•Arms, ammunition, gunboat seized
Fear about the return of militancy in the Niger Delta yesterday enveloped Bayelsa State following a daring attack by unknown gunmen on a military base at Ogbolomabiri in Nembe Local Government Area, Bayelsa State.
The gunmen suspected to be militants overran and sacked the Joint Task Force (JTF)/Operation Pulo Shield base, killing four soldiers and a mobile policeman.
They struck in four speed boats loaded.
The task force is charged with the responsibility of keeping the peace in the state which was notorious for kidnapping, piracy and illegal bunkering.
Oil bunkering has long been a major cost to Nigeria’s treasury, which depends on oil for around 70 percent of its earnings.
Another mobile policeman went missing after the incident which occurred at 11:30pm on Friday.
The gunmen were said to have invaded the base in a coordinated land and water operation.
Sources said they ransacked the base and took their time to cart away all the rifles and ammunition of the security operatives.
An army gunboat was also said to have been taken away by them.
A source who described the incident as horrific said the security operatives were overwhelmed by the number and sophisticated weapons of the attackers.
The source said the gunmen operated for over 30 minutes shooting unceasingly.
He said: “It was a shooting spree. Though the security operatives were caught unawares, there was little or nothing they could do because of the number of the gunmen and the kind of arms they came with.
“Some of the gunmen engaged the military base from the waterways while others were shooting from land. The security operatives tried unsuccessfully to stop them. They paid with their lives. Some few fortunate ones escaped”, he said.
He added: “It was obvious that they came for the arms and ammunition of the soldiers. They carted away all the arms and rifles and fled with a military gunboat.
“We don’t know the motive behind the stealing of arms in this area. Could it be because of the forthcoming election or could it be a plan to start a fresh round of militancy in the region?”
A top security source who also spoke in confidence described the attack as planned, coordinated and executed with the evil intention of stealing and stockpiling arms.
He said the action of the gunmen caused panic in Nembe communities.
The bodies of the murdered security operatives were recovered and deposited at the mortuary of the Nembe General Hospital.
Continuing, the source said:”there is a serious problem in the Niger Delta region. We have been raising the alarm of functional and active militant camps operating in the region despite the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP).
“The most disturbing one is this trend of attacking security operatives and stealing their arms. They have been doing this. The one they did in Cross River State was also massive. They are stockpiling arms.”
Defence spokesman Colonel Rabe Abubakar blamed the attack on “suspected oil bunkerers”.
He said: “The Joint Task Force Operation PULO SHIELD has moved into action to arrest and apprehend the perpetrators of this unpatriotic and callous attacks.
“The military will deal decisively with anybody or group involved in this and similar acts of attacks or sabotage on the nation’s economy.”
He advised the general public in the affected community to go about their normal business activities, and solicited their cooperation by given timely information to the military or any other security agencies to avert future re-occurrence of the ‘ugly incidence’.
The Defence Headquarters also reiterated its commitment to ensuring the protection of lives and property of innocent citizens nationwide.
Speaking separately on the development, JTF’s Coordinator, Joint Campaign Media Centre (JMCC), Lt. Col. Isa Ado, said : “We are working on getting the real details. The JTF is on the move to apprehend the hoodlums. We won’t relent on our efforts of fighting criminality in the region.”
The Police Public Relations Officer, (PPRO), Mr. Butswat Asinim, said details at the disposal of the police suggested that four soldiers and a policeman were killed in the attack.
He said: “On the 7 August, 2015, at about 11:30pm, four speedboats loaded with unknown gunmen, suspected to be sea pirates attacked the Joint Task Force (JTF) Base, at Nembe Water front, in Nembe LGA, killing four soldiers and one policeman.
“The gunmen carted away two HP Guns and other arms from the Base. A combined team of the JTF, Marine Police and the Navy are combing the creeks to recover the arms and arrest the culprits”.
A combined military and police team was searching local creeks to find the attackers last night.