Army
Army

THERE is palpable fear and tension at present in coastal communities of Gbaramatu, home of High Chief Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo) in Warri South West Local Government Area, over deployment of military boats. This was confirmed on Thursday morning by Chief Godspower Gbenakama, the Ibe-Benemowei of Gbaramatu and acting secretary general, Gbaramatu Traditional Council, expressing worries that the military was trying to cause tension and panic among residents of the kingdom at a time the leaders and elders of the Niger Delta region were about meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari over the crisis in the region. Some residents who spoke said that the deployment was capable of derailing the fragile peace in the Niger Delta region, particularly the dialogue process already started by the Chief Edwin Clark’s PanNiger Delta Peace Forum with the federal government. One of the residents disclosed that one of the houseboats manned by fierce looking soldiers was stationed at the water front of Oporoza, headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom. Chief Gbenakama alleged that the military was planning to derail the peace process to justify their continuous stay in the Niger Delta region, stressing that the military, instead of keying into the peace initiative, had decided to carry out another military offensive against people of Gbaramatu. According to him, “One of the house boats is stationed right in front of Oporoza waterfront with the guise of looking for militants but this planned action of stationing military house boat in Oporoza is capable of derailing the fragile peace that some of us have tirelessly worked to achieve in the past few months. It would be foolhardy for the military to think that militants are domiciled in Gbaramatu Kingdom because, if they were in the kingdom, the military would have long fished out those attacking pipelines in the region with the large number of soldiers deployed to the area before now.” The Ibe-Benemowei of Gbaramatu noted that despite the heavy presence of military men in the region, the militants still go ahead to attack pipelines whenever they want, a development which he said only showed that militarisation of Ijaw communities and the entire Niger Delta region was not the solution to the crisis. He cited an instance where the military stationed at Ikpokpo allegedly failed to stop militants from bombing an NNPC Node which they were supposed to guard not quite 70 metres from their house boat stationed in the area sometime ago, adding that “instead of performing that legal duty on the fateful day, according to information we gathered, they went to Tebujoh/Okpellama and shot a sand digger to death. It took the prompt intervention of the traditional council for that development not to have resulted to a major crisis. Let it be known that the presence of the military and their house boats have never stopped the militants from attacking oil facilities, findings have even revealed that even pipelines closed to military formations are attacked either with the connivance of the military or without their knowledge.” Gbenakama then queried the rationale behind the stationing of military house boat in front of Oporoza waterfront where residents go to fetch water and wash their wears and even take their baths.


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