A detachment of operatives of the Nigerian Army and gunmen said to be loyal to an ex-militant leader in Ogoni, Solomon Ndigbara (alias Osama bin Laden), were yesterday entangled in a protracted gun duel in Yeghe, a community in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, following an authorised operation to flush out criminal elements in the area.
Also, following a suspected bomb attack on the Bori Liaison Office of Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the March 19 rerun election for the Rivers South East Senatorial District, on Monday, operatives of the Nigerian Army have intensified search for the miscreants who carried out the attack and continued to terrorise residents of Bori, Khana Local Government Council headquarters.
Unconfirmed reports put the death toll in the gun exchanges at three.
Residents of Yeghe community are said to have fled their homes after a clash between soldiers and suspected cultists.
Eyewitnesses said the clash between the suspected cultists and the military led to sporadic shooting in Yeghe and Bori, which lasted till late yesterday, causing residents to either restrict their movements or completely stay indoors, while the authorities of the Kenule Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic, Bori, have directed students to remain within the campus to avoid being hit by stray bullets.
Some of the eyewitnesses, who spoke with The Tide at Kpite Tai, yesterday, noted that residents of Yeghe in Gokana Local Government Area and neighbouring Bori, in Khana Local Government Area of the state have fled their homes following the fierce battle between soldiers and the gunmen.
Ladi Henry, an indigene of Bori, who is also a student of state-owned Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic, Bori, told The Tide that her parents, who reside in Bori, had taken refuge in the forest while she was allowed to travel to Port Harcourt for safety.
According to her, “in the course of the battle, some soldiers were wounded which made them to call for reinforcement”.
She explained that suspected militants might have torched the liaison office of the senatorial district, which Senator Magnus Abe had erected following suspicion that the invasion of soldiers might have been at the instance of All Progressives Congress (APC) bugwigs.
Another eyewitness, who gave her name as Miss Favour from Kpite Tai, said that the burning of Magnus Abe’s liaison office in Bori might have been a reprisal attack as a result of the invasion of Ndigbara’s residence by soldiers.
She identified one of the dead in the gun duel as Saturday Igbarasia.
Some students of the state-owned Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic, Bori, who spoke to our correspondent, in Bori, said they were trapped in their rooms, and could not find vehicles at the motor park in Bori to convey them to their various destinations.
The students, who did not want their names in print, said they went for lectures but were told “it was a lecture-free day”.
“We were told by the authorities that it was lecture-free day from yesterday (Tuesday) till further notice. We are sure they don’t want to announce closure for now, they are studying the situation”, the students said.
Our correspondent, who visited Bori and Yeghe, yesterday, reports that motor parks, the market, major stores and streets in the area were shut down because of the tension already in the towns.
Yeghe, for instance, looked like a ghost town yesterday, when The Tide visited the community.
In Bori, eyewitnesses said they saw five corpses on Taabaa Street, stressing that people were living in fear, and could not move freely due to the heavy presence of soldiers.
According to the sources, supporters of the ex-militant leader were chased to Bori by soldiers, yesterday morning, where they began to engage the military in exchange of fire.
The Caretaker Committee Chairman of Gokana Local Government Area, Austin Sor, told newsmen yesterday that three persons are feared dead following the clash between soldiers and suspected cultists, adding that the whole Yeghe area was tense.
Sor accused the military of invading the home of Ndigbara, burning the house and destroying his property.
“As I speak with you, three persons have been confirmed dead and three others injured are in the hospital. I am on my way to the hospital for the treatment of a pregnant woman who, while running away from the shooting, fell, and it has been confirmed that she lost the unborn baby.
“I am going to the private hospital in Sogho where the doctors are to operate on her to evacuate the baby. The other three have been confirmed dead, and have been taken to the mortuary,” Sor said.
In a press conference in Port Harcourt, yesterday, the Brigade Commander, 2 Amphibious Brigade, Nigerian Army, Brigadier-General Stevenson Olabanji, stated that the soldiers responded to a distress call by someone in Yeghe, and dismissed insinuations that the action of the Army was politically-motivated.
He said that nobody could use the military to achieve his own selfish motives, and did not give the death toll or victims of the cross fire.
Olabanji explained that the soldiers were in pursuit of the ex-militant leader, Solomon Ndigbara, who had been declared wanted by the Federal Government, when they were attacked.
In a statement, the spokesperson for the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Bari’ala Kpalap, said that soldiers would not provide any solution to the problem in the area, and called for dialogue.
However, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyeson Wike, has called on the fleeing residents of Bori and Yeghe to return home as peace had been restored to the area.
The governor said in a statement signed by his Special Assistant on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu, that the heavy military presence in the area is aimed at promoting security of lives and property, and not to harm law-abiding residents.
Wike said that his administration will always enhance the security of all residents of the state, urging the people of Khana and Gokana to cooperate with the security agencies to maintain law and order.
While the military operation is on-going, the ex-Niger Delta militant, Solomon Ndigbara, who has been declared wanted by the military for suspected gunrunning, kidnapping and other sundry offences, has approached a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt seeking the enforcement of his fundamental rights.
The legal representative to the ex-agitator, Barrister Eugene Odey, told correspondent shortly after filing the court process, that the military invaded the residence of his client and destroyed property as well as assaulted his wife without any warrant order.
He said the act by the military amounted to gross violation of the fundamental rights of his client, who was granted amnesty by the Federal Government.
Odey also explained that the suit is seeking an order restraining the military from further invasion, harassment, intimidation and violation of the fundamental rights of his client.
He condemned the alleged re-invasion of the residence of his client by the military in Yeghe.
Odey said that the heavily armed soldiers stormed the residence of his client few hours after filing a suit at the Federal High Court seeking the enforcement of his fundamental rights.
He said the residence of his client was completely razed by the military.
The lawyer called on the Rivers State Government and well-meaning individuals to condemn the action of the military.
Meanwhile, the liaison office built by Senator Magnus Abe for the APC, Rivers South East located in Bori, traditional headquarters of Ogoni people, was yesterday set ablaze by youth wielding dangerous weapons.
Eyewitnesses said that the office was in flames for more than four hours.
Confirming the incident, an aide to the senator, Kennedy Friday, in a Facebook post said: “The South-East senatorial liaison office built by Senator Magnus Abe, the first of its kind in the history of Rivers South-East has been set on fire.
“The office is located in Bori, traditional headquarters of Ogoni people and headquarters of Rivers South-East Senatorial District. It employs more than 20 people who offer services in the complex. It’s the most architecturally imposing edifice in the area. It gave facelift to Bori.
According to Friday, “As I type these words, the office complex has been set on fire by gun-wielding youth barely two days after Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State charged PDP supporters in Ogoni to stop Magnus Abe from being re-elected into the Senate. The governor made the comment at Luuwa community in Nyokhana, Ogoni, on Saturday, the 20th of February, 2016, while addressing PDP supporters at the birthday ceremony of Sen. Lee Maeba.
“As I type these words, Bori is tensed. Wherever you are, please pray for Rivers State, pray for Ogoni,” Friday said.
It would be recalled that Senator Abe had accused Governor Nyesom Wike of instigating the violence in Gokana LGA and Khana by the provocative speech he made against his candidacy in the rerun election, where he urged Ogoni people not to vote for him, and should do everything to stop him from going to the Senate.
Abe also alleged that Wike had accused him of working against his administration so that a state of emergency would be declared in the state.
On the burning of his liaison office in Bori, Abe said: “If that is one of the sacrifices I have to make for peace to reign in Ogoni and the state, I am prepared to make it. But those who are perpetrating impunity should be held accountable.”
Earlier yesterday, the ex-militant leader, Osama bin Laden’, attributed his travails to an unnamed top politician of the APC.
Ndigbara, who is now at large, called into a Port Harcourt-based radio station to plead innocence of crimes levelled against him, which warranted the military action on his residence.
The ex-agitator, in a telephone interview, said since embracing the presidential amnesty in 2009 by late President Umaru Yar’Adua, he has never indulged in crime and criminality, and called on the international community to come to his rescue.
Ndigbara accused chieftains of the All Progressives Congress in Ogoni of being responsible for his current ordeal in the hands of the military.
But while reacting to Ndigbara’s allegation, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress for Tai/Eleme/Oyigbo Federal Constituency rerun election, Hon Barry Mpigi, denied that he is responsible for the invasion of the ex-militant’s residence by the military.
Mpigi, in his reaction, said he has no hand in the current ordeal of Ndigbara, but urged the ex-militant leader to face his problem, and leave him out of it.
The APC House of Representatives candidate also denied conniving with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies to rig the March 19 elections.
Similarly.Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has called on residents of Khana and Gokana Local Government Areas not to panic while urging those who fleed their homes as a result of military presence in their areas to return
The governor explained that the heavy military presence in the areas was aimed at ensuring security of lives and property and not to harm law-abiding residents.
In a statement issued by Special Assistant to the state Governor on Electronic Media, Mr Simeon Nwakaudu, Wike assured the people of their safety.
The governor said that his administration will always enhance the security of all residents of the state, urging the people of Khana and Gokana Local Government Areas to cooperate with the security agencies to maintain law and order.
Chidi Enyie, Brighten Chukwu & Kellen Okwu
90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.
Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW
Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.
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