By Willie Etim (Yenagoa) and Karls Tsokar (Abuja)
• We Are Not Behind Attack, Says APC
• IYC Wants Better Deal For Youths
MILITARY and marine police formations along the waterways and creeks of Bayelsa, yesterday, were placed on red alert, after unknown gunmen killed four soldiers and one mobile policeman along the Nembe waterways in the state.
Pretending to be on military assignment, the gunmen, numbering about six, in army uniform, caught the soldiers off guard and opened fire on them.
Four machine guns and other weapons used at the checkpoint were carted away by the attackers. The incident was said to have occurred at about 12am Friday, with the sound of heavy gunfire throwing coastal communities and fishing settlements in Nembe into panic.
A statement by Defence Headquarters (DHQ) in Abuja, stated that the “incident is being investigated and the Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield, has moved into action to arrest and apprehend the perpetrators of this unpatriotic and callous attacks.”
The unsigned statement said it “happened in our location at Nembe Jetty, near Ogolomabiri community in Bayelsa State, where suspected oil thieves attacked our location.
The military will deal decisively with anybody or group involved in this and similar acts of attacks or sabotage on the nation’s economy.” A senior chief from Nembe Kingdom, yesterday, told The Guardian that the incident has drawn the attention of the traditional institution in the area, which has summoned an emergency meeting of its chiefs and traditional heads.
Joint Task Force (JTF) spokesman, Lt. Col. Isa Ado, confirmed the incident, but said the attack was unsuccessful, as troops repelled the assailants.
Ado added that he could not confirm the number of casualties as at the time of filing this report. “Yes, I can confirm to you that there was an attack by some unknown gunmen on our troops in Nembe and the attack was repelled.
You can recall that there have been several attempts to overrun our men in Nembe unsuccessfully. Our men are on a hot pursuit of the hoodlums, as I speak with you,” he said.
The spokesman of the State Police Command, Astimin Butswat, in a statement, yesterday, also confirmed the killings. “On August 7, 2015, at about 11:30pm, four speedboats packed with unknown gunmen, suspected to be sea pirates, attacked the Joint Task Force base, at Nembe Waterfront, in Nembe LGA, killing four soldiers and one policeman.
The gunmen carted away two HP Guns and other arms from the base. A combined team of the JTF, Marine Police and the Navy are combing the creeks to recover the arms and arrest the culprits,” said Butswat.
Meanwhile, a group, the Ijaw Young Professionals in Bayelsa State, at the weekend, accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) of masterminding the attack, saying it was part of a plot by the Timipre Sylva-led APC to create a sense of insecurity in the state ahead of the December 5 governorship elections.
In a statement, leader of the group, Barrister Seighfa Tonye-Brown, alleged that weapons seized by the gunmen were meant for use during the election; and that the incident was part of a plan by the party to perpetrate insecurity and compel President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency, and possibly take over the state. “By next week, we are well informed, that the Police Commissioner and Director of SSS will be replaced with new officers who will do the bidding of the APC in the forthcoming governorship elections,” he said.
Tonye-Brown, who called on security agencies to take his allegations seriously, said an APC chieftain had, during the week, boasted that Governor Seriake Dickson would be removed from office by all means, noting that the opposition party has perfected strategies to carry out the plot to remove the governor through violence. “Already, this attack on the military men is a clear pointer to the execution of the evil plot and we are reliably informed that more sinister actions are on the way,” he said.
He assured Bayelsans that, given the strong security architecture in place in the state, the Dickson-led government has sworn to deal with any threat.
Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva, however, has condemned the attack, even as he described as wild, unsubstantiated and irresponsible, the allegation that the APC was behind the incident.
He called on the Inspector General of Police to order an immediate investigation into the killings, and most particularly persons behind the Ijaw Young Professionals in Bayelsa State.
He regretted that the government has embarked on subterfuge to prevent the imminent change in Bayelsa State. “It is no doubt that Sylva, as the symbol of that change, is the target of this schizoid propaganda by faceless groups, paid and unpaid writers, and political jobbers,” he said.
Media Adviser to Chief Sylva, Mr. Doifie Ola, said his principal knows nothing about the killings and that neither Sylva nor the APC that he leads in the state is privy to any plan to employ violence as a strategy to win the forthcoming gubernatorial election in the state. “Sylva is unperturbed. Sylva abhors violence. He has never promoted violence under any guise.
He only represents the voice of millions of Bayelsa people seeking change in the affairs of the state, a change to the gross ineptitude, pathetic profligacy and grand larceny of Mr. Henry Seriake Dickson.
Sylva calls on the Inspector General of Police to order an immediate investigation into the killings,” reads the statement by Doifie Ola. Also, President of the Ijaw Youths Congress (IYC), Mr. Udengs Eradiri, has called on governments and multi-national oil companies in states where amnesty beneficiaries were selected to complement efforts of the Federal Government.
In a chat with The Guardian in Yenagoa, Eradiri said state governments and oil companies were both victims and beneficiaries of the crisis that led to the amnesty programme, hence they should play key roles in effective implementation of the initiative. According to him, “only the Federal Government has fulfilled its obligation”.
He noted that before the amnesty, the revenue of the states and production quota of oils companies was very low, but that now with increased revenue they still have not reached out in their budgets to youths in their areas of operation.
The IYC president said states and oil companies must begin to create room for the employment of the youths who have received the best of training in universities both within and outside the country.
While commending President Buhari for keeping promises made during electioneering to sustain the amnesty programme, he pleaded with him to prioritise issues affecting the Niger Delta, also urging the coordinator of the amnesty programme to give preference to beneficiaries who are in schools.
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