WARRI—IJAW leaders of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, have called for dialogue with the Joint Task Force, JTF, in the Niger Delta to brainstorm on the recent pipeline bombing in the state and halt the military siege that has crippled social life, education and economic activities in the area.
The leaders are apprehensive that with the manner security agents are allegedly hounding villagers without identifying and targeting the perpetrators, the military could be setting the stage for the annihilation of Gbaramatu Kingdom.
Okowa’s aide warns against ethnic crisis
Meanwhile, Senior Special Assistant to Delta State Governor on Peace Building, Mr. Augustine Ogedegbe, has cautioned stakeholders of Ijaw and Itsekiri ethnic nationalities against accusations and counter accusations over the recent bombings of crude oil and gas pipelines in the state, so as not to ignite ethnic crisis in the state.
Reacting to the bombings of the pipelines, Ogedegbe said that it was necessary to prevent a reoccurrence of the attacks on the oil facilities and arrest of those involved in “the unwholesome criminal act.”
He urged youths of the Niger Delta region to halt the attacks on oil and gas facilities in the interest of peace in the area, advising them not to resort to unlawful means to express their grievances on any issue.
Why we want a meeting —Gbenekame
The Bebenemowei (Chief Mobilizer) of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekame, told Vanguard: “Yes, we (Ijaw leaders) are calling for a peace meeting with the Commander of JTF, Major-General Alani Okunola and his officers to discuss what is happening and the way out.
“A lot has happened. They are arresting our people everywhere and many riverine dwellers have fled their homes in Okerenkoko, Oporoza, and Kurutie and indeed, all the Ijaw communities in the kingdom because of the fear that soldiers will invade them like they did in 2009.
“The task force is not briefing the elders on anything. There is no channel of communication as we speak, yet the JTF Commander said he will hold leaders responsible while they have asked the leaders to produce suspects they do not know and who the security agencies have not identified. Can you see the problem and how do you want community leaders to collaborate with those that are intimidating them?
“What I am saying is that there is no synergy with the way things are going on and this is not good. We have looked at it as leaders and think that there is need for us to meet with the task force and discuss. We hear them and they hear us and we all agree on how to tackle the problem.”
However, the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, comprising Edo, Delta and Ondo States and Foundation for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade, FHRACC, think the task force has overstepped its bounds in urged the Minister of Defense to call the Commander to order.
They accused the task force of indiscriminate arrests and causing fear in innocent citizens who have no knowledge of the pipeline bombing that was carried out by criminals.
FHRACC in a statement by its National President, Alaowei Cleric, said: “The military attempt to unearth the perpetrators of the recent pipeline bombings in Gbaramatu Kingdom has taken a twist. What the JTF is doing to the riverine communities is a demonstration of military prowess to its enemies in order to coerce them into doing its biddings.
“We are appalled by the belligerent attitude of the military towards the riverine Ijaw communities over the pipeline destruction by hoodlums. If the military refuses to retrace its aggressive step towards these defenseless Ijaw communities, then they are forcing us to believe that the military has an ulterior motive against the Ijaw communities beyond looking for the culprits of the dastardly act.”
The group cited the purported activities of the armed forces on the inhabitants of Sandfield 1 & 2, Ogbogbene, Hotel and Fenegbene communities, saying, “We are reliably informed by members of these communities that the military had sent a warning to them that they should vacate their ancestral lands.
“They also said the military sent a warning to them that should they refuse to heed to the warning, soldiers will invade the communities in the name of searching for the culprits of the bombings,” the group said.
Arugbo-Ijaw community grumbles
Meanwhile, the leadership of Arugbo-Ijaw Federated Community in Warri has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to call the Commanding Officer, 19 Battalion, Koko, Warri North to order, saying that the army should not extend the hunt for perpetrators of Delta pipeline bombing to Ondo State.
President-General of the community, Chief Barrister Olowo, in a statement, said it was wrong for soldiers to be hunting for ex-militant leader, “General” Bibopre Ajube, alias Shoot –At- Sight, for the bombing in Delta State, as neither he nor the Bolowoh community had anything to do with it.