Hunt for N-Delta militants: Protests as soldiers invade more Ijaw territory

Posted On 12 Nov 2016
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ON NOVEMBER 13, 201612:09 AM

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Egufe Yafugborhi   and Perez Brisibe

SOLDIERS,  again, yesterday stormed four Ijaw communities in the Niger Delta: Oporoza, Okerenkoko, Nekeama and Tebujor, also known as Okpele-ama in Gbaramatu Kingdom, in Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, with  gunboats, in search of suspected militants.

The incursion into Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom, which soldiers routinely invaded, early in the year, sparked spontaneous protests by women in the community and neighboring Azama village, who decried the seeming incessant harassment by law enforcement agents.

The invasion of Tebujoh was apparently in continuation of penultimate Saturday’s military operation in the community, while the fresh siege to Oporoza was not unexpected given the deployment of military houseboat in the community’s waterfront weeks back.

However, leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, a coalition of monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of the coastal states of Niger Delta region, Chief Edwin Clark, who lashed out at some Niger Delta militants for resuming fresh hostilities in the region, came under attack, yesterday, from the Ijaw People Development Initiative, IPDI, which described him and PANDEF as imprudent.

But a militant group, Ultimate Warriors of Niger Delta, which threw its weight behind PANDEF, asked President Muhammdu Buhari to get cracking by implementing, in the short term, the 16-point demand presented to him by the forum, November 1, in Abuja.

Meanwhile, the second Vice Chairman of the Delta State Traditional Rulers Council, Pere of Akugbene Mein, His Majesty, SP Luke Kalanama, has called on the Federal Government, militants and other stakeholders of the Niger Delta region to adopt peace in their approach to the resolution of the crisis.

How they invaded

The  Ibe-Benemowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom and acting Secretary of the Gbaramatu Traditional Council, GTC, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, told Sunday Vanguard on phone that the soldiers invaded Oporoza with two gunboats today (Saturday) and their gunboats got stuck in the waterfront. “They stayed there battling to free their boats and the women mobilized to meet and tell them that they were tired of their frequent invasion of the community”, Gbenekama said.

“They (women)  told them (soldiers) that they could not run anymore, that they were tired and if they wanted to kill them, they should do so.

“The soldiers told them that they had come to guard pipelines and they replied them that there is no pipeline running in Oporoza and they should go into the creeks where the pipelines are, instead of constantly coming to harass them.

“The women told the soldiers that they had been coming to arrest their children and sometime ago, they brought back the ones they arrested. So, why are they coming to arrest them again.”

At this stage, the soldiers said they did not have to take permission from them before entering the community, as the people do not need to take permission from anybody whenever  they want to enter Abuja. The women told them that they do not go to Abuja with arms and for the purpose of intimidating people, but to complain about their plight.

The Gbaramatu Traditional Council Secretary said the soldiers turned back when they freed their boats, entered Mekama creek and later landed at the community’s waterfront.

He went on: “From there, they went again to Tebujor, which they invaded last Saturday. They went to the waterfront and the women of the community also mobilized to meet them there. The women told them that their frequent presence in the community was disturbing them..

“As they went to each of the communities, they created panic and people ran into the forest. There was tension everywhere. When they left Tebujor, they went to Okerenkoko and stayed on the waterfront for about 45 minutes.

“The women did not come out to express their grievances as their Oporoza and Tebujor counterparts, not because they were not angry, but because they were brooding over the provocation.

“We do not really know why this is happening to us in Gbaramatu Kingdom, but we are beginning to see  reason why they deployed houseboats at strategic locations in the clan recently. I can see that it is for them to be able to  harass us on daily basis.

“But, let me tell you, even the fresh bombings, you can quote me, none took place in Gbaramatu territory. So, why are they going about harassing people in Gbaramatu Kingdom? Our people are really agitated over the invasions by soldiers and I do not know what will happen next.

“Because some of the boys, who called me on phone, said they were not going to run anymore because they were tired of the frequent incursions. They said they were ready to face the consequences and I told them no, that they should run as fast as their legs could carry them into the forest when they sight them coming.

Also speaking on yesterday’s invasion of Oporoza, a community leader, who preferred anonymity, said: “Able-bodied men fled into the forest to evade arrest, while the soldiers impounded two 200 Horse Power speed boat.

” Describing the visit by the troops as unwarranted, spokesperson of Oporoza Youths, Paul Kirifade,    told Sunday Vanguard on phone: “Two of the military gunboats went straight to the pipeline area while a third boat anchored within the community.”

IPDI disagrees with Clark, PANDEF

IPDI, in a statement by the National President, Austin Ozobo, said: the Ijaw rights group disagreed with  Clark’s position that militants, who have renewed attacks on pipelines, are criminals.

“There is no smoke without fire, we want Pa Clark and his PANDEF group to look inward and make self assessment whether they have actually done well”, the group said.

“His comment that militants currently attacking pipelines are enemies of the people is not correct, they should check their performance. These are the same people, who gave you the mandate to dialogue. So it is not correct to say they are misguided or saboteurs.

“Clark’s statement is hasty. It is also condemnable for an elder like Pa Clark to give tacit approval to the bloodthirsty Nigeria military to carry out reprisal attack on sleeping communities because of the action of oil rebel.

“We want to inform the elder statesman that what is happening after Abuja parley proves that Niger Delta militants are dissatisfied with the outcome of the meeting. It is not an issue of rancor among agitators or politicians fighting.

“In developed world when things like this happen, they carry out experiment and make proper or thorough analysis before they draw conclusion. What happened is that Pa Clark and his group tried to modify the message with the infiltration of government forces to avoid a situation of the President being angry with them with such strong worded message of restructure  and true federalism”.

“We think that is where they got it wrong. While we do not support the destruction of pipelines, we want to say here that no one embarks on this dangerous path for fun. There must be a reason for this and the reason appears to be that the core issues were not presented with seriousness of purpose.”

‘Execute PANDEF 16-point demand’  

The Ultimate Warriors of Niger Delta, in a statement by its spokesperson, Sibiri Taiowoh, congratulating the President-Elect of the United States, Donald Trump, yesterday, said, in the long term, Buhari should implement “the recommendations of the Sir Henry Willlinks Commission Report and 2014 National Conference, which pointed the way of resource ownership.”

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