Ijaw youths kick as military arrests ex-militant leader in Delta State
The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) yesterday warned that the Federal Government was inciting crisis in the Niger Delta by the continued invasion of the oil-rich area, arrest and detention of its residents, especially former agitators.
The group’s spokesman Eric Omare, who spoke on the heels of last weekend’s arrest of former militant leader, Bounanawei Smith (alias King of the Forest) in Warri, Delta State, noted that such aggression was inimical to the sough peace in the region.
Bounanawei, The Guardian learnt, was arrested by a combined team of military personnel while hosting some IYC members in his guesthouse.
Omare condemned the action, which described as “the naked, primitive and unwarranted display of force,” adding that Bounanawei had embraced the amnesty deal of the government and participated actively in maintaining peace and security in the region.
He disclosed that a couple of days before his arrest, the ex-militant leader had hosted Ijaw and Urhobo leaders with a view to resolving the perennial inter-communal clashes among Ogbe-Ijoh, Isaba, Diebiri and Aladja communities.
The group wondered why the security agents would arrest such a peacemaker like a common criminal in handcuffs amid sporadic shooting instead of honourably inviting him over to clear any issues with them.
Omare maintained that such invasions were fast becoming a norm, claiming that on January 1 this year, military officers stormed Gbaraun community in Southern Ijaw Local Council of Bayelsa State, shooting sporadically as well as arresting and detaining till date a youth leader, Kalami Saturday Inakemeduo.
He added that several other Ijaw youths were languishing in military detention. Omare listed them to include Aboy Muturu, Ezekiel Daniel, spokesman for the group’s Abuja chapter, IYC Victor Odogu, among others.
He alleged that the affected persons have been in Department of State Services (DSS) and military detention for more than eight months without trial.
IYC warned: “These arrests are capable of truncating the Niger Delta’s peace process. We are surprised that in one breath, the Federal Government is sending Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to Gbaramatu, Delta State to kick-start the peace process on Tuesday (tomorrow) and in another breath, invading and arresting ex-agitators like Bounanawei Smith.”
The group, therefore, called for the immediate release of Bounanawei and the rest captives.