Operatives of the Joint Task Force code-named, Operation Delta Safe, for the second time in two weeks, reportedly raided Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of the Gbaramatu people and hometown of a popular militant, Chief Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo, on Saturday.
The residents who spoke with SUNDAY PUNCH explained that the soldiers who besieged their area in five gunboats around 9:20am also invaded another community in the Warri South-West Council Area of Delta State.
Our correspondents gathered that the operatives, who were searching for militants in the region, allegedly broke into some homes, in search of their targets.
It was also learnt that the raid on Oporoza, which is the haven of runaway ex-militant leader, Tompolo, might not be unconnected with the renewed attacks on oil facilities around Batan area of the council.
The troops’ invasion of the area forced scores of residents to flee and take cover in the bush.
The troops left for another neighbouring community, Tebijor, and carried out a similar operation, when they could not arrest any of their targets at Oporoza.
A Gbaramatu leader and National Coordinator, Center for Peace and Environmental Justice, Sheriff Mulade, confirmed the incident when contacted on phone on Saturday.
Mulade told one our correspondents that many of the people who fled into the bush for cover including women and children had not been seen as of 3:45pm on Saturday.
He explained that the incident had been reported to the military authorities, but called on the Federal Government to halt incessant harassment of his kinsmen because many of them were already traumatised and in pains.
Another resident, who refused to be quoted, said he witnessed the invasion of the soldiers.
He said the troops entered the area from Ugborodo, an Itsekiri community, thereby heightening fears among his people that the operatives might not be Nigerian soldiers.
The source added that the invaders also attempted to pull away speedboats belonging to members of the communities, parked at the river bank, but were unsuccessful because they were chained with keys.
He said, “The soldiers came at about 9am today (Saturday) with speedboats and gunboats from the Ugborodo axis. They broke into several homes searching for what we don’t know.
“Many of our people ran into the bush. They were in the area for several hours before they left for another community.
“Many of our people fled so they couldn’t arrest anyone. It was only the aged women that didn’t run when they came.
“I also took cover in the roof of my house until it was clear they had left.”
The acting Secretary of Gbaramatu Traditional Council, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, who also confirmed the incident to SUNDAY PUNCH, did not however, give details.
Women protest troops’ invasion
Meanwhile, women from Oporoza have protested the invasion of their community by troops of the Nigerian Army.
The Media Consultant to Tompolo, Mr. Paul Bebenimibo, told one of our correspondents on the telephone, that the women staged the protest against the soldiers’ invasion.
He said, “It is true that soldiers came to some of the communities in Gbaramatu community. They went to Oporoza, Okerenkoko, Tebizo and Okpeleama.”
Militants threaten oil firms over invasion
Niger Delta militants have vowed to chase away oil companies from the region should the Federal Government order another invasion of Tompolo’s community.
The leader of Niger Delta Peoples Democratic Front, ‘General’ Playboy, also cautioned that they (militants) would attack three central mosques in the region should soldiers raid Tompolo’s residence again.
Playboy, in his statement on Saturday, said it was shocking that soldiers could invade Tompolo’s community after elders and stakeholders of the Niger Delta met with President Muhammadu Buhari on the way forward for the region.
He said, “If it is true that his (Tompolo) house was raided, then President Buhari must stop it. If he does not stop, what we will do is to chase away oil companies in our land. We cannot be feeding Nigeria and at the same time be humiliated by Nigeria.”