YENAGOA- SUSPECTED sea bandits on Monday attacked a military checkpoint at Tombi waterside in Nembe, a coastal community in Bayelsa East Senatorial district, Bayelsa State, allegedly killing three soldiers.
Vanguard gathered that the pirates, who caught the soldiers unawares struck at about 10.00 am. They made away with a gunboat belonging to the military and two K2 rifles.
The incident caused panics in the coastal enclave, as the natives their homes for fear of reprisal by the military.
They stormed the checkpoint in an SUV and opened fire on the soldiers, carting away their arms. While some fled with the vehicle on land route, others disappeared into the creeks with the gunboat.
A villager, who spoke to Vanguard on phone, said that shortly after the attack, he saw a military fighter jet hovering around the area.
The motive of the attackers was not immediately clear, but the area was under attack between August 2015 and April 2016, resulting in loss of personnel and cache of arms
Sources hinted that the military reinforced security and took over the waterways to Nembe to checkmate the criminals. Soldiers also cordoned off the uncompleted Ogbia-Nembe road project jointly sponsored by SPDC and NDDC.
As at the time of this report, the state Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah (retd) had left Yenagoa for Nembe the scene of the attack.
Attempt to the get comment from authorities of the Joint Military Task Force, Operation Delta Safe proved abortive, as phone calls to the spokesperson, Lt. Col Daudu, did not connect.
Meanwhile, ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, and his media consultant, Mr. Paul Bebenimbo, have denied the allegation by the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, RNDA, that they are part of the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA.
Bebenimibo in a statement absolving his boss and himself, asserted: “My attention has been drawn to a news report by Sahara Reporters that I am one of the operatives of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), as alleged by a splinter faction of the NDA, which go by the name, Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA).”
“In the same report, my boss, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo was also mentioned as one of the sponsors of the NDA.
“My initial decision was to ignore the said report as a result of the source and the bogus nature of the story. However, in order to set the records straight, I decided to write to dissociate my boss and myself from that wicked and malicious report.
“As for my boss is concerned, he has made it abundantly clear on many occasions that he has nothing to do with the Niger Delta Avengers,” Bebenimibo said.
He added: “In my own case, I believe it was a mistaken identity as I am still wondering why my name is mentioned among operatives of the NDA when I have been going about my lawful business over the years.”
“For the avoidance of doubt, I am a trained media practitioner, media consultant and media scholar of more than 10 years. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication, Master of Science (MSc) in Mass Communication and currently a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) student in one of the prestigious Federal Universities in the South East.
“I am also the Executive Secretary of the Tompolo Foundation. Therefore, which time do I have to be operative of the NDA with all these legitimate things I am doing? This allegation is purely nonsensical and baseless and should be quarried by all well-meaning Nigerians,” he said.
Bebenimibo asserted: “I wish to advise the Nigerian government to look for better ways to resolve the Niger Delta problem, and not to continue to compound the issue by relaying on voodoo means to resolve the issue.”
“If members of the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers claim to have parted ways with the NDA after destroying almost all the oil facilities in the Niger Delta region, and turned around to mention some people as sponsors and operatives of the NDA, then the government and people of this country need to know such people (RNDA). They should treat them accordingly and not the responsible Nigerians they mentioned as sponsors and operatives,” he said.
“As it is now, I am going to brief my lawyers to take necessary action on this matter as it seems some people are out there to kill me for what I know nothing about. Presently, I am afraid of my life. I want to urge the present administration to be serious with human life as it is the primary duty of any government to provide security for the citizens.
“The use of miscreants to implicate genuine Nigerians is a dangerous trend in this country; as such people are likely to suffer for what they do not know anything about. Therefore, the government should investigate these claims seriously to avoid miscarriage of justice,” he said.
In a related development, the Ijaw Human Rights Monitors, IHRM, yesterday, accused the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, presenting a list of prominent persons from the region as sponsors and sympathizers of NDA because it found out that government was no longer ready to patronize the group.
Coordinator of the group, Fred Brisibe, said: “Their fear became obvious the moment GEJ announced his willingness to work with the present administration towards the resolution of the Niger Delta issues.”
“It gave them the fear of losing, all those who were expecting political appointments became frustrated, those who have been standing against the demand for restructuring with the hope of getting contract jobs to settle their bankruptcy issues have become flattened with disappointment. Desperate prisoners, who were already negotiating their freedom with their sinister role of obstructing the popular call for restructuring of the country are in painful frustration.
“The characters behind the nefarious activities of this despicable Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) are the same actors, who attempted to kill former President Goodluck Jonathan. They are the politicians whose stock in trade is to compromise the general interest of the Niger Delta people for their selfish end. They are the failed illegal businesspersons, who are desperate for favour from this Muhammadu Buhari – led administration,” he added.