3 Killed In Warri Shooting…As Delta Govt Denies Shooting
Sporadic shooting in oil rich Ugborodo Community in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State have left three persons dead and others allegedly reported missing.
This was the fall-out after some officers and men of the Nigerian Navy in gunboats allegedly raided the oil-rich community Saturday afternoon.
But a government statement has refutted the report, claiming that "Delta State government wishes to state categorically that there has been no shooting of any form in Warri or environ."
The incident verifiable sources, came on the heels of the sharp disagreement that has thrown the community into leadership tussle by factions of the Community Trust with the proposed $26billion gas plant slated for the community.
A community source who spoke through telephone said, 'You can hear the gunshots ringing out; the Navy are being used to destroy innocent Nigerians that they are supposed to protect. Some persons have been killed. Some of them were passengers on a commercial boat who were shot by the naval personnel".
A community leader, Mr. Femi Uwawa confirmed that two of the three corpses of the victims (Ilaje indigenes) who were killed while going to their home town, had been recovered.
According to him, 'They were shot by the Navy, who are taking their corpses away right now.'
He added pthat the death toll could rise further occasioned by women and children who fled into the bush and jumped into the water to escape tear gas canisters fired by the naval men.
Another community source said that Saturday's operation was carried out in three gunboats with 60 soldiers and three officers led by a naval captain, shortly after a meeting between security operatives and leaders of the community.
Another agitated indigene of Aruton, Ode-Ugborodo told our reporter on telephone yesterday evening that combined squad of the Nigerian Navy, NNS Delta and the Forward Operation Base (FOB) in Escravos had surrounded the town and were shooting indiscriminately into houses.
He alleged that the military were being used to silence those opposed to a faction backed by the Delta State Government in the leadership tussle over the Ugborodo Community Trust.
Saturday's incident confirmed some newspaper reports about an impending military operation allegedly targeting illegal bunkering and crude oil facity vandals in the area.
People of the community said it was being sponsored by some of their discredited leaders in collaboration with some officials of the state government.
A prominent leader of the community, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said prior to the invasion, the head of the FOB in Escravos, Captain Ezete led a team for a meeting with the community leaders at the Aruton Public Field.
'We told him that our people are peace loving people and we want the peace to continue. We only asked that they free our spiritual head, who is languishing in detention because of his opposition to some persons in the community.
'It was therefore surprising when the military went back and surrounded our town and started shooting indiscriminately into the air. They further fired teargas on our women and children, leading to a stampede.
'I cannot tell you how many persons have been killed at the moment, but one corpse of an Ilaje boy was recovered from the sea front and taken away by the Navy,' our source added.
Efforts to contact NNS Delta Base Operations Officer, Lieutenant Ibrahim Yohanna for comments were futile as calls to his cell phone were unanswered.
Though Yohanna had on Friday denied the planned invasion when contacted by journalists. He said the troops were only to provide security for a company that was drilling boreholes there.
Saturday's attack however contradicted his statement and confirmed fears by leaders of the community that the operation was part of a deliberate ploy to cow them into submitting to the plunder and misrule of their community.
As at the time of filing this report, several commercial boats on their way to riverside towns in the area were sent back to Warri by the naval personnel who had taken over the area.
Meanwhile, a government press statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Comrade Ovuozorie Macaulay and tagged RE: HEAVY SHOOTING IN WARRI reads:
"The attention of the Delta State Government has been drawn to media reports especially the on-line media of heavy shooting in Warri. The State wishes to state categorically that there has been no shooting of any form in Warri or environ.
In line with the agreement with NNPC for provision of security by the State Government for the $16 Billion Gas City Project in Ogidigben, the State Security Council at its last meeting in Warri on 30th December 2013, directed the security agencies to deploy some forces to the area to ensure the safety of lives and properties as the construction of the project will start in the next few days. Some of the forces were deployed today, 4th January, 2014. None of the forces has had cause to shoot any gun and nobody has been injured or dead.
The State Government is aware that some enemies of progress are out to thwart this laudable project of President Goodluck Jonathan which will form the economic bedrock for Nigeria.
Warri has been very safe and it is on record that there were no insecurity incidences in Warri and other parts of Delta State throughout the Christmas or New Year period. The Government shall not be intimated by anyone and all those spreading such seditious falsehood should desist from it.
All law abiding citizens are advised to go about their normal activities and we shall ensure safety of their lives and properties.