From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The attack on New Year day by sea-pirates on a passenger boat on the Brass waters in Brass Local Government, Bayelsa State, signalled the growing security threat in 2022. Fourteen passengers on the boat travelling from Yenagoa to Twon-Brass were at gunpoint dispossessed of all their valuables by the sea-robbers.
Ogoniba Ipigansi, state chairman, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), said: “The pirates dumped the driver and the passengers in the bust and carted away the 115 horsepower Yamaha engine of the boat and other things.”
On January 8, 2022, sea-pirates struck again, on the Brass route. They attacked the speedboat, dispossessed them of valuables, dumped the passengers and the boat driver in the middle of the river and left with the boat.
Attacks such as this, have been very frequent on waterways but more prominent in Nembe and Brass waterways worsening the security situation in the state. The heightened security threat took different dimensions ranging from kidnapping, killings and sea-pirate attacks.
On July 21, 2021, gunmen dressed in army uniform invaded the residence of 80-year-old mother of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr Friday Konbowei Benson. The woman, Betinah, was taken from her home at the Old House of Assembly Quarters, off Azikoro Road, Yenagoa. That was the second time she was kidnapped. The first occurred in her country home, Korokorosei, Southern Ijaw Local Government in 2013, when her son was Speaker, House of Assembly.
Few days after the incident, a banker, Mr Tari Ajanami, was abducted by gunmen on Otiotio Road, Yenagoa. In August 2021, travellers on the waterways of Brass, Nembe, Akassa and Southern Ijaw were robbed with many of them losing valuables.
On September 5, 2021, the 70-year-old father of chairman, Ogbia Local Government, Chief Marvin Turner was kidnapped at his residence in Kpansia ,Yenagoa.
On September 6, 2021, gunmen opened fire and killed a police officer and an operative of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), at Okarki junction also in Yenagoa.
On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, Divisional Police Station, Kolo, Ogbia LG, was attacked by gunmen, a Police Sergeant was killed while two rifles were carted away.
On November 20, 2021, sea-pirates in a twin-attack killed four persons including personnel of the NCDSC and three oil workers. In another attack, six persons were abducted.
Since the later part of 2021, residents of Yenagoa have been sleeping with one eye over the upsurge of violent crimes. Government responded by imposing a dusk-to-dawn curfew. It also banned the operation of 200-horsepower engine.
Special Adviser on Security Matters, Akpoebi Agberebi said the decision was taken after a security meeting. It had in attendance Governor Douye Diri and all service commanders: “Henceforth, no permit would be granted for the use of 200-horsepower. Violators will face the full weight of the law.”
In separate meetings with non-indigenes and council chairmen at the later part of 2021, government rallied for support to tackle the mounting security challenges especially kidnapping and cultism.
Represented by his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, the governor stated that available security statistics indicated that most of the crimes happening in Yenagoa and its environs were being perpetrated by outsiders.
He urged the council chairman to set up vigilante team as part of his administration zero tolerance for banditry, cultism, kidnapping and other violent crimes:
“Following the recent upsurge in incidents of armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the state, the State Security Council has taken the following drastic security measures to curb the menace. Henceforth, vehicles with tinted glasses and covered numbers plates are banned from operating throughout the state.
“Ban on use of motorcycle within Yenagoa capital city is still in force. Owners of motorcycles are advised to adhere to the ban or stand the risk of being arrested, prosecuted and the motorcycles impounded.
“Re-imposition of curfew in the state capital particularly the entry and exit points along the East-West Road from 10pm to 6am daily. Imposition of curfew from 7pm to 6am in the waterways in the state is still in force.”
Few days to the Yuletide season, Diri rejigged the state security outfit known as Operation Doo Akpo. The security outfit operating more or less on life support with rickety vehicles had a lifeline handed over to it with 50 vehicles and 40 motorbikes.
At the signing into law the Community Safety Corps Bill, Diri said: “I have just signed the Community Safety Corps Bill into law. This is intended to complement the work of the constitutional recognised security agencies.
“The law also harmonises the special security outfits of the state under one umbrella. This means that henceforth Operation Doo-Akpo, Bayelsa Volunteers and the Bayelsa Vigilante will operate under one umbrella.
“In line with our action plan for security, we have made progress in changing the mind set of our operatives, enhanced intelligence gathering and reinforced our alertness and increased mobility and response time.
“After comprehensively and holistically evaluating the situation, we have made informed and tailored decisions, allowing us to re-engage Doo-Akpo even more effectively, strengthening performance and guaranteeing the safety and security of our people. Improving responsiveness also requires that we have the requisite equipment and assets.
“Consequently, it gives me great joy to re-launch Operation Doo-Akpo. Necessarily, the programme has been rejigged, redesigned and refreshed to be more responsive and responsible in carrying out its duties.
“In this first phase, I am commissioning for immediate deployment 50 brand new Hilux patrol vehicles, a new state-wide command-and-control system based on Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) Technology, 40 brand new motorcycles and a K-9-unit.”