Ateke Tom, a militant leader, has claimed responsibility for the carnage in Okrika, Rivers State, which on Wednesday claimed the lives of 40 people, among them soldiers, and officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Public institutions were also hit.
He said on telephone through one of his aides, Richard Akinaka that the insurgency was to express his anger with the Federal Government for attacking his base, despite the amnesty granted him and the peace deal.
The Joint Task Force (JTF) raided Tom’s hide-out in Okrika two weeks ago and took some valuables away.
Akinaka sent a text message to Daily Independent on Thursday morning, saying: “Ateke Tom wishes to make it loud to the world that the killing of soldiers in Okrika, the burning of their patrol vans, the local council, the refinery jetty, and the ships were carried out by him.
“His anger is predicated on the general lack of confidence on the Presidential peace brokered between the Nigerian state and the Izon people.”
He said they were also angered by the arrest in Angola of one of their men, Henry Okah.
When Daily Independent called Akinaka to confirm the source of the text, he said Tom is his uncle, and that the man is not pleased that the government refused to honour the agreement on a ceasefire.
“We had a security meeting in Delta State comprising all the militant leaders,” he recalled. So, “a decision was reached that we have suspended every peace talk with the government because of lack of confidence in the process.
“A lot of things may happen until the rights of the Ijaw man are recognised. The Delta may return to its former state of anarchy. The Vice President (Goodluck Jonathan) came and initiated a peace process, and I was a member of the peace committee.
“I have never held a gun before. We had confidence because of (Jonathan). A conference was supposed to hold in August, but they delayed.”
Akinaka said the government undermines the militants.
But the Rivers Government explained that the fire at the NNPC jetty was caused by a shoot-out between people involved in illegal bunkering and the Joint Task Force (JTF).
Secretary to the State Government, Magnus Abe, said soldiers denied access to the criminals, who responded with gun fire and explosives.
“They were effectively repelled. However, a vessel discharging some inflammable materials at the jetty was set ablaze. The situation has since been brought under control,” Abe stated.
He appealed to all law abiding people to remain calm and go about their lawful businesses, as the operation was designed against those involved in the illegal bunkering and sea piracy.
“The Rivers Government uses this medium to appeal to those involved in negative and criminal activities, including kidnapping, bunkering, sea piracy, armed robbery and cultism to desist forthwith.”
Abe urged them to surrender all illegal arms in their possession, because “the state government, with the commitment and co-operation of the security agencies, would ensure that our people will no longer live in fear.”
– Daily Independent