18 January 2013 – WITH the Federal Government’s amnesty programme in place and effective in the Niger Delta, hope had risen that the waterways would become safe and residents, including fishermen, would go about their legitimate businesses without fear.
But the recent killing of a boat captain, Patrick Abormegah by people suspected to be sea pirates, has dashed all hopes and prompted call by local fishermen in the Niger Delta region for President Goodluck Jonathan and security operatives to beam searchlight on the nation’s waterways, which they describe as ‘death zones.’
The slain Abormegah, who hailed from Badagry in Lagos State, was shot dead by a suspected group of sea pirates operating along the Andoni River, near Andoni village in Rivers State on December 20, 2012 at location 0420100n 0072132e at about 18.00hours.
A boat captain, Joseph Kenebo, and the president of Nigeria Merchant Navy, Olakunle Ololade, who spoke to The Guardian in separate interviews, said the activities of sea pirates had become a major headache to the fishermen, especially in Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers States.
“Before the killing of one of our colleagues on December 20, the gang had attacked and kidnapped the captain and chief engineer of another boat and forcefully took millions of naira from them.
“When they struck again on December 20, they ordered the late captain to give them huge amount of money. After collecting what was available with him, the attackers pointed a gun at him and blew off his head. “You can imagine what we are passing through in the hands of sea pirates in our own country,” Kenebo stated.
According to him, areas in which the pirates operate include the Eastern Obolo Local Council of Akwa Ibom State, along the coastal line in Bayelsa State as well as St. Babara Kulaat community in Rivers State.
“Their speedboat are everywhere in Abonema waterside in Port Harcourt and the security operatives are not doing anything to arrest the situation. One of their most popular speedboat drivers is called Timaya and he is a well-known person in Nembe waterside.
“Their other point of attack is Sembero River in Bonny anchorage. The captain that was killed on December 20 was shot at Andoni River. The attackers came from Andoni village. There is this particular one that is terrorizing all fishing boats at the moment. He calls himself Commander Devil and he is very popular at Abonema waterside,” he added.
Also speaking on activities of the sea pirates, Ololade hinted that after kidnapping a boat captain or an engineer, the attackers would send some phone numbers.
“At the end of every kidnapping operation, they would send various account numbers demanding for huge payment before the person is released. In Rivers State, they various accounts with first generation banks to obtain money from us.”
Speaking further, Ololade said a new twist has been added to criminal activity in Brass Local Council of Bayelsa State.
“They disguise as local fishermen but arm themselves with cutlass and other dangerous weapons. They attack the vessel and slaughter the captain as if they are slaughtering an animal.
Meanwhile, the family of the slain boat captain has called on the security forces in Rivers State and the entire Niger Delta region, to fish out the killers.