There is palpable panic and tension in the country home of Chief Government Ekpemupolo, aka Tompolo, Niger Delta ex-militant leader as the Paramount ruler of Gbaramatu Kingdom, HRH Oboro Gbarun II, was on Friday reportedly among those who were molested and humiliated by soldiers deployed to Warri river, multiple sources have told BigPen Online.
The monarch was on his way to Warri when soldiers on the waterways flagged down his boat and asked him to disembark for a thorough security scrutiny.
This is coming few weeks after Niger Delta activist and prominent Ijaw leader, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, had earlier raised the alarm over deployment of gunboats and fighters jets to the riverine communities of Gbaramatu, saying Ijaw nation was not contending with the military to warrant deployment of fighters jet to Oporoza, the ancestral headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdoms, Delta state, a development which was later denied by Major Ibrahim Abdullahi, Coordinator Joint Media Campaign Centre of the JTF in a statement.
Gbaramatu is militarize by gunboats, house boats quartered by soldiers keeping surveillance on oil facilities who reportedly force residents to raise their hands up whenever they passes through the river channels.
However, confirming this story, in a swift reaction to the development, foremost Ijaw youth group, Ijaw Youth Congress, IYC worldwide in a statement by its President, Pereotubo Roland Oweilaemi, Esq., also raised the alarm over the reported large scale deployment of troops to Gbaramatu Kingdom.
IYC said the subtle deployment of troops to the Gbaramatu Kingdom by the Nigerian armed forces called for concern.
According to the Ijaw youth group, it chose to keep silent over the incident because the military has earlier denied sending troops to the Kingdom.
In spite of the denials, IYC is receiving distress calls from the Kingdom with pictorial evidence of how armoured gunboats have been deployed to the area to cause tension, it said.
The group said, “We have even seen for ourselves the bizarre movements of troops to the creeks. We don’t know the rationale behind these strange deployments of troops to an area that is peaceful?
“The presence of the armed forces in the Kingdom have caused tension in the entire Niger Delta. People cannot go about their lawful businesses as the soldiers are harassing and intimidating travellers who plied the waterways.
“Currently, the more than 20 armoured gunboats stationed in the Gbaramatu Kingdom have been carrying out stop and search operations thereby hindering free movements of people in the Creeks.
“Even the revered Gbaramatu King’s entourage was subjected to such horrendous and sacrilegious treatment. He was emotionally and psychologically humiliated by the unlawful and unjustified invasion of the Kingdom.
“Worst still, while the armoured gunboats are being stationed in the Kingdom to harass and intimidate passersby, a helicopter gunship is hovering around the area as if there is war in the creeks. We have it on good authority that the presence of the troops there is because of the pending general elections.
“The Federal Government should not because of its desperate ambition push the region into another round of crisis. There is no justification whatsoever to deploy troops to the Gbaramatu Kingdom or any part of the Niger Delta region. This is a challenge to war. We are not at war with the federal government. Niger Delta is not a conquered territory. The plan according to our source is to deploy troops massively to the region during the elections so that the ruling government at the centre and its agents can rig the elections for their own favour.
“IYC is fully aware that the government is also planning to clamp down on some dissent voices in the region including the leadership of the IYC through trump allegations of security threats.
“In spite of the provocations, IYC is appealing to the Niger Delta people to be law abiding. We however, warn that our people will not fold their hands and allow political players to turn our region into launch pad of military operations. We will take every legal step to resist it.
“IYC reiterates our call for free, fair and credible elections. Our concern is not primarily who wins at the polls but let Nigerians freely exercise their franchise. The votes of the people must count. That is the concern of every well meaning Nigerian. No amount of threats will cow the IYC, the Ijaw nation and indeed the Niger Delta people from speaking their minds. Nigerians will definitely resist rigging of any form.
“We are calling on President Mohammadu Buhari to immediately order for the withdrawal troops from the region. Nigerians and our economy will be at the receiving end should there be any crisis in the region. Those who want to use federal might to fight their political opponents should stay clear of the Niger Delta. All we want is peace and we are enjoying it already.
“This unconstitutional deployment of troops of these magnitudes without legislative approval will not only derail the existing peace in the region, it will also affect our peaceful co-existence as a corporate entity. IYC is also calling on the international community and friends of Nigeria to prevail on the Buhari government not to set Niger Delta on fire because of its political ambition. The entire region is very tensed now. We fear the military presence in the Gbaramatu Kingdom may cause total breakdown of law and order”.