaking, the place is engulfed with fire but efforts are being made to put it out,” a community source said.
Another the community source confirmed the incident, stating that they heard a huge explosion in the early hours of yesterday only to discover it was a pipeline belonging to NPDC that had been attacked.
“We heard a huge explosion. As usual, when we came out, we discovered that the pipeline had been attacked again. We are not sure whether it was militants that caused it or not,” he said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
“The attack was carried out with the aid of dynamite and it is coming less than 48 hours after the resumption of operations at the flow station,” a security official, who declined to be named, told AFP.
The pipeline was attacked in July and had only resumed operation at the weekend following repairs.
Security sources disclosed yesterday that the latest attack by suspected militants might be as a result of the commencement of repair work on the pipeline while negotiations are still ongoing between the Niger Delta leaders and the federal government.
“You know that they have always warned that no repairs should be carried out on any of the breached oil pipelines. Maybe they are angry that repairs had commenced and resorted to the attack,” a military officer told THISDAY.
A security agent, however, had a contrary view stating that illegal oil bunkerers had deployed a new tactic of engaging militants to breach pipelines to divert the attention of security agents from their illegal acts of siphoning crude from pipelines and oil well heads.
“I think that is what happened with the Batan attack yesterday. While the security agents are concentrating on searching for the perpetrators of the attacks, less attention will be given to the activities of the illegal oil bunkerers,” he said.
An Ijaw leader and chairman of the oil-rich Kokodiagbene community, Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South West Local Government Area, Mr. Sheriff Mulade, confirmed the attack on the pipelined but condemned the action, saying that there was no justification for it.
“I heard about the attack. I condemn it. We peace loving Ijaws condemn it because the federal government has opened dialogue with our leaders. So what excuse do they have for that attack?” he asked.
Another community leader, Austin Ozobo, also confirmed the attack but said it might have been a reaction to a comment credited to President Buhari during the dialogue with leaders of the region on Tuesday.
The president had said that those who are displeased with Nigeria should go to another country, but this was mainly played down by most of the press.
The spokesman of Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta, Lieutenant Colonel Olaolu Marcellinus Daudu, was silent on the attack, while the commander of Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Delta, Commodore Joseph Dwunze, could not be reached for confirmation, as an aide said he was busy at the time THISDAY called his line.