Ten suspected members of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) – the group of militants smashing oil facilities in the Niger Delta – have been arrested in Delta State.
Besides, a military patrol team prevented some gunmen believed to be its members from attacking pipelines in Bayelsa State.
The Army yesterday paraded the 10 suspects in Benin, the Edo State capital, yesterday.
The suspects were arrested at about 1:40am on Saturday in Oporaza community, Warri South-West Local Government Area, following a cordon-and-search operation conducted in the community.
The 4 Brigade Commander, Brig. –Gen. Farouk Yahaya, who paraded the suspects, explained that there had been several cases of sabotage by suspected militants and vandals in Delta State since January 1, and warning and threats “to shut down all operations” in the sector.
He listed the arms and ammunition recovered from the suspects as: 28 detonator cords (also known Detonator 33), one pistol, two empty pistol magazines, 196 rounds of 7.62 special ammunition, one round of nine-millimetre ammunition, a live cartridge and five daggers.
Also recovered were 15 handheld radio sets, 18 phones, 203 SIM cards belonging to three major network providers, five swimsuits, two headlamps, a laptop, two ipads and a camera.
There were also seven wraps of substances suspected to be hemp, five speedboat throttle cables, six pairs of hand gloves, N23,000 cash and a cheque book.
Gen. Yahaya said that although investigation would reveal the true identity of the suspects, recent explosions carried out by the Niger Delta Avengers suggested that the suspects may not be unconnected to the group.
He added: “Within the period under review, you can see that the Niger Delta Avengers have claimed virtually all acts of criminal activities against oil and gas and they continue threatening a shutdown of the whole sector. So, most likely, they (suspects) will be the people; who else would they be?”
On the speculation that the militants may have used charms to evade arrest, Gen. Yahaya said: “Whatever a person wants to use, he can use it. But I know that God is always on the side of the truth.
“We are not worried by voodoo. It did not stop the suspects from being arrested and others that have been arrested before now.
“Operations that led to these arrests and recoveries were conducted professionally, guided by our mandate, operation orders, code of conduct and rules of engagement.
Our operations are strictly targeted against perpetrators of all criminal acts in our area of responsibility and not innocent citizens,” he added.
The brigade commander, who noted that the suspects would be handed over to prosecuting security agencies at the end of the preliminary investigation, however, urged the public to provide the Army with information the militants.