Sylvester Idowu in Warri
Hundreds of aggrieved women from Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State yesterday protested the arrest and continued detention of 10 of their youths by the military for their alleged involvement in the bombings of oil facilities by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).
The protesting women alleged that some of the youths were writing the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) last month when they were seized by the soldiers on the trail of members of Niger Delta Avengers.
The women, dressed in dark top and skirts, wailed and rolled on the road as they marched along the ever busy Warri-Sapele road in Warri, causing gridlock.
They demanded the release of their children within seven days or face another massive protest in Abuja.
Some of their placards read thus: ‘We need them back in school,’ ‘Mr. President Free Our Brothers Time is Running Out’, ‘They are Not NDA, They Are Students of Gbaraun Grammar School, Oporoza’, ‘Just Bring Back Our Sons Alive’ and ‘10 Boys Are Still In Detention, Free Our Brothers. They Are The Future.’
According to the women, the youths arrested by the JTF during the militarisation of their communities were not members of any militant groups but school children who we’re getting set to write examinations.
Speaking on behalf of the women, the national leader of Ijaw Women, Mrs. Veronica Tanbowei, accused the federal government of oppressing the people of Gharamatu kingdom by wrongfully labelling their children militants.
“If the federal government comes out and tell us that they have killed our children, then they should be ready to kill all of us. We are giving them seven days ultimatum and if they do not allow us to see our children we all will march to Abuja and they will kill all of us.
“Buhari government has sent the army to kill our children, but today we are asking them to bring back our children to us. They should bring our innocent children back to us.”
She alleged that the youths were dragged out of their beds in the middle of the night and whisked away to unknown destination only to later read in the papers that they were militants which she denied.
One of the mothers of those arrested, Mrs. Endurance Uyaotede, who was crying and rolling on the ground while speaking to journalists, lamented that her son, Friday Oyaotede, is her only son.
Another mother, Mrs. Rona Odike, said: “My son was sleeping in the house when they came to whisked him away at midnight. I have not seen my son for the past two months and we are beginning to get worried because we do not know if he is alive or not. My son is a little boy and he is not a member of any militant group. We are pleading with the federal government to release our children because they are innocent.”
On his part, the National Assistant Secretary of Gbaramatu Students Association, Freeborn Abraye, said the arrest of the students by the military was the height of oppression against the people of Gbaramatu kingdom.
“Most of the youths arrested are students of Gbaramatu Grammar School in Okporoza community. They were all whisked away while they were sleeping. Most of them were supposed to write the last SSCE examinations but because of the arrest, they could not write it.
“These students are suffering for what they do not know about. It is now 46 days and we have not heard anything about them. We do not know how they are faring over there nor do we have a clue of where they are,” he lamented.
An Ijaw leader, Sheriff Mulade, decried the continued detention of the innocent children and demanded for their unconditional release.
He said the federal government to fish out the militants and punish them for their heinous crimes and free the children.