Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Soldiers from the 2 Brigade Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, stationed in Bori, Rivers State on Monday arrested the Paramount Ruler of Yeghe community in Ogoniland, Barinaadaa Gbaranee.
Yeghe community, in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State has been a hot-spot of army operations since the army invaded the community in February in search of ex-agitator, Solomon Ndigbara, whom the military has since declared wanted. Not less than 20 persons were allegedly killed in the military operation, even though the army said nobody was killed.
The Assistant Director Army Public Relations, 2 Brigade Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Capt. Eli Lazarus, confirmed the arrest of the Ogoni traditional ruler.
He however said the army “invited” Gbaranee for questioning concerning an investigation it was carrying out.
In a text message yesterday, Lazarus said, “The paramount ruler of Yeghe Community, Barinadaa Gbaranee was invited by 2 Brigade Nigerian Army in connection with an on-going investigation that relates to security within his domain. I assure you that he will return to his community as soon as investigation is completed.”
In the meantime, the Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers (COTRA) has condemned Gbaraanee’s “abduction” and called for his immediate release.
The Chairman of COTRA, King Suanu Baridam, in a statement issued yesterday said, “We consider the abduction of Chief T.D. Gbaranee, a desecration of the highly respected traditional institution and strongly reject the humiliation of an Ogoni traditional stool by the army.
“We demand the immediate release of Chief Barinaadaa T.D Gbaranee and expect that if there be any issues regarding his conduct, he ought to be treated with respect, decency and in a dignified manner with an invitation, if that fails, the issue should be brought before the Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, if that fails, the issue be brought before the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers, the failure upon which further actions can be taken.”
He said the “abduction and embarrassment of Chief Barinaadaa T.D. Gbaranee, a government-recognised traditional ruler and member of the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers, a member of the Council of Ogoni Traditional rulers, is unacceptable to the entire Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers.”
He added: “We accuse the army of dubious intentions and alert the Nigerian people and the international community of clear genocidal intentions against the Ogoni people and particularly the Yeghe people.
“We note that the actions of the Nigerian army in Ogoniland in recent times following the raids and killing of over 20 persons and subsequent raids on the peaceful and law abiding citizens of Yeghe calls for serious questions regarding the credibility and intentions of the army’s presence in Ogoniland.”