By Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
It was a tragic end for dreaded militant, suspected cultist and kidnapper, Peregbakumo Oyawerikumo, aka ‘General’ Karowei, and members of his gang , as the military announced yesterday that they had been shot dead by men of the Joint Task Force (JTF), operating in the Niger Delta.
Oyawerikumo was apprehended by some soldiers attached to the JTF on Thursday and had been in the custody of the special security outfit before his demise in yet suspicious circumstances.
Among other crimes, the notorious militant, 28, was accused of beheading an officer of the Department of State Services (DSS), closely followed by the murder of four soldiers at Toru Ndoro community, Ekeremor Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, earlier this week.
He was also fingered in the murder of a British citizen and humanitarian, Ian Squire, in Enokorogha, Burutu, who was killed after he and his colleagues were abducted.
After decapitating the security operative last week, the suspect reportedly danced around several communities in the creeks with the head of his victims, causing anger among security forces in the region who moved into Toru Ndoro and environs last weekend.
But less than 24 hours after he was arrested by soldiers, the military in a statement yesterday, signed by the Coordinator Joint Media Campaign Centre, Major Ibrahim Abdullahi, said the dreaded militants and some of his boys were killed when they opened fire on men of the JTF, after agreeing to take them to his camp in the creeks.
“In line with the Joint Task Force (JTF) Operation Delta Safe (OPDS) mandate to protect critical oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta region, a deliberate operation aimed at tackling the security challenges posed to safety of lives and critical oil and gas facilities in the region was conducted.
“Consequently, a seven-day clearance operation was initiated by the Commander, JTF, Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman to sanitise the region of militants, cultists, sea robbers, kidnappers and other criminals.
“During the operation, precisely on Thursday 11 January 2018, a notorious militant leader, Peregbakumo Oyawerikumo also known as ‘Karowei’ and his criminal gang were arrested.
“It could be recalled that Mr. Karowei and his criminal gang abducted four (4) British Missionaries on 13th October 2017 in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State which led to the unfortunate death of one of the Britons, Late Mr. Ian Squire.
“Karowei and his gang were also responsible for several abductions/kidnappings, robberies and raping of innocent women in the region including unprovoked attacks on military locations in Delta and Bayelsa States.
“Also on 7th January 2018, Karowei and his gang attacked own troops at Bolu Ndoro forest which led to the death of four (4) Military OPDS personnel.
“After his arrest, Mr. Karowei confessed to several criminal acts and led troops to his camp to recover the cache of arms and ammunition in his possession as well as to persuade other members of his gang to surrender.
“However in a twist of events, Karowei’s recalcitrant group laid an ambush and attacked Task Force troops in a gun battle at his camp deep in the forest. This was in a bid to rescue Karowei from own troops.
“The superior firepower, resilience and gallantry of own troops countered this snap attack which resulted in the death of several of Karowei’s henchmen and the kingpin, Karowei who tried to flee to re-join his cohorts”, the military said.
However, there were suspicions over the death of the militant, following claims by some sources that his alleged summary execution was to block the political angle to the saga, as governor Seriake Dickson had accused the Minister of State, Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri and ex-Governor Timipre Sylva, of arming the deceased militant and kidnapper on Thursday.
Among several other accusations, Dickson had said he was in possession of intelligence report that the suspect was with Lokpobiri, specifically during the New year festivities.
“All the guns, AK47, all the boats and others used to kill and all other ammunition were supplied by Senator Lokpobiri. I have evidence that on the 2nd of January this month, this Kareowei and his killers were in Ekeremor, celebrating with Lokpobiri, and that is the person appointed as Minister of state”, the governor had alleged.
He added: “And Timipre Sylva. The President should call these his two party men to order. As far as I am concerned, they are common criminals and terrorists”.
But both politicians rebuffed the allegation, stressing that the governor “provided zero facts to support his irresponsibly frivolous claims” and Lokpobiri describing it as a “campaign of calumny”.
Meanwhile, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, has called on Niger Delta youths to desist from actions that were likely to bring untold hardship and misery to their various communities.
Mr. Daniel Dasimaka, the group’s Spokesman, in an interview decried situations where entire communities were punished leading to burning down of houses, rape of innocent girls and women, maiming and needless loss of lives and property.
“We can no longer pretend not to be aware that the actions of some of our own people are doing us far more evil than good. We must clearly distinguish between the struggle for the emancipation of the Ijaw nation and the Niger Delta and clear cases of private profiteering and criminality leading to untold hardship and misery for our people.
“It is therefore most saddening, unfortunate and unjustifiable that the actions of a gang of few people or one man as the case in Ndoro community would lead to such destruction of entire communities.
“It is our sincere hope that now that the culprit has been apprehended, the community would heal. Still going forward, the military must desist from attacking Ijaw communities under the guise of revenge”, the foremost Ijaw group said.
According to the IYC, aside inviting wanton destruction against Ijaw communities, “the wicked actions of a few greedy youths have continued to de-market the Ijaw nation as a preferred investment destination, despite our many comparative advantages such as proximity to raw materials, proximity to the sea and nearness to a huge market; thereby frustrating the cardinal objectives of the Pereotubo Oweilaemi led IYC.
“If not, why would a Dangote refinery be sited in a place that makes its operations far more costly instead of Ijaw land? ” Dasimaka queried.