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Tension as military invades five Ijaw communities

By The Rainbow
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• Indicted service chiefs begin reporting to EFCC today

• Anti-graft agency may probe PDP's missing N21.27b

FIVE communities in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South West Local Council, Delta State were invaded by the military yesterday morning. There was no direct explanation for their action.

But The Guardian learnt that the soldiers invaded the communities in search of militants near the locations where pipelines were blown up .

Still, another account said the soldiers were a special unit dispatched to arrest wanted ex-militant leader Chief Government Ekpemupkolo, also known as Tompolo.

Strong condemnations from the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) and Niger Delta Youths Development Association (NYDA) have trailed the invasion.

 Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is to begin the probe of serving and retired officers of the Nigeria Air Force and the Nigeria Army from today. Following the order by President Muhammadu Buhari, the affected officers are expected to begin to report to the anti-graft agency today.

It was learnt from competent sources that the probe of the service chiefs and key actors in the Armed Forces in the last eight years is not only aimed at unearthing corruption perpetrated by this crop of military officers, but also to correct some anomalies in the military institution.

And with various disclosures and claims over the disbursement of $2,1b meant for arms purchase by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), there are indications that investigations may lead to further probe into the whereabouts of N21.27b belonging to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The IYC spokesman, Gbaramatu Chapter, Godswill Doubra Wuruyai, while condemning the invasion said yesterday: “We see no reason why the military has decided to invade our community which has no record of being a hideout of militants in the region.We call for cessation of attacks from whoever is responsible.”

The invaded communities include Ikpokpo, Saghara, Opuedebubo, Okpeleama and Tebujo. Wuruyai said the invasion had led to the displacement of innocent men, women and children many of who suffered different degrees of injury and wanton destruction of their property.

“The invasion of the communities by the military due to militants attacks on pipelines across the region logically pinpoints Federal Government's eagerness to invade Gbaramatu Kingdom under the guise of checking pipeline vandalism in the region.

“It is imperative to note that Ijaw communities are not the only communities in the Escravos vicinity and as such, should not be the only places the military should concentrate their alleged search “ Wuruyai said.

Similarly the Niger Delta Youths Development Association (NYDA) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to halt what it called the harassment and intimidation of the Ijaw nation through the directive to EFCC to probe and prosecute Tompolo and former Director General of Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr. Patrick Ziakede Akpoboloukemi.

In a statement issued by the NYDA yesterday in the United States by its president, Victor James, Chairman Delta State chapter, Amb. Arerebo Salaco Yerinmene Peter, Chairman, Akwa Ibom chapter, Marshal Ime, Chairman Rivers State chapter, Soboma Amachree and its spokesman, Gabriel Patterson Unyeowaji, the group stated:“President Buhari should not mistake our quietness, being law-abiding and peaceful as cowardice.

“Witch-hunting of our leaders is a fight against us. We shall not take it from him any more. He is disturbing sleeping lions. No one has the monopoly of violence .We are of the opinion that unnecessary pressure should not be mounted on security agencies against our prominent leaders over a case that had been variously ruled on by courts in Nigeria , exonerating our leaders of the alleged offences. Buhari's consistent disobedience of the rule of law and violation of human rights will not help Nigeria,” the group said.

A document on the probe of former service chiefs obtained by The Guardian shows that money meant to be paid to troops who participated in peace keeping operations between 2014 and 2015 in Sudan and Mali, amounting to more than N600 million was not paid them; instead, the soldiers were deployed in the northeast to fight Boko Haram.

It reads in part: “It is on record and verifiable that over 900 troops that participated in peace support operations in Sudan and Mali are still being owed various months of operations allowances which amount to over $3 million USD (then at N208 to a dollar, translates to the equivalent of N624,000,000.00.)

“The units include the 342 Artillery Regiment Owerri, with about 800 officers and soldiers, who were deployed in Sudan as NIBAT 43 in 2014 and the company of Nigeria Army Signal of 100 officers and soldiers deployed in Mali as NISG2 MINUSMA after about a year of operations, returned to the country in February 2015, with a backlog of five months allowance still unpaid.”

A credible military source said the ongoing probe, as ordered by President Buhari, would also seek answers to the allowances' question and all the “answers laid on the tables of the then Chief of Army Staff, Director of Army Finance and Administration (DAFA and AHQDATOP (Army Headquarters Director of Training and Operations).”

A source told The Guardian yesterday that the EFCC was ready for the series of investigations that would commence this week.

Though he did not reveal which of the officers would be reporting first, the source stated that only the Director General of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Emeka Mba   was in the custody of the commission, as others being investigated in the $2.1 billion had been granted bail.

The president ordered the investigation of serving and retired service chiefs on Friday through a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu. Buhari's order to the EFCC was the aftermath of the recommendation of the committee established to audit the procurement of arms and equipment in the Armed Forces and Defence sector from 2007 to 2015.

As a result of the President's order, Air Chief Marshal Alex   Badeh (rtd), Air Marshal MD Umar (rtd), Air Marshal AN Amosu (rtd), Maj- Gen. ER Chioba (Rtd), Air Vice Marshal I. A Balogun (rtd), AVM AG Tsakr (rtd), AVM AG Idowu (rtd), AVM AM Mamu, AVM OT Oguntoyinbo, AVM T Omenyi, AVM JB Adigun, AVM RA Ojuawo, AVM JA Kayode-Beckley, Air Cdre SA Yushau (rtd), Air Cdre AO Ogunjobi, Air Cdre GMD Gwani, Air Cdre SO Makinde, Air Cdre AY Lassa , Col N Ashinze and Lt Col. MS Dasuki (rtd) are expected at the EFCC from today.

Subsequently, other officers and companies such as Messrs Societe D' Equipments Internationaux, Himma Aboubakar, Aeronautical Engineering and Technical Services Limited, Messrs Syrius Technologies, Dr Theresa A. Ittu, Sky Experts Nig Ltd, Omenyi Ifeanyi Tony, Huzee Nig Ltd, GAT Techno Dynamics Ltd, Gbujie Peter Obie, Onuri Samuel Ugochukwu, Spacewebs Interservices Ltd), Oguntoyinbo Tayo, Oguntoyinbo Funmi, Delfina Oil and Gas Ltd, Chief Jacobs Bola, Mono Marine Corporation Nig Ltd, Geonel Intergrated Services Ltd, Sachi Felicia, Mudaki Polycarp and Wolfgang Reinl will be expected to appear before the commission to explain their role in the alleged arms procurement funds looting.

While it is not yet clear when others such as Chief Tony Anenih, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Chief Olu Falae and others who have also been indicted, will be appearing at the commission, the order for the probe of the mentioned companies include investigating their directors.

On the missing PDP funds, it would be recalled that on December 20, 2014, the party organised a fundraising dinner where N21.27b was raised.

Coming barely two months to the 2015 general election, the amount elicited public outcry with the then opposition All Peoples Congress (APC), lamenting that such a huge amount which should have been invested in the nation's energy sector, was meant for former President Goodluck Jonathan's election.

The last heard of the money was in January 2015 when the chairman of the fundraising committee, Prof. Jerry Gana, addressed a press conference, stating that part of the money was meant for the completion of work on the construction of the N16billion permanent secretariat of the party, for which N6b had earlier been paid.

But in the light of the ongoing probe by the EFCC into the disbursement of the $2.1billion allegedly earmarked for military equipment and arms, as well as denials by PDP chieftains a source within the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) explained that following the inability of the fundraising committee to make the money available, the NSA was asked to fall back on security vote.

The source disclosed that irked by past dishonesty by some party stalwarts in disbursement of funds, “Mr. President decided to rely on his NSA to ensure that money gets to their intended recipients.”

He added that as election approached the president noticed growing instances of sabotage and infighting, pointing out that at a stage “it was hard to know who was for the success of the party or pecuniary interest.”

“So after all, the investigation of the $2.1billion may lead to the whereabouts of the N21.27billion realised from the PDP fundraising dinner. I cannot say whether all the donors fulfilled their pledges or they decided to renege at the signs of electoral loss,” he declared.

Guardian