*As Warri S-West LGC sets up inquiry
*CEPEJ cautions against use of military might
01 February 2016, Warri — SCHOOLS, both secondary and primary, as well as health centres, in Okerenkoko, Oporoza, Kurutie, Kunukunumam, Egboba, Benikurukuru, Egwa, Abitte, Tebijoh and other Ijaw communities in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, have been forced to shut down following the over two-week siege to the riverine communities by soldiers hunting for pipeline bombers.
Teachers and health workers have also fled the communities and vowed not to return until peace returns to the kingdom. In addition, churches have also dispersed.
Also deserted were Okerenkoko Grammar School, Okerenkoko; Oporoza Grammar School, Oporoza and primary schools in all the mentioned communities, as well as health centres in Okerenkoko and Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom.
Four sick villagers collapsed at Opudebubor community on Friday, and there were no medical personnel to assist them because of the prevailing situation. Relatives of the victims tried to convey them to Warri more than 12 hours after the incident.
Meanwhile, residents of Sandfield I and 2, Ogbogbene and other Ijaw villages in Warri overside, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Ijaw People Development Initiative, IPDI, and Committee for Rural Development have raised alarm over indiscriminate shootings by security operatives in their areas.
Warri S-West LGC sets up enquiry
Also, to assist the Federal and Delta State governments to track down perpetrators of the recent bombing of crude and gas pipelines in Warri South-West council, Chairman of the council, Mr George Ekpemupolo, has inaugurated a seven-man panel of inquiry to ascertain”the immediate and remote causes of the heinous crime.”
The committee, which has Chief Godspower Ebenekama as chairman and Mr. Jimmy Faka as secretary, is also saddled with the responsibility of ascertaining, “the effects and level of damage and proffer solutions to forestall future re-occurrence.”
Also, Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ, has advised the Federal Government to tread softly on the renewed attacks on pipelines in the creeks of Delta State by suspected militants, so as not to stoke up embers of a fresh crisis in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.
The advice is coming against the backdrop of plans by the Federal Government to send the military to attack riverine communities hosting oil facilities which have already heightened tension resulting in people leaving their communities in droves.
In a statement by its National Coordinator, Sheriff Mulade, the group advised the military against going out of its rule of engagement in its hunt for the masterminds of the attacks on the oil pipelines.
Chairman of Warri South-West council, Ekpemupolo, while inaugurating the board, weekend, at Warri South-West Council Secretariat in Ogbe-Ijoh, described the recent bombing of pipelines in the area as “a worrisome and unwholesome act, which should not be condoned,” adding that no plausible reason can justify the “dastardly act,” which “is an economic sabotage and threat to the lives and property of the people of Warri South-West council.”
He said that “the criminals, who perpetrated the abominable act are domiciled in our communities.”
Other members of the seven-man committee which has two weeks from the day of their inauguration to submit their report are: Vice Chairman of Warri South-West council, Mr. Blexons Omadoye, Mr. Emmanuel Adun, Chief Wellington Bobo, S.P Umar Dugu and Mr. N. J. Ufot.
We’re also facing food crisis—Gbenekame
The Bebenemowei (Chief Mobilizer) of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Gbenekame, who spoke to Vanguard on the closure of schools and health institutions in the kingdom, said: “Since the onset of the military manhunt, our schools and health centres have been closed because the teachers and health workers fled for fear of being killed.
“You see, most of the workers are not from the communities and nobody will hear that soldiers want to invade the place and remain when the natives are also running away. So, that is the situation. Our schools and health centres are not functioning because of the military siege.
“Besides the closure of academic and health institutions, we are also facing severe food shortage in Gbaramatu Kingdom now. There is no food because of problems of transportation. There is fear everywhere and the military has also embargoed the kind of horsepower engines that can be used on speedboats.
“This has totally crippled social life in the riverine communities. There is no more social life as people are hiding not knowing when the military will strike. Even water to drink is a problem because there is no transportation to bring sachet water like before.
“Gbaramatu Kingdom has turned into a refugee camp, what is remaining is for government to open Internally Displaced People’s, IDP camps for the refugees,” he added.
National President of IPDI, Austin Ozobo, who condemned the closure of schools, health centres and churches, said, “Government is not showing adequate concern over the plight of the people. It needs to build confidence in the people and not stay aloof; you can imagine that food supply is restricted.
“Although Gbaramatu is the oil belt of the nation, there are only two secondary schools and few primary schools in the area. As we speak, all the teachers have fled the kingdom, parents and students have also fled for fear, as the security operatives continue the blockade to the area.
“The only source of livelihood in the area is fishing and because of the heightened tension and military presence in the region, fishing business has automatically crumbled.
“All workers of the few health institutions have also taken flight. Movement is being restricted, hunger and suffering is everywhere. How long shall the people run from tneir homes? The government is only interested in their oil.
“What the Nigerian Government is doing is what the United States is doing to Russia, wanting to weaken the Russian government because of its oil. Equally, the Nigerian government wants to weaken the Niger Delta region because of its oil,” he added.
Stop random shooting —IYC
The Ijaw Youth Council, in a statement, yesterday, by its spokesperson, Mr. Eric Omare, called on the Minister of Defence, Mohammed Dan Ali, to prevail on military officers, especially those attached to Naval Base, Warri, Delta State, to immediately stop the indiscriminate shooting into Ijaw communities directly opposite the Warri Naval Base.
“For some time now and for no reason, military officers attached to the Naval Base, Warri and those patrolling the Warri River have been indiscriminately shooting into Naifor Island, Desemor Island, Oroupa Island and other Ijaw communities directly opposite Warri, especially late in the night on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
“This has led to cases of injuries to those running for safety and many residents moving out from Ijaw communities to other places. There are reports that the military will soon raid the Ijaw communities. We see no reason for this sudden unprovoked attack on Ijaw communities around Warri and its environs.
“The military authorities must immediately call on the officers concerned to stop this unwarranted attack on innocent Ijaw people and communities. The Ijaw people and communities around Warri have lived in those places for centuries without constituting any security threat.
“We are amazed that military officers that ought to protect the lives of citizens are now the security threat to the citizens that they are supposed to protect. We call for an investigation into this show of indiscipline and unprofessionalism and officers responsible should be punished to serve as deterrent to others,” he said.
*Emma Amaize & Tare Youdeowei – Vanguard