By Egufe Yafugborhi, Warri
THE Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, yesterday cried out over alleged invasion and incessant harassment by the Nigerian Navy against residents in Ogbetuo-Ijaw, Warri South West local government area, Delta state.
Ogbe-Ijoh clan chairman of IYC, Smart Okosu, who raised the alarm in Warri, called on the naval headquarters in Abuja, to urgently call the men of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Delta to order over the attacks against the Delta Ijaw community.
The NNS Delta, however faulted the allegations as “attempt to cover up criminality” following failed efforts to reach the command’s Base Information Officer Sub. Lt. Sarah Okiwelu.
IYC, in its outcry said, “More specifically, on Tuesday, 29th August, naval officers in four gun boats invaded Kurogbene and Benneth Island of Ogbetuo-Ijoh, shot sporadically, broke into houses and carted away personal belongings of villagers including money in both communities.
“IYC in Ogbe-Ijoh/Warri condemns this unprofessional conduct of the navy.”
The naval officers have no business invading innocent communities and villagers. As a result of the invasion, many villagers ran into the bush, sustained injurious and now living in fear.
“Many in the aforementioned communities, out of fear of further attacks, are scared of going about their normal business of fishing and trading. The villagers are now passing through hardship as a result intimidation by naval officers.
“Consequently, we call on the Chief of Naval staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas and the Commander of Warri Naval Base to call their officers stop the unproved attacks forthwith. The innocent and peaceful Ijaw communities should be allowed to go about their normal activities”
The navy responding through a senior officer at the NNS Delta, said, “Those framing allegations do so with intention of demoralising NNS Delta. They know it is not true. The only operation we have been involved in of recent are the occasional raids on illegal refining sites, many of which Bennett Island has and there is no way we will come in contact with such that we won’t have to destroy them.
“There’s no such operation as you just described and the people who came out with it know it is not true and so what they are trying to do is to demoralise the NNS Delta, hoping they will be able to continue with their illegal activities unchecked and unhindered”