…Wonder why royal fathers raise hands when passing checkpoints on Niger Delta waterways
Stakeholders have described as humiliating the practice where boat passengers including royal fathers are compelled to raise their hands over their heads (surrender) at every military checkpoint on the river and creeks of Bayelsa and other parts of the Niger-Delta region.
Though the ritual of raising hands before passing military checkpoint which is synonymous with speed boats, reached a climax at the height of youth militancy in the region, many are worried that even with the return of calm, the practice is still in place.
Every speedboat on approaching the checkpoints slows down with all the passengers raising up their hands until they are asked to do otherwise by the military operatives in their houseboats and menacing gunboats.
Interestingly, these military houseboats and gunboats are stationed close to flow stations and manifolds on the river, creeks, deep swamps and mangrove swamps of the delta where a greater percentage of the populace can only access their ancestral homes through the water.
Any passenger who fails to raise his/ her hand above the head as a mark of surrender either risks his/ her life or punishment as the speedboat gets to the checkpoint as such offenders are often summarily dealt with by the security operatives.
However, observers are querying the reason behind the application of this subhuman treatment (raising hands) meted on passengers when the region is not in a state of war.
Speaking on the sad turn of event in the creek of the delta, renowned environmentalist and the Executive Director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, Rev. Nnimmo Bassey, decried the overbearing influence of the oil companies on the military deployed to guard crude oil facilities in the region.
According to him, the Nigerian state is more interested in protecting the crude oil and not the people whose environment has been devastated over the years.
He said: “Apart from destruction unleashed on the environment, we noticed that the oil companies have overbearing influence over the security arrangement in the creek of the delta.
“Apart from polluted environment, we have boats at checkpoints where everybody had to surrender which is very humiliating for people in the Niger-Delta to have to raise your hands whenever you pass the military, Army and Navy checkpoints.
“They studiously and in a very embarrassing manner, kept us, a whole team, including traditional rulers among us, with youth leaders and journalists, they just ignored us.
“We again emphasized the fact of the lack of respect for Niger Delta people, for the environment and for anything except the oil and pipelines.
“It is a very annoying situation which is totally unacceptable. Things have to change, we can’t invest our resources protecting the damage that is inflicted on our people rather than protecting our people.”
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