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JTF Vows To Dismantle Illegal Refineries …Launches Manhunt For Suspected Militants

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The Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta codenamed ‘Operation Delta Safe’ has said that its operations in Igbomotoru in Southern Ijaw Local Government Council of Bayelsa State were geared towards uprooting a major illegal crude oil refinery camp in the area.
He further assured that the JTF would not leave any stone unturned to exterminate every illegal refinery site in the Niger Delta region to forestall the devastation and pollution of the precious environment by artisanal operators of the production of petroleum products.
Commander of the outfit, Rear Admiral Aminu Hassan, who made this known while briefing journalists at its headquarters at Igbogene, Yenagoa said the camp was operated by a suspected notorious militant leader, Endurance Amaegbe.
Operatives of the Operation Delta Safe had during the operation, which began on June 22 this year, arrested two suspects linked to a suspected militant leader said to own the illegal camp, and seized some items at the illegal refinery site at Igbomotoru.
In recent times, Igbomotoru in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State has been in the news with community leaders alleging invasion of the community by the military in collaboration with a pipeline surveillance contracting firm and a multinational oil company operating in the area, accusing the soldiers of harassment of natives and some other excesses.
However, Hassan said that the allegation was not the case as the deployment had no business with the people but focused on dismantling an illegal crude oil refinery camp established in the forest of Igbomotoru by a suspected militant leader who has been intimidating communities in Southern Ijaw and other parts of Bayelsa State.
Hassan said a major pipeline conveying crude oil and other critical infrastructure has been vandalised several times by the suspected militant and his group who were bent on operating the illegal refinery, a situation he described as economic sabotage to the country.
Conducting Journalists round the illegal crude oil refinery camp located about 1.5kilometre off Igbomotoru main town, the Commanding Officer of 343 Artillery Regiment, Elele, Lieutenant Colonel Philemon Malgwi, who led the operation, said it began on June 22 this year to dismantle the activities of the suspected oil thieves who were also terrorising people along the waterways.
He said the operation was not limited to Igbomotoru but also to other communities in Southern Ijaw such as Ikebiri, Azuzuama and adjoining creeks following tip offs, information and intelligence gathered.
Journalists on the fact-finding mission at the House Boat at the Igbomotoru river, saw two suspects reported to be boys of Amaegbe, that were arrested at the illegal refinery camp at the forest.
Other items seized during the operation were three fibre speed boats, a generating set, some fake military camouflage uniforms, mobile and cell phones, walkie talkies and a pistol said to be owned by Amaegbe.
Meanwhile, the people of Igbomotoru had, last weekend, appealed to the federal and state governments to intervene and end an alleged ongoing invasion and harassment by military personnel and some armed youths in their communities.
Traditional rulers, leaders of thought as well as youth and women leaders said at a news briefing in Yenagoa, that property of the communities were being destroyed as natives live in palpable fear following the siege by some soldiers and youth employed by a pipeline surveillance contractor for Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) with the alleged connivance of a dethroned paramount ruler of Igbomotoru.
Locals also decried the alleged killings of their kinsmen by some of the armed youths.
Natives of Igbomotoru 1 and 2 communities in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State alleged that the invasion and attack of the soldiers and armed youths working for the surveillance contracting firm, Darlon Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited at the instance of NAOC was reportedly instigated following a false report given by the dethroned paramount ruler of the community, Chief Aseimiegha Ofongo.
According to them, the invasion by the military personnel and armed youths in six gun boats, a house boat and five speed boats from the contracting firm, started on June 24 as houses of locals, worship centres and other properties were destroyed.
Acting Paramount Ruler of Igbomotoru One Community, Chief Goodluck Alogodei, alleged that under the dethroned paramount ruler from 1997 to 2005, about nine youths lost their lives with 51 houses razed as members of the community continue to live in fear following the unwarranted invasion and attacks.
A Professor of Law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Festus Emiri, who hails from Igbomotoru, said the whole crisis boils down to the politics of divide and rule deployed by the IOC to intimidate the community.
Counsel to the community, Mr. Stanley Damabide, said several letters had been written to government and various security agencies, yet, the attacks have continued.
In a reaction, Darlon Oil and Gas Limited said that its attention has been drawn to constant media trial by some leaders of Igbomotoru who have consistently accused its management of being involved in a recent military operation in Igbomotoru communities.
A statement by the Chairman, Darlon Oil and Gas Limited, Chief Levi Wilson, indicated that as a registered and responsible oil and gas company saddled with the responsibility to discourage pipeline vandalism and crude oil bunkering activities, the company finds the repeated accusation that management was involved in the stationing of a military base in Igbomotoru communities to intimidate, maim and kill residents of the community, as rather unfortunate and malicious.
It pointed out that its legal team was carefully studying the press release circulated to media outfits across the country, and would come up with the position of Darlon Oil and Gas Limited on the allegations soon.
It also warned those involved in attempts to tarnish the image of the company to desist forthwith, as the management of Darlon Oil and Gas Limited would not hesitate to take legal action against the sponsors and actors of the unfortunate mudslinging campaign.
The company used the medium to inform the general public that the said involvement of management or staff in the military operation at Igbomotoru community was not only false but a figment of the imagination of some sponsors of crude oil bunkering activities who will stop at nothing but tarnish the image of the company and put it out of the way so that they can go about vandalising crude oil facilities.
It said that the clarification became necessary because its mandate was not to carry out military operations against crude oil thieves but to discourage pipeline vandalism and crude oil bunkering activities.

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NIMASA Delivers Marine, Transport Building To Port Harcourt Varsity

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The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), has handed over the complex housing the Institute of Marine and Transport Technology to the University of Port Harcourt, in Rivers State.
A statement from the agency indicated that the building was initiated by its previous leadership.
“The initiative dated back to 2012/2013 when the former Director-General of the agency, Dr Dakuku Peterside, decided to build a maritime training institute.
“The initiative is not peculiar to the University of Port Harcourt. It is present in all the six geopolitical zones of the country.
“Any investment in education is definitely worthwhile. Research has shown that lack of education is relatively responsible for maritime crimes in the Niger Delta Region.
“We hope beneficiaries of this Maritime institute will be instrumental in making Nigeria a major maritime nation,” the statement said.
It quoted the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Abraham Georgewill, who was represented by the VC Administration, Prof. Clifford Ofurum, as thanking NIMASA for selecting the university as the location for the maritime institute.
Ofurum assured NIMASA that the university would provide adequate faculty to ensure courses were accredited and recognised globally.

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Wigwe’s Family Announces Burial Plan

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The family of Herbert Wigwe has announced the burial plans for the Wigwes.
Wigwe, alongside his wife, Chizoba, and son, Chizi, died in an helicopter crash in the United States on February 9.
The crash also claimed the lives of a former Chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, and two crew members.
According to the plan, the funeral ceremony will commence on Monday, March 4, 2024.
Meanwhile, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, City of David, where Herbert used to be a staunch member before his demise, was conspicuously missing from the list of churches scheduled to host two of the programmes.
According to the funeral plans, on Thursday, March 7, a combined Service of Songs will take place at RCCG, Ressurection Parish at Jakande Estate, Lekki, Lagos State while a combined funeral service will be held on Saturday, March 9, at RCCG, Lion of Judah Parish, Isiokpo, Rivers State.
The absence of the City of David parish on the list has, however, raised concerns despite the acknowledgement of the late Wigwe’s immense contribution to the parish while he was alive.
The Pastor in Charge of the parish, Idowu Iluyomade, had paid glowing tributes to the late bank chief while reacting to his sudden demise.
Iluyomade, who described the deceased as God’s general, added that he donated generously to the church.
Speaking during a service titled: “Barrier Shattering Thanksgiving (Sunshine Service)” on Sunday, February 11, the clergyman recalled how Wigwe spent about N500m for God Children’s Great Talent Project and how he adopted some children.
He said, “Wigwe was the Chairman of the Finance Committee with Pastor Siju, and I remember when we wanted to start the fundraising, he took us to Eko Atlantic, he put a marquee there, he brought people from America to come and see, and in that event, we raised about N600m. One would have thought he would sit back; he kept going. He told me we’ll do it.
“When this place was ground zero, he paid five years rent for a branch when there was nothing, just to assist. Then later, he said ‘I’ll give you two branches – one on the left, one on the right,’ and he paid five years each (10 years). Nobody would support a Greenfield, if you’ve built, yes, you can go. One of his purposes was to assist us.”
However, while friends and families of the deceased were still mourning, Iluyomade’s wife, Siju, threw a lavish 60th birthday party.
The lawyer, pastor and founder of the Arise Women Foundation held the birthday on Sunday, February 18, 2024.
Distinguished guests, including billionaires and monarchs, were on hand to rejoice with her at the party, which took place at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island Lagos. Also present at the event was popular singer, Chinedu Okoli, better known by his stage name Flavour N’abania.
Some Nigerians, however, expressed their displeasure at the celebrant for holding a party barely weeks after the tragic deaths of prominent members of the church.
This also fuelled insinuations about a seeming connection between the development and the decision of the family not to have considered the parish in the burial plans.

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Economy: I Take Full Responsibility, Nigeria ’ll Recover-Tinubu

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President Bola Tinubu, on Wednesday, appealed for patience from Nigerians over the current economic hardship in the country, giving the assurance that there was light at the end of the tunnel.
The President said he was fully aware and took responsibility for the difficulties Nigerians had been subjected to on account of government policies.
He said he would not complain but welcome all criticisms since he was the one who asked to be Nigeria’s President.
The President spoke in Akure, the Ondo State capital, during his visit to the leader of the pan-Yoruba sociopolitical organisation, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti.
He also paid a condolence visit to the family of the late former Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, who passed on in December following a protracted battle with cancer.
The fuel subsidy removal and other economic reforms instituted by Tinubu have attracted public censure following the high costs of living, food inflation and other side effects.
The situation compelled the Nigeria Labour Congress to hold a nationwide protest on Tuesday.
The congress also threatened further mass action if the government failed to address the economic crunch within two weeks.
However, addressing public concerns over his economic policies, the President said, “Nigeria will survive the current economic challenges. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I requested the job, and I am not complaining about it. I take full responsibility.”
This was contained in a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, titled, ‘President Tinubu: I take full responsibility for the nation; we are building an efficient Nigeria that is inclusive and fair to all Nigerians.’’
Tinubu emphasised his commitment to leading Nigeria towards economic and social prosperity, saying, “We are meeting our obligations to the international community. To lenders, we have not defaulted, and we are not going to default. We are navigating the twists and bends on the road to Nigeria’s prosperity.”
On reforming Nigeria, the President said his task would be to ensure fiscal and true federalism, as well as the broad-based manifestation of the philosophy of “what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”
He acknowledged the understanding and support of all Nigerians in the face of the harsh but temporary economic conditions, assuring them that their patience and perseverance will not be fruitless.
“But, through perseverance, Lagos emerged as the fifth largest economy in the entire continent of Africa. We must manage this moment with wisdom and grow Nigeria responsibly.
“I campaigned for this office to serve Nigeria’s interests and I was elected. Some said I would not last in the tribunal and came up with all sorts of predictions, but even when in court, I remained focused.
“We cannot allow Nigeria’s economy to be exploited. We cannot abandon our economy to marauders. I am determined to re-engineer our finances and curb selfish interests permanently,” he stated.
Speaking on behalf of Afenifere, Pa Olu Falae, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who read the address of Pa Fasoranti, commended Tinubu for his commitment to Nigeria’s progress and expressed support for his administration’s efforts.
“You have kept your word to return to this place where we all prayed for you, and this shows that you are a man of your word,” the elder statesman stated.
Pa Fasoranti asked President Tinubu to be fair and courageous, declaring that such traits were the hallmark of the Afenifere family.
“Today, you are carrying our flag. We are noted for integrity, competence, fairness, and courage. Your performance so far has shown that you understand the full gravity of your mandate, which is to show the Nigerian people that a good government is possible,” he said.
Fasoranti also charged the President on institutional reforms, saying, “Mr President, please also seek institutional reforms that would strengthen our federation and make Nigeria safer and more prosperous. Try and balance the budget and execute capital projects that would create more employment. We thank you for welcoming the idea of state policing.’’
He added, “We want each of the geopolitical zones to have greater responsibilities for security, food production and infrastructural development. Since the removal of fuel subsidy, which was costing Nigeria $10bn yearly, the state governments have been receiving hefty allocations from the Federation account.
“Mr President should persuade the governors to allow this change of fortune for the states to reflect at the grassroots so that life can be better for our people. They should not just buy rice and yams for the people. They should create employment, improve education and build new infrastructures. Today, life is truly challenging for most people and the state governments have an important role to play to transform society.”
Fasoranti received the President in the company of some Afenifere leaders, who included a former governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa, Deji of Akure, Oba Aladelusi Aladetoyinbo; Chief Kole Omololu, among others
Earlier, the President had paid a condolence visit to Akeredolu’s family in Owo and also visited the palace of the Olowo of Owo Kingdom, Oba Ajibade Gbadegesin Ogunoye III.
Speaking at the palace of the monarch, Tinubu eulogised the late Akeredolu as a statesman and a distinguished legal luminary who served his people with unwavering dedication.
“We lost an illustrious son. Akeredolu was very close to me and an ally. He was a son of the soil, and I have come to pay homage,” the President said.
He extended his prayers for the good health, progress, and prosperity of the traditional ruler and the community and thanked the people of Owo for their support to the bereaved family.
Accompanied by the Governor of Ondo State, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, Tinubu also commiserated with the Akeredolu’s widow, Betty, the children, and other family members.
Addressing the widow and the family members, Tinubu said, “God will be with you. Your children will do well in life. May you all end well. May God be with you and uphold you,”
The wife of the late governor expressed appreciation for the President’s visit, describing Tinubu as a good friend and brother to her late husband.
She also thanked the South-West governors for their contributions to the burial of the late governor. She particularly thanked Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for single-handedly repatriating the remains of Akeredolu back to Nigeria.
She said, “On behalf of my family, I appreciate Mr. President. We understood he couldn’t attend the burial ceremony due to the dictate of Yoruba culture. He couldn’t have attended the burial of his younger brother.
“Coming today (Wednesday ) is a big deal because we are in a better atmosphere. I also express my profound gratitude to the southern governors for their immense financial contributions to the burial, most especially, Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who singlehandedly brought Aketi’s remains back to Nigeria. We appreciate this huge show of love and we are grateful and forever indebted to him.
“I requested that Mr President see where Aketi has been laid to rest and he followed me. We are deeply grateful to Mr. President for coming. He is indeed Aketi’s brother and friend.
“I told Mr. President, yes, Aketi has left but he lives because he left behind legacies. It is our wish that those legacies continue and are built upon where necessary.”

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