The Commander of the Joint Task Force, Codenamed Operation Delta Safe, Admiral Apochi Suleiman on Tuesday paid a courtesy visit to the paramount ruler of Gbaramatu Kingdom, HRM Oboro Gbaraun II, Aketakpe (Agadagba) in Oporoza, Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State.
The visit, it was gathered was part of effort to strengtened the relative peace and security in the coastal communities of the Niger Delta region.
A source with knowledge of the visit told our correspondent that the meeting discussed strategic relations between the army and Gbaramatu people, besides discussing issues relating to military occupation of the communities.
Specifically, the JTF Commander, Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman said that Gbaramatu Kingdom remains stretegic to the nation’s oil economy and so it cannot be toy with.
He assured the people that they are not enemy of the Gbaramtu Kingdom or any other part of the Niger Delta, saying the visit was to intimate the monarch of their operations to protect the environment from criminal activities like pipeline vandalisation and illegal oil bunkering.
Admiral Suleiman however thanked the monarch for engendering peace in his domain, while commending the Pere and the Traditional Council of Chiefs for the warm reception accorded them.
Gbaramatu has been a breeding ground for military and militants showdown in the past. However, military occupation of the Kingdom had caused the residents so much socio-economic deprivation and trauma.
BigPen Online recalls that recently the monarch, speaking through the spokesman of the traditional council, Chief Godspower Gbenekama had warned the army against turning the kingdom into a battlefield following alleged deployment of gunboats and other military hardwares to the area in the wake of the threat by Niger Delta Avengers.
According to GbaramatuVoice, Ibe-Benemowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama who spoke on behalf of the monarch, explained that the Kingdom expects the men and officers under the JTF operational command to be law-abiding while carrying out their constitutional responsibility of securing the area.
He however gave a graphic details of the ordeals the people of the Kingdom had experience in the hands of the military forces since 2003 when the area was militarized.
“The Ijaw nation has been over-militarized with the bombardment and destruction of Gbaramatu Kingdom and targeting the (former) Royal Palace of our Kingdom in 2009 as a living example.
“Last year our people were harrassed on a daily basis by security agents.
“Matters came to a head on Saturday, 30th of May, 2016, about 2:00 a.m., when a detachment of the military invaded Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of the Gbaramatu Kingdom and placed our royal father under house-arrest for seven days.
“They profaned our holy places and made-away with our sacred Golden Sword.
“Furthermore, they looted houses in an unprecedented manner. It was most certainly not their finest hour.
“We would not quickly forget the act of intimidation the military displayed a few weeks ago when in its show of misplaced aggression; it deployed the Nigerian Airforce fighter jets and gunboats to Gbaramatu Kingdom.
“Hitherto, the fact that the Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom and his people predisposition and advocacy for a peaceful community devoid of pipeline vandalism and militancy seem lost to the authorities as they continue to trawl our communities water fronts with gunboats and hover our rooftops with helicopter gunships and fighter jets.”
Gbenekama stressed however that none of the JTF articles of formation includes “harassment, intimidation, brutalisation or killing of the innocent citizens of the communities.”