Residents of Igbomotoru in the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State have raised the alarm over alleged military siege on their communities by an international oil company (IOC), Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) and a pipeline surveillance firm, Darlon Security Nigeria Limited.
Then residents called on the state and Federal Governments as well as the international community to intervene in what they described as dehumanisation of their communities by armed personnel.
Leaders of the communities led by the acting paramount ruler of Igbomotoru 1, Chief Simon Alogodei, told journalists in Yenagoa, last Saturday, that the armed soldiers were allegedly acting on the instructions of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited and a pipeline surveillance firm, Darlon Security Nigeria Limited.
Alogodei said the military brutality was being intensified despite a formal letter dated July 6, 2022, which they wrote to the organs of government at the state and federal levels notifying them of the unprovoked siege.
He said, “With deep pains in our hearts and from a state of new-complete helplessness, we the leaders and bona-fide representatives of Igbomotoru 1 and 2 communities in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, hereby call on the Bayelsa State Government, Federal Government of Nigeria and the international community to, with earnestness, urgently intervene and bring under control the ongoing siege and persistent dehumanisation in our Igbomotoru 1 and 2 communities being perpetrated by armed military personnel and their cohorts, believably acting on the directives and instructions of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company Ltd and Darlon Security Nigeria Ltd.
“While we do not have any quarrels with military personnel providing security in any part of Nigeria, including our Igbomotoru 1 and 2 communities, it is not in dispute that they are expected to keep to their standard code of conduct and maintain international best practices. It cannot be a medium siege mentality and subject our people to dehumanisation.
“As at today, our poor and hapless women are beaten and harassed re-currently by these armed military personnel. Living and doing business in our communities is now virtually impossible.”
The traditional ruler, therefore, urged the governments and the international community to prevail on the allegedly sponsored soldiers to vacate their lands and stop inflicting pains and sorrows on them.
Also speaking, the solicitors to Igbomotoru communities, Prof. Festus Emiri (SAN) and Stanley Damabide, claimed that no fewer than seven people had been killed and several others arrested in Igbomotoru since the soldiers stormed the communities on June 22, 2022.
Dismissing insinuation of oil bunkering camps in the area, Emiri described the military invasion as a part of divide-and-rule tactics deployed by the oil firm and its ally to keep the communities disunited, stressing that there was no problem in Igbomotoru to warrant the presence of soldiers.
He said, “There is no problem in the community, and in any case, soldiers have no powers whatsoever to invade any community. The Constitution of Nigeria is very clear, Section 217 to 218; soldiers are only deployed and employed to protect the territorial integrity of the country.
“If they perceive there is any problem in the community, what they should do is to seek police help and the police have the powers under our law to prosecute. But what they are doing is to frighten the people and once the people are frightened they cannot come together to present a common front against Agip used as a surrogate by Darlon Security Limited.
“At least seven persons have been killed. How many more they want to kill we don’t know. Several persons have been arrested, people can’t go to their farms, people are just in prison but the constitution guarantees their right to life, property and movement. These cannot be abridged without any court of law convicting a people. There is nothing like community guilt. The law does not provide that a community can be guilty. An individual can be guilty, not a community.”
Damabide on his part expressed surprise that despite the formal complaint to relevant government quarters, the alleged acts of dehumanisation were still going on in Igbomotoru.
He, however, disclosed that they had just received a phone call from the state government informing them of a meeting scheduled for Friday this week and described the military brutality in the community as “sad and unfortunate”.
Efforts to get the responses of the Agip Oil Company and Darlon Security Nigeria Limited proved abortive as their spokespersons could not be reached.
NIMASA Delivers Marine, Transport Building To Port Harcourt Varsity
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), has handed over the complex housing the Institute of Marine and Transport Technology to the University of Port Harcourt, in Rivers State.
A statement from the agency indicated that the building was initiated by its previous leadership.
“The initiative dated back to 2012/2013 when the former Director-General of the agency, Dr Dakuku Peterside, decided to build a maritime training institute.
“The initiative is not peculiar to the University of Port Harcourt. It is present in all the six geopolitical zones of the country.
“Any investment in education is definitely worthwhile. Research has shown that lack of education is relatively responsible for maritime crimes in the Niger Delta Region.
“We hope beneficiaries of this Maritime institute will be instrumental in making Nigeria a major maritime nation,” the statement said.
It quoted the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Abraham Georgewill, who was represented by the VC Administration, Prof. Clifford Ofurum, as thanking NIMASA for selecting the university as the location for the maritime institute.
Ofurum assured NIMASA that the university would provide adequate faculty to ensure courses were accredited and recognised globally.
Wigwe’s Family Announces Burial Plan
The family of Herbert Wigwe has announced the burial plans for the Wigwes.
Wigwe, alongside his wife, Chizoba, and son, Chizi, died in an helicopter crash in the United States on February 9.
The crash also claimed the lives of a former Chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, and two crew members.
According to the plan, the funeral ceremony will commence on Monday, March 4, 2024.
Meanwhile, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, City of David, where Herbert used to be a staunch member before his demise, was conspicuously missing from the list of churches scheduled to host two of the programmes.
According to the funeral plans, on Thursday, March 7, a combined Service of Songs will take place at RCCG, Ressurection Parish at Jakande Estate, Lekki, Lagos State while a combined funeral service will be held on Saturday, March 9, at RCCG, Lion of Judah Parish, Isiokpo, Rivers State.
The absence of the City of David parish on the list has, however, raised concerns despite the acknowledgement of the late Wigwe’s immense contribution to the parish while he was alive.
The Pastor in Charge of the parish, Idowu Iluyomade, had paid glowing tributes to the late bank chief while reacting to his sudden demise.
Iluyomade, who described the deceased as God’s general, added that he donated generously to the church.
Speaking during a service titled: “Barrier Shattering Thanksgiving (Sunshine Service)” on Sunday, February 11, the clergyman recalled how Wigwe spent about N500m for God Children’s Great Talent Project and how he adopted some children.
He said, “Wigwe was the Chairman of the Finance Committee with Pastor Siju, and I remember when we wanted to start the fundraising, he took us to Eko Atlantic, he put a marquee there, he brought people from America to come and see, and in that event, we raised about N600m. One would have thought he would sit back; he kept going. He told me we’ll do it.
“When this place was ground zero, he paid five years rent for a branch when there was nothing, just to assist. Then later, he said ‘I’ll give you two branches – one on the left, one on the right,’ and he paid five years each (10 years). Nobody would support a Greenfield, if you’ve built, yes, you can go. One of his purposes was to assist us.”
However, while friends and families of the deceased were still mourning, Iluyomade’s wife, Siju, threw a lavish 60th birthday party.
The lawyer, pastor and founder of the Arise Women Foundation held the birthday on Sunday, February 18, 2024.
Distinguished guests, including billionaires and monarchs, were on hand to rejoice with her at the party, which took place at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island Lagos. Also present at the event was popular singer, Chinedu Okoli, better known by his stage name Flavour N’abania.
Some Nigerians, however, expressed their displeasure at the celebrant for holding a party barely weeks after the tragic deaths of prominent members of the church.
This also fuelled insinuations about a seeming connection between the development and the decision of the family not to have considered the parish in the burial plans.
Economy: I Take Full Responsibility, Nigeria ’ll Recover-Tinubu
President Bola Tinubu, on Wednesday, appealed for patience from Nigerians over the current economic hardship in the country, giving the assurance that there was light at the end of the tunnel.
The President said he was fully aware and took responsibility for the difficulties Nigerians had been subjected to on account of government policies.
He said he would not complain but welcome all criticisms since he was the one who asked to be Nigeria’s President.
The President spoke in Akure, the Ondo State capital, during his visit to the leader of the pan-Yoruba sociopolitical organisation, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti.
He also paid a condolence visit to the family of the late former Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, who passed on in December following a protracted battle with cancer.
The fuel subsidy removal and other economic reforms instituted by Tinubu have attracted public censure following the high costs of living, food inflation and other side effects.
The situation compelled the Nigeria Labour Congress to hold a nationwide protest on Tuesday.
The congress also threatened further mass action if the government failed to address the economic crunch within two weeks.
However, addressing public concerns over his economic policies, the President said, “Nigeria will survive the current economic challenges. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I requested the job, and I am not complaining about it. I take full responsibility.”
This was contained in a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, titled, ‘President Tinubu: I take full responsibility for the nation; we are building an efficient Nigeria that is inclusive and fair to all Nigerians.’’
Tinubu emphasised his commitment to leading Nigeria towards economic and social prosperity, saying, “We are meeting our obligations to the international community. To lenders, we have not defaulted, and we are not going to default. We are navigating the twists and bends on the road to Nigeria’s prosperity.”
On reforming Nigeria, the President said his task would be to ensure fiscal and true federalism, as well as the broad-based manifestation of the philosophy of “what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”
He acknowledged the understanding and support of all Nigerians in the face of the harsh but temporary economic conditions, assuring them that their patience and perseverance will not be fruitless.
“But, through perseverance, Lagos emerged as the fifth largest economy in the entire continent of Africa. We must manage this moment with wisdom and grow Nigeria responsibly.
“I campaigned for this office to serve Nigeria’s interests and I was elected. Some said I would not last in the tribunal and came up with all sorts of predictions, but even when in court, I remained focused.
“We cannot allow Nigeria’s economy to be exploited. We cannot abandon our economy to marauders. I am determined to re-engineer our finances and curb selfish interests permanently,” he stated.
Speaking on behalf of Afenifere, Pa Olu Falae, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who read the address of Pa Fasoranti, commended Tinubu for his commitment to Nigeria’s progress and expressed support for his administration’s efforts.
“You have kept your word to return to this place where we all prayed for you, and this shows that you are a man of your word,” the elder statesman stated.
Pa Fasoranti asked President Tinubu to be fair and courageous, declaring that such traits were the hallmark of the Afenifere family.
“Today, you are carrying our flag. We are noted for integrity, competence, fairness, and courage. Your performance so far has shown that you understand the full gravity of your mandate, which is to show the Nigerian people that a good government is possible,” he said.
Fasoranti also charged the President on institutional reforms, saying, “Mr President, please also seek institutional reforms that would strengthen our federation and make Nigeria safer and more prosperous. Try and balance the budget and execute capital projects that would create more employment. We thank you for welcoming the idea of state policing.’’
He added, “We want each of the geopolitical zones to have greater responsibilities for security, food production and infrastructural development. Since the removal of fuel subsidy, which was costing Nigeria $10bn yearly, the state governments have been receiving hefty allocations from the Federation account.
“Mr President should persuade the governors to allow this change of fortune for the states to reflect at the grassroots so that life can be better for our people. They should not just buy rice and yams for the people. They should create employment, improve education and build new infrastructures. Today, life is truly challenging for most people and the state governments have an important role to play to transform society.”
Fasoranti received the President in the company of some Afenifere leaders, who included a former governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa, Deji of Akure, Oba Aladelusi Aladetoyinbo; Chief Kole Omololu, among others
Earlier, the President had paid a condolence visit to Akeredolu’s family in Owo and also visited the palace of the Olowo of Owo Kingdom, Oba Ajibade Gbadegesin Ogunoye III.
Speaking at the palace of the monarch, Tinubu eulogised the late Akeredolu as a statesman and a distinguished legal luminary who served his people with unwavering dedication.
“We lost an illustrious son. Akeredolu was very close to me and an ally. He was a son of the soil, and I have come to pay homage,” the President said.
He extended his prayers for the good health, progress, and prosperity of the traditional ruler and the community and thanked the people of Owo for their support to the bereaved family.
Accompanied by the Governor of Ondo State, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, Tinubu also commiserated with the Akeredolu’s widow, Betty, the children, and other family members.
Addressing the widow and the family members, Tinubu said, “God will be with you. Your children will do well in life. May you all end well. May God be with you and uphold you,”
The wife of the late governor expressed appreciation for the President’s visit, describing Tinubu as a good friend and brother to her late husband.
She also thanked the South-West governors for their contributions to the burial of the late governor. She particularly thanked Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for single-handedly repatriating the remains of Akeredolu back to Nigeria.
She said, “On behalf of my family, I appreciate Mr. President. We understood he couldn’t attend the burial ceremony due to the dictate of Yoruba culture. He couldn’t have attended the burial of his younger brother.
“Coming today (Wednesday ) is a big deal because we are in a better atmosphere. I also express my profound gratitude to the southern governors for their immense financial contributions to the burial, most especially, Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who singlehandedly brought Aketi’s remains back to Nigeria. We appreciate this huge show of love and we are grateful and forever indebted to him.
“I requested that Mr President see where Aketi has been laid to rest and he followed me. We are deeply grateful to Mr. President for coming. He is indeed Aketi’s brother and friend.
“I told Mr. President, yes, Aketi has left but he lives because he left behind legacies. It is our wish that those legacies continue and are built upon where necessary.”
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