The Nigerian military said that its troops of Operation DELTA SAFE killed six sea pirates during a raid on their camp at Tukugbene-Ayama Ijaw Local Government Area and the Mbiama East West road of Bayelsa State.
Coordinator, Defence Media Operations (DMO), Defence Headquarters, Abuja, Major General John Enenche said in a statement on Wednesday that the raid conducted on Tuesday, was in pursuit of two pirate and sea robber kingpins, Mr Lanre and Ayi Abuh, who allegedly came in from Rivers State capital, Port Harcourt.
According to the statement, “the operation was aimed at extracting both LANRE and AYI ABUH as well as other members of the gang from the community. Upon arrival at the personal jetty of the suspect, troops met heavy resistance from harassing gunfire from pirates/militants in 5 boats that approached from adjoining creek. The overwhelming firepower of own troops led to the forceful withdrawal of the pirates/militants with various degree of gunshots wounds. The gallant troops sustained the firefight until 5 of the pirates/militants were neutralised ashore.
“Furthermore, three of the attacking boats were sunk while the occupants with various degree of gunshots wounds escaped into the river. In the process, troops recovered 3 boats from the pirates. Additionally, own troops took over the jetty and advance to the objective area which was empty. It was believed that while the exchange of fire was ongoing LANRE and AYI ABUH escaped.
“A complete cordon and search was carried out on the building where the suspects were believed to be residing and thereafter the building was cleared. In the process, troops recovered 3 AK47 rifles with a magazine, two 200 HP Yamaha outbound engines and three 115HP Yamaha outbound engines.
“Relatedly, troops acting on credible and actionable intelligence about a notorious criminal/kidnapper and oil thief popularly known as AKALAMI High Chief AKA SAMMY. Troops swiftly mobilized to conduct raid operation at his identified hideout along Mbiama East West road.
“During the operation, the kingpin was neutralised while attempting to escape. Items including a locally made pistol and cartridges were recovered from the criminal. Sammy is reported to be a close ally to a notorious criminal known as VIP suspected to be one of the mastermind of the killing of 5 Battalion Soldiers around East West road.
“The Military High Command congratulates the gallant troops for their dexterity and encourages them to remain resolute in curtailing the activities of pirates/militants in the Niger Delta region of the country.”
But leaders of the affected communities called for thorough investigation into the incident.
Some traditional leaders of the communities including Chief Godbless Ekiye and Chief Werilebebe Jacob told journalists on Wednesday that the communities were in total disarray and search parties have been constituted to search for those who reportedly fled into the bush.
Vice Chairman of the Akamabuo Community Development Association, Benjamin Soko, who said the incident took place at about 1:30am on the 4th of August, said that “we were woken up by series of endless gun sounds, only to realize that it was men in military uniforms in company with about four gunboats that were razing down parts of the communities.”
He said residents are still unaware of the reasons behind the attack on the communities by the alleged military operatives.
They alleged that armed uniform men carted away include two power generating sets, horse power speed boats, and household items including laptops, phones and other accessories with cash amounting to millions of naira.
The Chairman of the Southern Ijaw LGA, Chief Nigeria Kia, who condemned the act expressed concern at the rising incidence of military invasion into communities in Bayelsa, If the military is searching for a suspect, it is either they invite the person or declare such person wanted.”
Also reacting to the incident, the Spokesperson of Ijaw Youth Congress, Comrade Ebilade Ekerefe, called for the display of professionalism on the part of the Nigeria Army personnel, describing the invasion as an affront on Ijaw people.
Ekerefe wondered why peaceful Ijaw communities would consistently face military invasion but the North-East where Boko Haram and insurgency is at its peak are not treated like terrorists.
“Boko Haram is ravaging the entire North East and we have not heard that the military would go against their rules of engagement and vandalise communities within the North East. We don’t want to believe that this is an attempt to depopulate the Ijaw people”, Ekerefe said.