The Amnesty Office has dismissed the claim by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, a militant group, that it was responsible for the inferno at the Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company on Tuesday.
The 35-year-old Warri Refinery, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, went up in flames on Tuesday morning leading to a shutdown of the 125,000-barrel per day plant.
Though the cause of the fire remains unknown with investigation already launched by the NNPC to ascertain the possible cause, MEND had claimed responsibility, citing ‘unsustainable and fraudulent amnesty programme’ as its grouse.
But the spokesperson for the Amnesty Office, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, in a telephone interview with our correspondent on Wednesday, dismissed MEND’s claim and said the militant group could not be taken seriously.
According to him, all the known militant ‘generals,’ including MEND leaders, had accepted the amnesty offered by the Federal Government.
He said some faceless and unscrupulous elements were using the name to cause disaffection in the Niger Delta.
“The NNPC had confirmed that there was a fire outbreak in the topping unit of the refinery and the fire was promptly brought under control. So, how can MEND claim responsibility for it,” he asked.
The Amnesty Office spokesman said, “Mend operates in the cyber space. It is no longer a physical group because all the MEND generals accepted the Federal Government’s amnesty offer. There was the intellectual arm of MEND, which comprises people that we all know and all of those people have identified with the amnesty programme.
“So, MEND today operates in the cyber space and the modus operandi is to send email statements to lay claim to any incident such as the Warri Refinery explosion in order to seek relevance. Some people are trying to use this to cause disaffection in the Niger Delta and such claims should be disregarded because they are unfounded and cannot be taken seriously.”
MEND, in an email signed by its spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo, on Tuesday, said, “The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta takes responsibility for the sabotage this morning, Tuesday, October 22, 2013 inside the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s refinery in Warri, Delta State of Nigeria.
“Hurricane Exodus was intended to burn down the entire refining facility. As long as President Goodluck Jonathan continues to rely on an unsustainable and fraudulent Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, peace and security will continue to elude his government in the region. Hurricane Exodus is on course.”
MEND had also on Monday threatened to ramp up a violent campaign against oil production facilities in the country, saying offshore fields would be likely targets.
“Offshore operations are not a safe haven. MEND has visited Bonga before and we will do it again when the time is right,” a spokesman for MEND told Bloomberg in an email.
The group attacked the Shell-operated Bonga floating production, storage and offloading facility in 2008 and caused a temporary closure. The field could again be in the rebel group’s sight.
MEND has been attacking oil facilities in the country since April as part of its so-called “Hurricane Exodus” programme of disruption.
“Hurricane Exodus continues to gather strength as it sweeps through the swamps and creeks in the Niger Delta, leaving seriously damaged the Trans Niger and Feeder pipelines, harassed security operatives and scurried oil workers in its wake,” MEND told Bloomberg.
Experts, who expressed anger over the false claim, said MEND had grown very weak and it’s simply taking advantage of any negative incident to court relevance.
One of the readers on www.punchng.com, who identified himself as PolyGon2013, described the militants as ‘thieves.’
“May be they need to blow up the whole refinery. They are terrorists just like Boko Haram,” he added.
Experts, who described the militants as Oliver Twist, who will always ask for more, argued that the presidential amnesty programme had been robust and added that there was no need for MEND to be threatening attacks on oil installations in the country.
Information from Punch was used in this report.