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Published On: Mon, Nov 17th, 2014

$16bn EPZ Saga: Tompolo’s Boys Abduct Journalists, Others On Delta Waterways


LAGOS NOVEMBER 17TH (URHOBOTODAY)-The crisis trailing the botched groundbreaking of the $16billion EPZ Delta City Gas Project in Delta State by President Goodluck Jonathan, Sunday, took a dramatic twist as suspected ‘ex-militants’ loyal to Ijaw ‘warlord’, Chief Government Ekpemupolo seized several journalists who were in the Delta creeks for first hand coverage of the massive protest staged by Itsekiri people.
Security sources disclosed that the journalists included South South Regional Editor of the Vanguard, Emma Amaize; South South Editor of Nation newspaper, Shola O’Neil; reporter with Daily Independent, Emma Arubi; Channel’s cameraman and reporter as well as others were abducted at Oporoza, an Ijaw enclave and the abode of Tompolo.
The journalists were said to have covered the protest match by the Itsekiris at the EPZ site in Ogidigben, Warri South West Local Government Area and were on their way back to Warri when they ran into the ambush.
The sources however said that the hostages were subsequently handed over to the army stationed in the creeks by their suspected abductors over trumped-up allegations that they had found arms in their boat. About three locals who escorted the journalists on the trip were also seized.
Our reporter learnt that the journalists were the target of the suspected “ex-militants” whose mission is to prevent the journalists from reporting the protest by the Itsekiris.
Recall that a group of journalists were last Thursday escorted to the creeks by the Ijaws of Gbaramatu extraction to cover their protest which was staged in a bid to prevent president Jonathan from going ahead with the groundbreaking ceremony.
Chairman of the Delta Waterways and Security Committee, Chief Ayiri Emami, an Itsekiri couldn’t be reached immediately but a source close to him confirmed the incident, saying the journalists were targeted.
Commanding Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS Delta), Navy Captain Musa Gemu, confirmed the report saying military personnel have been deployed to the creeks to free the abducted journalists.
“I learnt they were in Ogidigben to cover something and were on their way back when some people from Gbaramatu took them. I have sent men to the area to curtail the uprising and free the journalists.
“I don’t believe the story that the journalists were with arms. Is it not the same journalists the Ijaws have been using; so how is it possible that they are now with weapons. However, I have called my commanders in the creeks and we are trying to resolve the issue. I can assure you that they will free the journalists,” Gemu said..
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Warri Correspondent of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Comrade Michael Ikeogwu, has condemned the alleged abduction of the journalists by Ijaw youths and called for their immediate release. He warned the warring tribes not to drag journalists who are only doing their legitimate duty into their crisis.
In the same vein, Delta state chairman of the NUJ, Comrade Norbert Chiazor, described the action of the Ijaw youths as barbaric and uncalled-for as he demanded the unconditional release of the seized journalists.
Report reaching us late Sunday night by Navy Captain Gemu disclosed that all fourteen (14) journalists held have been freed but are in the protective custody in Escravos for their safety, as it would be dangerous to ferry them to Warri in the night. They are scheduled to travel on Monday morning.
“They were released around 7:00hours and it is unsafe to travel back to Warri in the night so I asked the Commanding Officer, Escravos to accommodate them and transport them to Warri tomorrow,” he said.
Our source however gathered that three locals of Itsekiri tribe that acted as guides for the tour are still being detained by the Navy following the discovery of arms concealed in the boat that was allegedly facilitated by Chief Emami.

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