Emmanuel Addeh In Yenagoa
Refusing to leave anything to chance yesterday, the Nigerian military laid siege on Kaiama, Bayelsa State, apparently in a bid to thwart the Adaka Boro Avengers’ move to declare the Niger Delta an independent republic.
However, the militants failed to make good their threat, citing purported phone calls by former President Goodluck Jonathan and other leaders from the region appealing to them to sheathe their swords as the major reason for their decision.
It could not be independently verified if the leaders indeed made the calls, but the group which said it is fighting against the injustice meted to the people of the region, stated that it only deferred the declaration for a future date.
But the troops, mainly from the Military Joint Task Force ‘Operation Delta Safe,” it was gathered, started moving heavy weapons to the area late yesterday, even extending the operation to parts of Delta State.
The security forces stormed Kaiama Community in Kolokuma/Opokuma local government, where the dissidents proposed to make the declaration, held ground and thoroughly searched anybody going into the area.
Symbolically, Kaiama was where an earlier declaration of a Niger Delta Republic by ‘Ijaw hero’, Isaac Adaka Boro on February, 23, 1966, was made.
Kaiama is also famous for the 1988 “Ijaw Youth Declaration” where youths drawn from over 500 communities and 40 clans met to deliberate on the best way to ensure the continuous survival of the indigenous peoples of the Ijaw ethnic nationality.
But despite the military siege, residents said they were not molested, though the presence of several troops which were also stationed along the popular East-West Road, the major entry to the community.
A resident, Ebi Job, who owns a provisions shop in the area, noted that though she was first apprehensive when she saw the military personnel, they assured her that they were not after innocent people.
She said: “We were afraid when we saw many soldiers with different types of guns since yesterday evening, but they told us not to worry as far as we are not joining the so-called Niger Delta republic militants.
“They have been friendly, maybe because there is even no work to do, since the people have refused to come out and make the declaration,” she said.
Another resident, who pleaded anonymity, said the military presence was to forestall any breakdown of law and order and also to ensure that nobody took advantage of the situation to molest innocent people.
The new spokesman of ODS, Lt. Col Laolu Dauda, could not be reached for a reaction as he was said to be away on an official assignment outside the state.
However, the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, had at the weekend, said the military was ready to do anything to ensure a united Nigeria.
He spoke when he visited the JTF headquarters and other security formations in preparation for the military operation codenamed, “Operation Crocodile Smile”
The ABA, while declaring that it would no longer continue with its plan, also named Mrs. Ankio Briggs, Chief Edwin Clark and King Alfred Diete Spiff as some of those who appealed to them to shelve the declaration.
A statement by the group’s spokesman, ‘General’ Edmos Ayayeibo, had ordered every other tribe, aside people from the region, to leave the Niger Delta.
“We received calls from prominent leaders like Jonathan, calling on us freedom fighters to abort our mission to declare a Niger Delta Republic.”
“We adhere to the voice of our people, because our struggle is for the Niger Delta people and not for selfish reason. But this is not the end. More is yet to come.
“Our mission to cripple the economy of the Nigerian nation will not stop until the Nigerian government is ready to sit on a roundtable to dialogue and to restructure the Nigeria.
“Unless that, we will not stop until Nigeria becomes a zero economy. We are also saying this for the benefit of President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigerian government to stop wasting their time with those greedy fellows that call themselves MEND because nothing good will come out of them rather than sabotage.
“Everything they are saying, not even one will be accomplished. We will never agree with anything they say and henceforth MEND should watch their back because we have tolerated them for a very long time,” the group said.