Coalition of Ijaw youths alleges military atrocities with Gbaramatu siege
Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba and Monday Osayande in Warri
The Joint Task Force (JTF) last Wednesday night released the five pipeline surveillance workers detained in connection with the bombing of pipeline belonging to Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) at Makaraba community, Gbaramatu clan, Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State.
Those released are Samuel Emiko and Alfred Timedi, ( Itsekiri) and Isaac Edinde, Henry Arogboritse and Kelvin Mordi (Ijaw), arrested by soldiers while on surveillance duty for a contractor to Chevron. They were arrested last Friday at their place of work.
Acting Secretary, Gbaramatu Council of Chief,Chief Godspower Gbenekama, confirmed their release saying: “Yes, I am aware that they released them last Wednesday night, I want to thank you people in the media for crying out for us.”
A source close to JTF stated that “the released workers were asked to report next Wednesday,” for further briefing.
According to the source, “The 19th Battalion, Nigerian Army, Koko, handed them over to the Delta State Police Command, Asaba, from where they moved them to Bayelsa State and released them on Wednesday.”
It was learnt that their release was facilitated by Chevron officials to avoid backlash against the company following a 72-hour ultimatum by its seven Gbaramatu-Ijaw host communities, when they met with their families, Wednesday, in Warri, and assured them that the company was handling the matter.
In another development, the ‘Coalition of Ijaw Youth Leaders (COIL) has called for a halt to alleged continued harassment, intimidation and dehumanisation of innocent Ijaw people by military personnel especially in Gbaramatu.
In a statement yesterday, the Ijaw youth leaders expressed dismay at what they called the military operatives’ resort to extrajudicial and clearly unprofessional style in their search for members of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).
The avengers group had claimed responsibility for series of explosive attacks on major oil pipelines in some parts of Delta State in recent time, including those belonging to Shell at Forcados Export Terminal and Chevron’s offshore facilities in Escravos area.
While condemning resurgence of militant activities in Delta State and the entire region, the Ijaw youths objected to the the disruption of social and economic lives of ordinary Gbaramatu people under the guise of hunting for the pipeline vandals and militants.
It appealed to the United Nations as well as other international and local human rights organisations to come to the aid of the Gbaramatu people to avert the looming human catastrophe.
The statement said: “Coalition condemns strongly the acts of pipeline vandalism and every other criminal activity in the Niger Delta.
However, we object to a situation where the innocent artisans and all law-abiding indigenes are beaten up, manhandled, molested and subjected to crass and gross inhuman treatment. The military is expected to do its job professionally as it obtains in civilised climes instead of resorting to inhuman, extrajudicial killings of innocent and law-abiding indigenes.
“Therefore, COIL is using this medium to call on men of conscience that have respect for the sanctity of life to call the rampaging military operatives to order. We call on notable international organisations like the United Nations and Amnesty International to wade into the inhuman situation being created by the military and help avoid a catastrophic human crisis that could arise therefrom. We also appeal to civil liberty organisations(CLO),campaign for the defense of human rights (CDHR) and Human Right Watch to pay attention to the intending pogrom.
“Also, we appeal to men like Prof Pat Utomi, Mr. Tony Uranta, Mr. Femi Falana, Mrs. Ankio Briggs and others to call the rampaging military men to order.”
The statement was signed by the chairman of the coalition, Dr. Clarkson Raphael, the secretary, Fred Brisibe and the coordinator, Fred Afoegba.