An ex-militant leader, Eris Paul, who embraced the Federal Government’s amnesty offer to repentant militants, has threatened legal action over weekend’s gun attack that left his cousin seriously injured.
Mr. Paul, popularly called Ogunboss, blames the Southern Ijaw Local Govt Task Force against illegal bunkering and oil theft for the shooting of 26-year-old Kingsley Otokolo.
The incident, which reportedly occurred at the weekend along the Peremabiri creek, has triggered a conflict between Mr. Paul and the Council Chairman, Remember Ogbe.
The ex-militant leader accused the Vice Chairman of the Council and the Chairman of the Council’s Task Force, Progress Neverdie, of arming members of the task force with assault rifles and ordering the shooting of his brother over unsubstantiated allegations of involvement in illegal bunkering.
In a statement confirming the shooting of the brother in the testicle, Mr. Paul said the incident occurred three days ago.
He said the Southern Ijaw Council Vice Chairman and the leader of the civilian Task force, Progress Neverdie, ordered the arrest of his cousin over possession of three 25 litres of empty plastic of fuel.
The order was reversed by naval personnel stationed at the entrance of Peremabiri Community decided to set him free after searching his boat and finding nothing incriminating.
“There after, same Progress Neverdie, who is the vice chairman of the Taskforce latter called on his men & ordered them to shoot at him. Presently, the boy is hospitalized in Yenagoa,” he said.
Ogunboss explained that troops of the Nigerian Civil Defense Corps, who took his injured brother to the hospital in Yenagoa, have since denied shooting the victim as they do not have the powers to shoot at anyone.
“I have briefed my lawyers to take the matter to court, to know if there’s a law in this Country that empowers bloody Civilians to handle sophisticated military riffles to shoot at innocent citizens of this country right in front of a Naval House Boat” Paul stated.
But the Council Chairman, Remember Ogbe, in a statement issued in Yenagoa, claimed the 26-year-old brother to the ex-militant leader was among the 13 suspected oil thieves shot by the security personnel attached to the Southern Ijaw Oil and Gas Task force.
In the statement, the Council said the Task Force was authorized by a bye-law passed by the legislative arm of the Council to operate closely with the, the JTF, Nigerian Police Force, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the National Orientation Agency.
“During a routine patrol of the rivers and creeks of Southern Ijaw by the Local Government Oil and Gas Task force that checks crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism, armed bandits numbering thirteen on-board a speedboat outran the Task force attacking its personnel,” he said.
“When several warning shots into the air by the Nigerian Navy stationed in Peremabiri couldn’t deter the bandits, security personnel attached to the Southern Ijaw Oil and Gas Task force responded with a shot on the thigh of the leader – Mr. Kingsley Otokolo after three warning shots on the air to neutralized the attack on armed security personnel by the bandits.
He said the armed bandits escaped into the forest.
“Though being medically attended to, Mr. Kingsley and members of his gang, will, in due course, be arraigned before a competent court of law.
“This attack on the Southern Ijaw Oil and Gas Task force was purported to have been carried out on the directive of one Mr. Paul Eris aka General Ogunboss, who had himself, in recent times carried out two botched attacks on his community (Peremabiri) to regain forceful control”. The Chairman stated.
The Bayelsa Police Command spokesman Alex Akhigbe could not be reached on his mobile phone on Sunday for Comments.
There has been an upsurge in pirates’ attacks and kidnappings in Bayelsa State waterways with an aide to a former commissioner killed in one of the attacks.
Also, a 78-year-old uncle to former governor Timipre Sylva abducted some three weeks ago is yet to regain freedom among others.
The three tiers of government have established various security outfits with apparent lack of coordination and no clear cut command structure.
Gov. Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State has inaugurated an 11,000-member Bayelsa Volunteers scheme, marine component of its special security squad operation, Doo Akpor, as well as a Marine Security Committee headed by ex-militant, Boy loaf.
The Southern Ijaw Local Government Area inaugurated its own task force to also police the creeks.
The outfits by the Bayelsa government and local governments with coastal communities is in addition to the military Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, Marine Police, Navy, Civil Defense by the federal government which all lay claim to the same responsibility of fighting oil theft and securing the creeks.