Illegal Oil Bunkering: Between Lewe and Bomu

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An example of destruction in the course of the fracas

Illegal oil bunkering is doing much more harm than good to communities in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
Apart from the destruction of the environment, communities are now in the war path as a result of the huge sums of money accruing from the business.
Recently, the face-off between Bomu and Lewe communities in Gokana local government area has shown that if left  unchecked, the illegal business will eventually destroy more communities in the region.
Although, the two communities had been having disagreements in the past, the current level of devastation as a result of this renewed hostilities has been described as very inhuman and unparrelled in the history of both communities.
Residents of the area are now counting their loses which run into millions of naira with 14 persons reported killed in the mayhem.
Sources within the communities informed The Tide that the present crisis was caused by a disagreement between two illegal oil bunkering gangs at their site.
According to the source, one Sunday Barinem Tupor, from Bomu allegedly led his gang members to the bunkering site of his friend, Barinem Opnwin Doopa of Lewe and carted away his products.
In Retaliation, on the 15th of November, 2016, Sunday Barinem Tupor was attacked by the gang loyal to Barinem Opnwin Doopa at Lewe and his car snatched as payback.
The Tide also learnt that the mather was later reported to the police at Kpor.
Corroborating the stories in separate interviews with The Tide, the paramount ruler of Bomu, HRH Mene Charles Tenalo, and his Lewe counterpart H.R.H Mene Sibe Lebaton, confirmed that the crisis was caused by illegal oil bunkering.
Mene Tenalo who is a second class traditional ruler in Rivers State however said that following the incident on the 15th of November 2016, a meeting of the council of chiefs of the two communities was convened on the 16th of November 2016 on how to find a solution to end the crisis.
The traditional ruler said progress was made following the meeting but on the first of December 2016, his attention was drawn to an incident which involved the discovery of the corpse of an indigene of Lewe at the outskirt of the community close to Boue in Khana local government arae.
He said he immediately instructed the paramount ruler of lewe to report the matter to the police, for investigation and arrest of the culprits.
King Tenalo also alleged that youths from Lewe community also went on rampage attacking and killing Bomu indigenes coming from Mogho neighbouring community.
He specifically said that two Bomu youths who were coming from Mogho on motorcycles were killed and buried by Lewe youths.
However in a paper titled; “Lewe community’s Explanation on the Current Bomu – Lewe crisis”, the Menebon of Lewe H.R.H  Lebaton Sibe, said “ the whole episode started on the 15th of November, 2016 as a result of the misunderstanding or disagreement between two cult groups led by one Mr Barinaaoowin Doppa – Bira of lewe and Mr Barinem Sunday Tupoi from Bomu.
“Mr Barinem Sunday Tupoi is gangster, a dreaded cultist and a self acclaimed elder in the Iceland cult group who allegedly led a gang of robbers to attack Lewe youths at their oil bunkering site in our fishing port and carted a way all their properties after infliching on their body injuries in May 2016”.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Government has waded into the crisis.
The Special Adviser to the State Governor on conflict resolution, Chief Okorie Abelekum on his past condemned the crisis in the strongest terms and warned that government will not fold its arms and watch people take the laws into their hands.
Chief Abelekum told  the people during an interactive session at Kpor, headquarters at Gokana local government area that if the youths in the area refuse to toe the path of peace, they will only have themselves to blame as government will take drastic action to checkmate any further act of criminality in both communities.
He said the era when illegal oil bunkerers and cultists hold communities to ransom are over adding that under the present administration, all forms of lawlessness will be nipped in the bud.
The special Adviser to the state Governor on Amnesty, Hon Ken Chinda, who was at the interactive session also called on cultists and illegal bunkerers in the area to surrender their arms  without delay.
Hon Chinda said community elders and well meaning  individuals in the area should come together and assist government in the strive towards a better society.
The Tide observed that given the large army of refugees created by the crisis and the scale of destructions, the people are ready for peace.
The two paramount rulers also confided in The Tide that they are really for peace.
The paramount ruler of Lewe, Lebaton Sibe said his people can no longer go to their farms or fishing and appealed to government to wade into the crisis with a view to ensuring a final and peaceful resolution to end the conflict.
In a letter addressed to the Rivers State Governor through the Special Adviser on conflict Resolution, Chief Sibe called for the establishment of a security post between the two communities to forestall further attacks by his Bomu neighbours.
He also appealed for  relief  materials for his people.
On his part, the  Menebon of Bomu, H.R.H King Charles Tenalo, urged the government to take note of the following which will help in establishing an enduring peace between Bomu and Lewe.
“That Lewe people should report all criminal offenses to the police for investigation and legal actions instead of taking rash and primitive decisions.
“That they should stop all forms of aggression against law abiding citizens of Bomu.
“That the Lewe people should stay away from our land.
Illegal oil bunkering is indeed a problem to the Niger Delta. The entire water source of the region is now polluted.
Today, it is Bomu and Lewe, tomorrow it could be another community.  The effects of illegal oil bunkering is spreading like a bush fire across the region and  that is why government must find solution to the problem.