By Samuel Oyadongha
The military Joint Task Force, JTF, has converted the Ezetu stronghold of the former Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, Commander, Ebikabowei Victor-Ben popularly known as General Boyloaf to a military base just as it pleaded with traditional rulers and community heads to assist the troops engaged in military action against recent cases of kidnapping and terrorism in the arrest of re-grouping militants.
Vanguard learnt that the decision to permanently station a platoon at the Ezetu camp tucked away in the deep swamp of the mangrove was informed by its strategic location overseeing the Atlantic Ocean as well as to prevent criminal elements and prospective militants from regrouping and making the abandoned camp their hide-out.
It was also learnt that in the spirit of the renewed synergy to rid the region of criminal elements, the former MEND field marshal in the state donated one of his buildings at Ezetu community to the Joint Task Force to assist the security outfit in the discharge of their mandate.
Aside the camps of Keiti Sese popularly as Commander Nomukeme (mad man) camp in Foropa in Southern Ijaw council area of Bayelsa State and another at Igbokiri that were forcefully seized by the Joint Task Force others were voluntarily handed over to the security outfit.
The camps which were voluntarily handed over to the Joint Task Force last week during a tour of the creek by Commander Sector 2, Col. Victor Ezugwu and his men include those formerly owned by Ebikabowei Victor_Ben aka Gen. Boyloaf, Pastor Wilson, Eris Paul known as Commander Ogunboss and Timi Ukparasia, also known as Commander Africa.
Recognizing the importance of the royal fathers in the renewed action against resurgence of militancy in the region, the commander, Sector 2, during his tour of the creek paid a courtesy visit on the paramount ruler of Olugbobiri Community, HRH Seiminitefa Kokumo and solicited his support in sustaining the existing peace in the creeks and report any suspicious movement of persons.
Col Ezuwgu who appealed for support of the royal fathers said, “We have called on you to solicit your support and assistance in preaching the message of peace to the people. Let me assure the royal father of the assistance of soldiers in maintain lasting peace in the community and we are assure you of our presence within your domain, our mobile numbers are open at all time, the task before us is the collective responsibility of everybody.”
He also commended the ex_militant leaders, whose camps have been visited and said “though there used to be a camp here, but now what we have are now relics which had since been overtaken by bush. There is no doubt that there was once a camp here, the federal government order is that we should take over the camps, but with what we have here today, the camp is already destroyed, and the place taken over by farming activities, so we are satisfied that Africa who once rule here, is no longer maintaining a camp.”
Meanwhile, the former leaders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and ex_militant commanders in Bayelsa State have thrown their weight behind the security outfit operation to stem the resurgence of militancy in the region.
The ex_MEND leaders, under the aegis of the Bayelsa ex_militants forum, said the regrouped actions by militants as witnessed in Delta and Rivers States only had an isolated case in Bayelsa adding that the visits and occupation of the abandoned camps by the JTF has shown that the Federal Government is not sure of their sincerity towards the amnesty deal.
The ex_militant leaders, in a statement issued yesterday in Yenagoa and signed by Comrade Eris Paul popularly known as Commander Ogunboss, said though they have accepted the visits of the JTF as an action necessitated by the criminal acts displayed by one Nomuokeme at Foropa Community in Southern Ijaw area, “we wish to state that the Bayelsa ex_militants were not criminals but genuine agitators and stakeholders of a united Nigeria.”
The ex_militant leaders noted that those involved in recent acts of criminality and battle with the Joint Task Force in Delta and Rivers are criminals and not freedom fighters, “we believe in the policy of non_violent struggle today. Leaving the creeks back to normal life was something that can never be replaced by the past. Our aim was to dissociate ourselves from the many colours of criminals that were parading themselves as fighting for the common interest of the people of the Niger Delta.”
The ex_militant leaders argued that though many indigenes of the Niger Delta had suffered one fate or the other during the struggle and the peace processes, the people of the region should have faith in the ability of the President to resolve some of the contentious issues raised.
“If there is anyone to know and fight the injustices committed against our people, it will be President Goodluck Jonathan from whose place the first oil well was discovered in the Niger Delta.
“If we spend five years in the arm struggle, is one year enough to say the government has not fulfilled their part of the agreement?” he queried.