By Sam Oyadongha
Just as residents of Yenegoa, the Bayelsa State capital were trying to put behind them the near catastrophe that jolted the capital city, when Tombia bridge was bombed, a more audacious attack was launched on the riverside Olugbobiri community in the Southern Ijaw council area by unknown armed gunmen who bombed a section of the country home of ex -militant leader, Mr. Africa Ukpariasa, popularly known as Gen Africa.
A policeman reportedly lost his life in the attack while three others sustained seriously injuries from burns. A gate-man at the premises also suffered serious injuries while one of the soldiers from the Joint Task Force codenamed Operation Pulo Shield that raced to the scene of attack on receiving the distress call from the villagers suffered minor gunshot wounds.
It was gathered that a section of the ex militant leader’s building is being used as the headquarters of BAJERO, a private security outfit recently awarded surveillance job by the NNPC to secure pipelines in the mangrove swamp of central Niger Delta.
The policemen were at the premises on guard duty when the gunmen struck prompting a fierce gunfight. Aside the police personnel that lost his life, three others and a gate man that sustained serious are currently hospitalized.
he injured men, said to to be in critical condition had been transferred to Port Harcourt while the gate-man is on admission at an undisclosed hospital in Yenagoa.
The attack on the home of the ex militant, which is coming few hours after bomb blasts rocked the Bayelsa State capital on Friday night, was launched at about 1am Sunday, according to a source from the riverine community.
Motive for invasion
Though the motive for the invasion could not be immediately ascertained, some people were of the view that the attack may have been carried out by some of his boys who fell out with him over proceeds from the amnesty programme while others contended that the gunmen may have violated his magnificent edifice believing it was stashed with money.
Dynamites were said to have been freely used to tear apart the bullet proof doors by the invaders who ransacked the entire building.
The policemen on realising they were under attack resisted but were overwhelmed by the firepower of the invaders who outnumbered them. The invaders armed with dynamites and other deadly weapon were said to have dynamited the fence of the building. The security post and a section of the building were razed down with the policemen trapped inside and this resulted into the serious burns which they sustained.
The intervention of the Joint Task Force codenamed Operation Pulo Shield stationed at Ogbainbiri flow station repealed the rampaging gunmen and saved the entire building from being razed down. One of the soldiers, VM learnt, sustained a gunshot wound in the gunfight.
Sources within the community told Metro Vanguard that the armed gunmen stormed the community in three double engine speed boats when the entire community had retired to bed.
A source identified as Jones, said “the attackers started shooting from the river and damaged the cable that supplies electricity to the community causing electric shock to some community folks.
An indigene, Chief Weri Owighegha said the armed men arrived at about 1a.m and set ablaze the security posted mounted by police officers attached to the security post of the ex-militant leader’s house after ridding the structure with bullets.
Owighegha said he was suspicious when a sudden power failure occurred in the community and was followed few seconds later with loud sound of an explosion, “I crept out close to my house and saw armed men in military uniforms, my thought was why would military men invade our community but through their exchanges, I discovered that they may be fake soldiers.”
According to him, from his hide-out, he saw the invaders swooped on the country home of ex-militant leader and overpowered the policemen.
”They locked the policemen inside and set the building ablaze. The policemen were rescued with heavy burns and transferred to the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital.”
The revelations of the indigenes of the community came few hours after the condemnation of the attack by the state government.
The state Deputy Governor, Werinipre Seibarugu and the Chairman of the Southern Ijaw Local Council, Chief Tiwei Orunimighe after a tour of the damaged buildings and community, condemned the attack.Seibarugu, who visited the scene of the incident on Sunday afternoon, condemned the attack and declared that the hospital bill of the policemen would be taken care of by the state government. But one of the Policemen was declared dead on his way to the hospital.
General Africa who was not present in the community when the attackers struck, condemned the attack and wanton destruction of his property. He said information reaching him, had it that the gunmen who attacked his building were clad in military fatigue.
The ex militant leader who spoke to newsmen said he is a director in BAJERO and that the company was using his property as its operational headquarters in Southern Ijaw.
Attempt by VM to get the views of the state police command on the attack proved abortive but the Joint Task Force codenamed Operation Pulo Shield confirmed the attack, saying the timely intervention of its men, saved the situation from degenerating into bloodbath.
Spokesman of the JTF, Lt Col Timothy Antigha said: “I can confirm that the timely intervention and gallantry of the JTF soldiers deployed at a nearby oil production facility saved Olugbobiri community from what could have been a severe attack from unidentified gunmen who razed down the residence of an erstwhile militant leader.
”One soldier sustained minor gunshot wound in the firefight. The rumour that the JTF lost a gunboat is false and should be disregarded.”