ByÂ Emma Amaize
JOINT Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta has called off its Cordon and Search operation, which was flagged offÂ in May to locate, dead or alive, about 16 soldiers that were declared missing â€“in- action (MIA) after an encounter with militants on May 13 in the creeks of Delta State.
Coordinator of the Joint Media Campaign Centre of the task force, Colonel Rabe Abubakar confirmed to Vanguard in an interview yesterday, that the operation has been called off as a result of the proclamation of amnesty for militants by the Federal Government.
He said the task force was bound by the decision of the Presidency on the matter, but, the security outfit was still carrying out its routine duty of security of oil facilities and other jobs in the region.
The Cordon and Search operation, which caught the militants napping when it started, led to the unprecedented invasion and take over of Camp 5, a militant den controlled by Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo in Gbaramatu kingdom and destruction of other satellite camps, allegedly run by the militant kingpin.
Despite the confirmation by the JTF that it has called off the operation, the people of Gbaramatu still said that the siege has not been lifted, as soldiers were still in the creeks.
The Federated Tebubiri Youth Forum of Gbaramatu kingdom, yesterday, urged the taskÂ to withdraw its troops from the creeks in the kingdom and also lift the barricade on the waterways for normal social and economic activities to resume in the riverside communities since the Federal Government has granted amnesty to militants.
The youth group in a statement signed by its chairman, Michael Itima, spokesman, Nanakumo Boi and secretary, Kisky Odibo said it was wrong for the JTF to still be carrying out its Cordon and Search operation for militants in Gbaramatu kingdom when the Federal Government had pardoned those they claimed to be looking for.
The group said the JTF had caused enough misery to the people of Gbaramatu and should leave the place for the displaced people to return to their homes.
â€œWe also want the Federal Government to allow the traditional ruler of Gbaramatu kingdom to return home. His palace was bombed by the JTF and we plead that the government should rebuild it for him to come home.
â€œWe also want the government to rebuild the homes the task force destroyed in Okerenkoko, Oporoza, Opuedebubor, Benikurukuru and Kurutie Federated Communitiesâ€, the group stated.
EGbaramatu communities were practically sacked by the task force during the operation, as the residence of the monarch of the kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Godwin Bebenimibo was bombed and several homes destroyed at Okerenkoko and Kurutie communities.
The apartment of Tompolo who was later declared wanted Oporoza was razed down by the task force, which could not arrest him or any other high-ranking member of his group.
The waterways of the state were barricaded while the operation lasted, thereby crippling social and economic activities in the creek communities, as most of the women and children took refuge at the Displaced Persons Relief Camp in Ogbe-Ijoh, Warri South-West Local Government Area.
But militants under the aegis of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta made baloney of the operation, as they continued to bomb oil installations in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers states.
The production capacity of Shell Petroleum Development Company in Delta State was reduced to a mere 10,000 barrels a day from 100,000 while the Chevron Nigeria Limited was forced to send its workers home.