Military arrests Rivers community leader for alleged unlawful shutdown of oil wells

Military force in the Niger Delta known as ‘Operation Delta Safe’ has confirmed the arrest of a community leader in Ogba Ndoni Egbema local council, Rivers State, Mr. Chikeobi Alali.

The joint military force in the Niger Delta known as ‘Operation Delta Safe’ has confirmed the arrest of a community leader in Ogba Ndoni Egbema local council, Rivers State, Mr. Chikeobi Alali for unlawful closure of 11 oil wells belonging to Agip.

The wells were shut down by the host community over unresolved issues they have with the oil company.The community accused Agip of failing to review a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the two parties.

The spokesman of the military outfit, Major Abdullahi Abubakar condemned the action of the community, saying it is wrong to take laws into their hands. He added that troops in the area had reinforced security around the oilfield and re-opened the facilities for operations.

Abubakar warned that the military would not tolerate interference with oil facilities or production.Alali’s wife, Ngozi, yesterday said the Joint Task Force (JTF) arrested her husband last weekend.

According to her: “My husband was arrested by soldiers and taken away. When we traced them to the headquarters in Yenagoa, they feigned ignorance of his detention. After much pressure, they admitted that he is in their custody but I was denied access to him.”

“Efforts by his family and lawyer to secure his bail has been unsuccessful. My husband is the chairman of the local council oil and gas landlords association, he was arrested with the secretary and one other person. The others have since been released.”

Reacting to the issue, a social activist, Mr. Pat Obiene, called for immediate release of the community leader.“This is counter-productive and not in line with the peace initiative of the Federal Government. The military should promote dialogue which the Vice President preached during his recent tour to the region,” Obiene said.

Meanwhile, the former Provisional Council Chairman of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) and a lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Ben Naanen, says the government needs extraordinary measures to check oil theft.

Naanen spoke at the National Conference on Oil Theft and Illegal Artisanal Refineries in Nigeria, organised by Social Action in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.He said government has not done enough to stop oil theft by enforcing the existing anti-bunkering laws.

“The issue of illegal and artisanal refinery would be difficult to eradicate from the Niger Delta, except the government deals with poverty, rehabilitation and empowerment of youths in the area,” he added.



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