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9 Nov 2017

Pandemonium: Nigerian Military Chase Avengers In Delta Creeks As Villagers Disown Militant Group

The Nigerian army has reportedly chased the Niger Delta Avengers into the creeks even as villagers disown the militant group.
Nigerian soldiers

According to Vanguard, soldiers continued the manhunt for members of the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, in the creeks of Niger Delta region, with community leaders and groups distancing their communities from the militant group.

Meanwhile, panic-struck residents of Benneth Island, Ogbe-Ijoh Kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, who complained of harassment by the military with fighter jets and gunboats for three-day running, begged that soldiers should spare them the raw ordeal.

Vanguard reports that there was strong directive to the security agencies not to allow militants commence bombing by the Avengers and  any other militant group, and so, security operatives, bet it Army or Navy, were synergizing to ensure that they  neutralized any attack and pick up the militants wherever possible.

The forays by the Army and Navy in the last few days, have, indeed, sent jitters down the spines of riverine dwellers at Gbaramatu, Ogbe-Ijoh and Ogulagha Kingdoms in Delta State.

Security operatives, however, seemed to be acting on the intelligence information that Delta State, is the base of the Avengers.

A youth leader of Benneth Island, Jude Godfrey, told Vanguard on phone, “The military broke into some houses in our community, saying they are looking for members of the Niger Delta Avengers, we are not members of the Avengers, they should leave us alone.”

A rights group, Ijaw People Development Initiative, corroborating the claim of harassment by the villagers, said that the residents, who spoke to its officials that visited the community, said their lives were in danger.

Godfrey asserted, “This is the third day running, it started on Tuesday, some gunboats and military planes flew over our community, we did not know why and we started calling our elders and uncles in Warri to find out what was happening. Yesterday (Wednesday), they came with two fighter jets and 11 gunboats.”

“They said they were looking for Niger Delta Avengers, they were ransacking everywhere, they destroyed some houses in the process and many people fled into the bush. It is today (yesterday) that some people, who ran away on Wednesday, are coming out.”

National president of IPDI, Mr. Austin Ozobo, said, “We were informed of continuous military harassment of the people of Bennett Island, an Ijaw -Warri community. The residents complained that they are being harrassed on daily basis and that about two fighter jets, flying at low altitude were sighted hovering around the community, with over 11gunboats,  causing pandemonium in the community in the past three days.”

“They told IPDI that young boys and women in the community faced unwarranted assaults and threats from the invading military personnel. They said that the entire community goes into hiding each time the military visits the community for safety and fear of unlawful arrests and intimidations, only to return in the night when the military may have left the community.

“They said their lives are in a grave danger and that the community is not known for militant activities. While crying out, the villagers said that no militant resides in Bennett community. They do not know Avengers’ whereabouts and do not deserve this humiliation coming from the military,” Ozobo said.

The activist asserted, “It is imperative to note that harassing law-abiding citizens over what they know nothing about is unprofessional. We are aware that the military is doing its national assignment, in spite of that, the military has a duty to protection lives of law- abiding community despite the level of provocation.”

His words, “The continuing abuse of the rights of innocent aborigines of Niger-Delta under the false pretence of searching for freedom fighters is provocative and inimical.”

“We want to vehemently state that Bennett community is not a militant camp, but an ancient Ijaw community. It is our advice that the military should exercise restraint in their operations and vacate the area without further delay,”he added.

Meanwhile, the Traditional Council of Akugbene-Mein Kingdom in Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State has called on the Niger Delta Avengers to rescind their recent threat to resume hostilities in the Niger Delta region.

The council in a statement by the monarch, HRM Pere Kalanama VIII,   appealed to the Avengers to exercise restraint and allow the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, to tackle issues already presented before the Federal Government.

It also called on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to, as a matter of necessity, continue with the 16-point demand presented to it by PANDEF to douse the brewing tension in the region.

Furthermore, the council pleaded with the federal government to direct the relevant agencies to commence academic activities at the much-awaited Nigerian Maritime University at Okerenkoko, and step up efforts to assuage the negative feelings of agitators and ordinary citizens of the region over perceived neglect by the federal government.

In addition, the Gbaramatu Youth Council, GYC, has declared that youths of the kingdom were not part of the Avengers.

President of the council, Christopher Wuruyai, said that instead of becoming members of NDA, “We have freely chosen to partner in progress with the Federal Government. The above claim is evident as our youths are now volunteer workers of the Federal Government of Nigeria with over 100 youths voluntarily enlisted in The Chaplain Corps of Nigeria (TCCN).”

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