Published On: Sat, Jul 6th, 2013

Warri North crisis: Gunmen Flee as JTF, police Go on Their Trail

Warring youths are on the run

LAGOS JULY 6TH (URHOBOTODAY) Members of Egbema Radical Group, ERG, principally hoodlums and ex-militants, who killed about 12 Itsekiri persons and razed three communities in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State in the last three days, have fled from their locations in the Benin River, following a massive hunt for them by joint security operatives.
The group, which claimed to be protesting against injustice and political marginalization of Ijaw people in Warri North, had been denounced by most Ijaw leaders in the area, who frowned at the violent disposition of the so-called agitators.
The terrorists threatened to eliminate some high-ranking Egbema leaders, including Chief E.E Ebimami, two top ex-militant chiefs, “Gen” Ezekiel Akpasubowei and “Gen” Aroni Oputu, Chuks Wowei, Igwe of Niger-Delta, Wilfred Elebiri and Ebipade Kari within one week for allegedly betraying their cause, but have gone into hiding with the massive manhunt for them.
Hoodlums unmasked — Delta CP
Delta State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba, confirmed to Saturday Vanguard, yesterday, that ”the police and army (JTF), in a joint operation, are trailing them, their identities have been exposed, we are on their trail, if they escape now, we will catch them later and they will be prosecuted.”
His words, “You cannot carry arms against the nation, no government will tolerate that, we have made arrangement, both the military and police have been deployed to the creeks with gunboats in search of them.”
“Any act of illegality will be dealt with and I am happy that both the leaders of the Ijaw and Itsekiri in the local government are united in the bid to fish out the miscreants. If they are talking about election, it is not time for election, so why are they fighting, why not allow election to hold since it is democracy and let the people decide,” he said.
On the threat by the hoodlums to kill the Egbema-Ijaw leaders alleged to be working with the state government to unmask them, he said he had not been notified, but assured police would provide security for any person that was being intimidated.
He said, “There is massive deployment to the area, we are pursuing them, I only know about five casualties at the moment.”
Our lives under threat but …– “Gen” Akpasuobwei
Leader of defunct militant group, Deadly Underdogs, who is also a member of DWSC, “Gen” Akpasubowei, admitted, yesterday, that criminals threatened him and other Egbema-Ijaw leaders for not supporting their cause.
His words: “It is true that they threatened our lives and they have renewed it in the last few days. One of them called me to say that they would kill me for joining government to fight them. The threat actually started before the present crisis.”
“The person they keep calling almost every day and dropping letters in his house is “Gen” Oputu, I sympathize with him, but they will not succeed because what we are doing is good for the kingdom and nation.
“The boys are people who accepted amnesty and even took part in non-violence training, why are they breaching the basic principles of their training. All what we said and for which they said they would kill us is that they should not use violence to make their demands,” he added.
Ijaw, Itsekiri leaders back military action against criminals- ‘Gen” Aroni
“Gen” Aroni, who corroborated Akpasubowei’s claim said, “We are not deterred, JTF are looking for the boys and selected Itsekiri and Ijaw people are giving all necessary information about the criminals.”
“They have threatened us, given notice that they would kill me and others within one week. They do not allow me to rest, they keep calling me and sending me text message but the leaders have resolved that the law should take its course against them.
“We have reported the threat to our lives to the police and JTF, they are aware, we reported to the Area Commander, they are aware, security agents are already on their trail,” he added.
Soldiers closing in on miscreants
An Egbema-Ijaw youth leader, who is among that received death threat from the gunmen, Ebipade Kari, said, “Soldiers are closing in on the boys with the manner major exit points have been cordoned off, particularly the Ogbudugbudu axis.”
Speedboat driver kidnapped
There was an unconfirmed report that an Ijaw speedboat driver, Goalpin Notoroyei, was kidnapped, near Abiteye, Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State in what looked like a reprisal, Wednesday evening.
A source told Saturday Vanguard, yesterday, “Goalpin, a father of about three children had carried some passengers from Warri to Abiteye and was returning back when he was captured by suspected Itsekiri youths.”
“He was kidnapped and killed, his kidnappers called the owner of the boat to tell him that the driver had been kidnapped. Goalpin is from Ayakoromor in Burutu Local Government Area of the state.
“They told the boat owner that that they kidnapped him because of the crisis in Warri North in which many Itsekiri people have been killed. After the phone call, the line went dead,” he added.
President of the Ijaw People Development Initiative, IPDI, Mr. Austin Ozobo, told Vanguard on phone, Thursday, “We call on Itsekiri youths to have a rethink and avoid any retaliatory attack, we advise that the seized speedboat driver be released, killing or kidnapping of Ijaws by the Itsekiris , as retaliatory attack will escalate the crisis.”
An Ijaw youth leader, Mallam Yusuf Eregbene, however, confirmed the release of Goalpin, Friday afternoon, to Saturday Vanguard.
Fears of invasion still rife
An Itsekiri youth leader from Ugborodo community in Warri South-West local government area, Cyril Ojogor, told Saturday Vanguard, “Even though there is peace, some people are still running to nearby communities, strongly believing the Ijaw people are going to attack more Itsekiri communities.”
“That is why we are going round to educate our people that there is no communal war between the Ijaw and Itsekiri, even if some Itsekiri people were killed in Warri North. However, there is tension everywhere,” he said.
Peoples Democratic Party, PDP chieftain and former Ijaw chair candidate in Warri North, Mr. Pius Jorka, in a statement, yesterday, said, “My heart bleeds that souls have been lost as a result of the unresolved Warri North question. The action is condemnable.”
Source: Vanguard

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