By Okem Green Mbah
Political and community leaders from Nembe and Brass Local Government Areas of Bayelsa State have expressed with grief the persistent attacks and kidnapping being unleashed on their people along the waterways by sea pirates.
They also condemned in strong terms the abduction of about thirteen boat travelers from January 1, 2021 to date as well as about 150 outboard engines ranging from 8HorsePower to 115HorsePower being taken from fishermen and commuters in the two coastal communities.
In a communique issued after a stakeholders meeting held on Sunday at the Ernest Ikoli Press Centre, Yenagoa, the former Deputy Speaker, Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Chief Sam Ateke said that the recent activities of these criminal elements clearly show that pirates have declared war on the people of Nembe and Brass, stressing that, “we cannot fold our hands and watch them force our people into hunger and starvation.”
According to the former lawmaker who presided over the meeting, the activities of these criminal elements include waylaying of speedboats conveying travelers to Akassa, Nembe, Twon Brass, Okpoama, Odioma, Fantuo, Egwema, Nembe Creek, Okoroma, Oluasiri, Sangana, Opu-Okumbiri and Oginibiri.
The statement reads, “When these boats are waylaid, either the outboard engine is carted away, goods taken away and in most cases passengers kidnapped. In some cases women kidnapped were repeatedly raped. As we speak, five persons are in the hands of kidnappers. Eight were released last week totaling 13 persons kidnapped from January 1st to date.
“Waylaying of fishermen on fishing expedition and their outboard engine forcefully taken from them at gunpoint. Pirates have on several occasions waited for fishermen in the Atlantic Ocean at 2:00am and disposes them of their outboard engine and leave them to be tossed by waves till help come their way.
“This also happens in the creeks of the two local government areas. An investigation conducted in the two LGAs of Bayelsa State alone showed that between 2018 and 2020 not fewer than 150 outboard engines ranging from 8HorsePower to 115HorsePower were taken from fishermen and commuters.
“In recent times they attack local boats conveying food items and other goods and cart away bags of rice, garri, beans and yam etc. They have recently sent a message through fishing port dwellers that they will turn their focus to local hand polling canoes.
“It is interesting to note, that intelligence we have gathered showed that the pirates are mostly from neighbouring local government areas assisted by some criminal elements from Brass and Nembe LGAs. Ransom collected in some cases are allegedly shared to the various quarters in their communities to keep the people from reporting their activities.”
Chief Ateke further disclosed that the people of Nembe and Brass have agreed to set up a Nembe-Se Security Network (NSSN) to assist the security agencies, gather and share intelligence, patrol and secure the waterways and arrest and handover identified pirates and kidnappers to the appropriate security agencies.
Also, an advocacy and sensitization committee will be set up to visit community leaders and engage them with a view to fishing out pirates and kidnappers. The committee will also engage government and the security agencies to fish out these criminal elements in the state.
He said, “We also want to warn strongly, pirates and kidnappers to keep-off Nembe and Brass Local Government Areas waterways or face the wrath of the law and the gods of our land, and demand the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages in their custody.
“We however, appeal to the State Governor, Senator Douye Diri to come to the rescue of the Nembe/Brass People. We also call on the Commander, Operation Delta Safe; the Flag Officer Central Naval Command, the State Director of State Security Service and the Commissioner of Police, Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies to support this effort aimed at bringing peace and security to the state.”