Soldiers Kill Boat Operator in Bayelsa, Military Scraps Operation Pulo Shield

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  •  New militant group threatens to bomb more oil installations

Senator Iroegbu in Abuja, Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa and Idowu Sylvester in Warri

Soldiers attached to the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta have shot and killed a boat operator in the waterways of Bayelsa State.

THISDAY gathered that the young man, who hailed from Olugbobiri, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state, was allegedly cut down in error by the security operatives after mistaking him for a militant.

The unfortunate shooting of the man identified as Ernest is a fallout of the disquiet that has pervaded the Niger Delta creeks as a result of the activities of militants who have attacked oil facilities in the region.

It was learnt that the victim worked with one of the oil service firms in the region before the unfortunate encounter with security operatives.

The troops were reportedly patrolling the waterways in search of militants when they mistook the occupants of the speedboat operated by Ernest for hoodlums and fired at it.

A source said that the banned 200 horsepower boat engine attracted the troops who attempted flagging down the boat, which was moving from Brass to an undisclosed location.

The occupants of the boat, on noticing the patrol boat and armed uniformed soldiers, however, also mistook them for another band of militants who had in recent times attacked commuters in the creeks.

It was gathered that the mode of operation of the sea robbers is usually to dress in military camouflage, which prompted the occupants of the boat to flee.

“Ernest was coming from Brass when he noticed a patrol boat. But all the occupants of the boat thought the patrol boat belonged to pirates. They reasoned that pirates have always disguised as soldiers to attack unsuspecting members of the public.

“They ignored all the efforts by the patrol boat to stop them. While they were speeding out of perceived danger, the soldiers released a warning gunshot into the air. But the speedboat kept moving. Out of fear, the occupants jumped into the water and swarmed into the mangroves,” the source disclosed.

He, however, said Ernest was the only one left in the boat when the soldiers fired at it, adding that a bullet hit the boat operator who died on the spot.

He said the soldiers later approached the boat and discovered that the dead driver was harmless.
“They took the remains to a morgue in Yenagoa, the state capital,” the source added.

A human rights activist and state representative, Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Mr. Alagoa Morris, condemned the shooting and killing of the young man.

“One of the worst opponents to contend with is the one who is very scared of you and lacks confidence. He would not hesitate to kill you at the slightest opportunity.

“The shooting and killing of an innocent, harmless and law-abiding citizen by soldiers in the creeks of Southern Ijaw LGA, Bayelsa State, is no exception. It smacks of troops sailing in fear and lacking confidence,” he said.
Coordinator, Joint Media Campaign Centre (JMCC), Col. Isa Ado, could not be reached on his phone to comment on the incident.

The death of the young man came just as the Defence Headquarters announced yesterday the scrapping of Operation Pulo Shield in the Niger Delta and its replacement with Operation Delta Safe.

A statement by the defence spokesman, Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar, said: “This is in line with the Defence Headquarters’ initiative to restructure the Joint Task Force for better service delivery, efficiency and effectiveness in line with the vision and mission of the Chief of Defence Staff to contain the current security challenges in the Niger Delta, especially the protection of critical national assets and provision of security in the area.

“Under this arrangement, the joint operational areas of the new outfit have been delineated into three sectors and five operational bases covering the entire Niger Delta, Ondo and Akwa Ibom States. The Headquarters of Operation Delta Safe would be in Yenagoa.

“This development, according to Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, becomes expedient in order to inject new tactics and robust operational initiative to tackle the emerging security challenges in the Niger Delta region such as piracy, bunkering, vandalism and other criminalities prevalent in the area.”

Despite the restructuring of JTF’s operations, yet another militant group, the Ultimate Warriors of Niger Delta, yesterday threatened to resume bombings of more oil installations in the Niger Delta if the federal government makes the peaceful change that its seeking impossible.

The group threatened that the federal government wouldn’t be able to handle the dire consequences of what would happen if it fails to heed its demands.

“The tsunami that would descend in the coming days would be severe for the current government to handle. We bet you this government wouldn’t be able to handle what would happen in the Niger Delta in the days ahead.

“When it gets down, they would say the opposition is behind it but we don’t care. All over the world, militia groups emerge for a reason and we have made our reasons clear and vivid,” the group said in a statement.

In the statement signed by its spokesman, Sibiri Taiowoh, the group berated the federal government for failing to convene a roundtable dialogue that would engender peace as it promised after declaring a two-week ceasefire.
It maintained that the government was paying lip service to critical issues of national importance.

“No roundtable dialogue has kick started, instead, government officials are quarrelling over critical issue of national importance. Our patience is running out and we have decided to let the world know our grievances pure and plain again.

“The operations that would follow these plans are strategic and all operations would be codified as our goals have been codified in a one line mission statement,” it added.

The group said for it to embrace the government’s olive branch, the dialogue process must be approached with utmost transparency and sincerity, maintaining that for the past two weeks, the federal government had not shown any sign of sincerity and transparency in the process.

It however distanced itself from calls for the de-freezing of accounts of corrupt politicians or stopping their prosecution, noting that it was none of its business but added that it would vehemently resist selective justice.
The group boasted that it has willing foot soldiers across the six states of the region and had also gone ahead to recruit over 10,000 fighters and agitators from the South-east and Eastern Middle Belt.

It also boasted that it had affiliated itself with an unnamed foreign militant group in a bid to form a formidable alternative to the rampaging Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and defunct Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND).