Gbagi accuses Gov. Uduaghan of ordering military invasion of his home
Minister of State for Education, Chief Kenneth Gbagi has given a full blown insight into why soldiers and Mobile policemen invaded his Effurun home, in Delta State last Friday as he accused the State Government of masterminding the invasion because of his involvement in pro Jonathan rally held recently in the area by the Chief E. K. Clark faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). According to Gbagi, 'I was one of the major financiers of that rally held for the support of President Goodluck Jonathan in the state and this might have unsettled Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan. That is why he instigated the Joint Task Force (JTF) to invade my house to embarrass me. 'You will recall that not too long ago when I declared my Governorship ambition, which was why they peddled rumour that I have lions in my house that would soon devour residents of the area. That incident caused so much panic that I had to open my home to Journalists for investigations', he said. Chief Gbagi wondered why the military would be in search of arms and ammunitions in his house when he had never participated in any violence in the state before but instead had used his resources to create employment for the youths of the state.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to skew indication that Delta state governor , Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan may have a hand in the privacy invasion of the Minister's residence, Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the governor, Mr. Sunny Ogefere in a telephone chat said: 'The governor does not control the Army. It is the Federal Government that is in charge of the military. So, the governor could not have given such directive to an agency he does not control its activities. Please leave the governor out of this and possibly ask the JTF authorities who ordered them.
'Have you forgotten that the Police, a Federal Government security agency attempted to arrest former Delta State governor , Chief James Ibori in this state? Who directed them? I appeal to you to leave Governor Uduaghan out of it all'. Attempts to also get words from the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Oma Djebah proved abortive as he willingly refused to pick his call or reply to text messages.
Wife of the Minister, Chief (Mrs.) Evelyn Gbagi is said to have moved her entire family out of the house until the building was combed by bomb disposal experts to ensure that no bomb was planted in the house. She said the way and manner the military stormed the house was suspicious hence the need to be safety conscious in the occupation of the house considering the fact that her husband was a politician that might be the target of his opponents. Chief (Mrs) Gbagi also alleged that she lost N2 million cash and jewelries estimated at N3 million during the invasion by the security agents adding, 'Our safety is the most concern to us now'.
She accused Delta State Government of being behind the invasion with the aim of embarrassing the Minister whom he saw as his political rival 'and would do anything to rubbish him'. She recalled that recently, rumours were carried by the same Government that her husband was keeping lions that would soon devour residents of the area, which was aimed at intimidating her husband when he signified intention to contest against Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan. It was however gathered that the High Command of the Special Task Force led by the Sector One Commander, Colonel J Sarham had apologized profusely to the family claiming that the invasion was a mistake.
A combined force from the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the oil wealthy Niger Delta region and anti-riot policemen from the Delta State Police Command, had in the early hours of Friday 24, September 26, 2010 stormed the Effurun home of the Nigeria 's Minister of State for Education, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi in Delta state in search of arms. The combined team, numbering about 100 had invaded the Ministers residence located at Gbagi Close, off Jakpa road at about 11.15 a.m. , after they scaled the fence and entered the buildings and held the occupants of the house including five policemen hostage for over two hours which the operation lasted. The soldiers and police officers were said to have been accompanied by three military tanks also held the local security guards manning the gate to the Close, which was about 50 metres away from the building hostage.
While the authorities of JTF are yet to make a specific statement on the matter, its spokesperson, Lt. Colonel Timothy Antigha who initially said the invasion was an error later claimed that the troops did not invade the home of the minister. He said soldiers were deployed in the area as part of a cordon-and-search operation aimed at curtailing armed men causing mayhem in the area. According to him, 'There is no way that the JTF can send troops to the home of a minister. What happened was that there have been skirmishes in the area and the task force moved in to search for arms and ammunition being used to foment trouble. It could be that one of such was carried out near the minister's home, but he was not the target.' Antigha further disclosed that the troops entered the minister's house in error, adding that the Sector Commander had met with Minister Gbagi's wife to explain the error.
Colonel Sarham, who was accompanied by a Senior State Security Service (SSS) officer, had in evening of the incidence visited the residence of the Minister where they met with the Minister's wife and son, Muobho over the invasion led by one Lieutenant Colonel Jega . They arrived at the residence in a Hilux jeep and a Green 406 Peugeot car accompanied by a female operative and a driver and left at 4 p.m. after the meeting with the wife of the Minister and her son, Muobho. The minister's son, Muogbo, who was said to be home when the soldiers arrived, said that the soldiers claimed that they had a search warrant which they refused to show him before searching the property.
Although, it could be recalled that the nearby Ekpan Community had been embroiled in bloody clashes by rival gangs fighting for supremacy and control of the area, in which deadly weapons, arms and ammunition were put to use, undisclosed sources say that the search party may have had other intentions to screen the house off arms following unconfirmed reports that politicians have begun to stockpile arms and ammunition for political reasons ahead of 2011.
Some Nigerians are of the view that the action of the soldiers goes beyond what meets the eye. They want the Army authorities to unveil the actual circumstance that led to the search. 'The search is okay because the people you think are highly placed turn out to be sponsors of most trouble makers in the country. Being a minister does not in any way make him above the law. 'The JTF should hit the nail at the head by stating their actual mission and if there is already a connivance to cover their discovery, they should equally let the entire Nigerians know the truth. Arms proliferation activities are not carried out by bloody civilians. They are often times done with the help of those who claim to be fighting against it. I implore JTF to come out with their true findings and let Nigerians see them as responsible citizens.
But others who reasoned on the contrary say the Nigerian army needs to go through a lot of reformation hence they are acting as if they are above the law. 'If they claimed to have a search warrant why did they not show it to anybody, why will they ask people to lie down? This is a democratic era and as such their actions should be civil and polite. The Chief of Army staff in a civilized country will tender an unreserved apology to the minister. 'It is high time Federal Government and Armed Forces heads educate their officers and men that we are no more in military dictatorship , they should see the way courts award damages to people that are being brutalized. If Nigeria has to emerge as a democratic superpower and claim its rightful place in the high table of world nations, then its badly behaved Army officers have to be disciplined, otherwise what would be the difference between Nigeria and the lawless Pakistan ?
Ekpan, in Uvwie local government area of Delta state has witnessed a lot of crisis in recent times and it alleged that soldiers had taken over the entire community following clashes between rival gangs.
Some Deltans are however calling on security operatives to expand their search for illegal arms and ammunition across the state ahead of the forthcoming elections and intensify its efforts within the Ekpan community by searching the houses of both ordinary and highly placed individuals in a bid recover all the hidden guns. 'The security operatives should do better so that we can have relative peace in Delta state. If these guns are not retrieved now, it will certainly affect the forthcoming voter registration exercise and the general elections in the state.