•Says Gbaramatu is important to the economy of the nation
•We Need Peaceful Coexistence – Palace
The Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF) Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman has explained that they are not an enemy of the Gbaramtu Kingdom and the Niger Delta in general.
According to him, the kingdom and the region are so pivotal to the economy of the nation that they cannot toy with it while adding that his purpose of coming is to protect the environment from criminal activities such as vandalisation and bunkering.
The JTF Commander further explained that since his assumption, his officers have never arrested any member of the Kingdom and are not planning on doing so but quickly requested for a healthy synergy in communication as that will ensure their smooth operation and make their stay result-oriented.
Rear Admiral Apochi finally thanked the Pere and the Traditional Council of Chiefs for the warm reception accorded them.
Responding, the Pere of Gbaramatu, speaking through the Ibe-Benemowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, thanked the Commander for his visit and the message of peace he brought to them.
In same vein, he explained that the Kingdom expects the men and officers under his operational command to be law-abiding while carrying out their constitutional responsibility of securing the area.
He narrated the unpalatable experiences the community have had in the hands of the military since JTF was drafted to the region in 2003.
In his words, “The Ijaw nation has been over-militarized with the bombardment and destruction of Gbaramatu Kingdom and targeting the (former) Royal Palace of our Kingdom in 2009 as a living example.
“Last year our people were harrassed on a daily basis by security agents. Matters came to a head on Saturday, 30th of May, 2016, about 2:00 a.m., when a detachment of the military invaded Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of the Gbaramatu Kingdom and placed our royal father under house-arrest for seven days. They profaned our holy places and made-away with our sacred Golden Sword. Furthermore, they looted houses in an unprecedented manner. It was most certainly not their finest hour.
“We would not quickly forget the act of intimidation the military displayed a few weeks ago when in its show of misplaced aggression; it deployed the Nigerian Airforce fighter jets and gunboats to Gbaramatu Kingdom. Hitherto, the fact that the Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom and his people predisposition and advocacy for a peaceful community devoid of pipeline vandalism and militancy seem lost to the authorities as they continue to trawl our communities water fronts with gunboats and hover our rooftops with helicopter gunships and fighter jets.”
Chief Godspower Gbenekama finally stressed that considering the reasons for the formation of the JTF, “none of it states; harassment, intimidation, brutalisation or killing of the innocent citizens of the communities.”
He therefore called on the Commander to establish the needed peace between the military and community.