Lawmaker cautions JTF over civilian casualties

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OFFICERS and men of the Joint Military Task Force (JTF), a special security outfit code named, Operation Restore Hope, in the Niger Delta region, have been strongly advised to always apply caution and necessary care, while patrolling the creeks of the region, to avoid unwarranted deaths of civilians, jn course of their operations.

The member, representing Nembe Constituency III, in Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Deacon Otobo Noah Opusiri, gave the advice, when he paid a condolence visit to the chiefs and people of Tengele-ama, in Nembe Constituency III, over the death of a middle aged woman, Madam Tubuara Oguarah and a four month old baby, Brucelee Stanley, allegedly caused by JTF gunboat with registration number, PTF 105, when the gunboat over ran two local fishing boats, closed to the Oluasiri Gas Plant, at about 11pm, on August 18, 2010.

Deacon Opusiri maintained that, while the people of Nembe wholesomely appreciate the role of the Joint Military Task Force in restoring peace and order in the area, he regretted a situation where the father you could run to, for protection and care, turns out to become the one to toast and thrust the knife at you, defeats the essence of the protection, describing the scenario as an unmitigated irony of life.

According to the lawmaker, the people of Tengele-ama, being an indigent coastal community of subsistent farmers, fisher folks, lumber Jacks and petty traders, live in squalor, in the midst of plenty, like every other Niger Delta community, informing that the people of the area had been besieged and locked up in the shells of their homes, as none could dare fishing in the day, let alone, at night, due to unwarranted attacks in times past.

He cautioned that, the JTF, being a trained force, ought to consider the fact the local people would usually be at sea, day and night, on fishing expeditions for their daily bread, adding that there was no dispute on the gallant performance of the men of the task force, whose presence has undoubtedly brought succour to the communities in the area.

Deacon, Opusiri, who conveyed the condolences of Governor, Timipre Sylva, his deputy, Rt. Hon. Werinipre Seibarugu, Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Nestor K. Binabo, the deputy speaker, Hon. Fini Angaye and all the members of the House, in an emotion-laden voice, recalled that late madam Tubuara Oguarah, was preparing for the burial rites of her late mother, whose remains was still lying at the mortuary, at the time of the visit.

Narrating the incident to the Lawmaker at Tengele-ama, the Clan Head of Oluasiri, HRH, King Iyerite Chiefson Awululu-Atubu, the Olua I, expressed sadness over the untimely death of the victims, caused by the JTF gunboat incident, adding that the area needed more government's presence.

The mother of the four month old baby, Madam Diepreye Clement said she had three children in her canoe and a lady on that fateful night, when they suddenly sighted the JTF gunboat, moving towards them.

According to her, all attempts to flash their touch lights at the JTF gunboat made no sense to the military men, as the gunboat moved in speed and over ran the two fishing boats, killing her little baby and another woman, informing that the military men never bothered to rescue them from the water.

The gunboat, she said, later stopped for a while and drove off to the gas plant, living them in the water, saying that they were left in the water until 8 am the next morning, when other fishermen sighted them and took them home.