Sixteen foreign-based civil society organisations have called for the prosecution of the Joint Task Force Commander, Gen. Sarkin Yarkin-Bello, over the killing of civilians in Gbaramatu, Delta State.

Warri Gbaramatu area

Chanomi creeks Gbaramatu area

Sola Adebayo and Ibanga Isine continue in the Punch:

The groups, in a joint petition to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, The Netherlands also requested a probe into the role played by President Umaru Yar’Adua in the incident.

The civil society organisations include Trans Africa Forum, Centre for Civil Society, Environmental Justice Project of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Sweet Crude, Communities for a Better Environment, the Borneo Project, the Justice in Nigeria Now and the Center for Third World Organising.

Others are Global Exchange, Rainforest Action Network, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Crude Accountability, Oil Change International, Counter Corp, Foreign Policy In Focus and Sustainable Energy and Economy Network.

The groups claimed that the military carried out land, water and aerial bombardments of Oporoza, Kurutie, Kunukunuma, Kokodiagbene, Okerenkoko, Azama, Benikurukuru and Ubefan communities in Gbaramatu Local Government Area, “under the guise of attacking militants.”

The petition reads in part, “Residents of the villages and those visiting for a festival on the day the bombing began were forced to flee their homes and villages. They are hiding in the bush and do not have adequate food or medical supplies.

“The JTF has not allowed humanitarian aid groups or journalists into the area. As of today, the coordinated aerial and ground attacks by the JTF and mass starvation continue.

“Reports suggest that thousands of innocent civilians are dead already. Reports also suggest that this was a well planned attack with the possible collusion of state government officials.

“We urge the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor to use its power to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these crimes against humanity, including Brigadier General Yarkin-Bello, who is reportedly in command of the JTF’s operations. Questions regarding President Yar’Adua’s involvement must also be investigated.”

The destruction of the Gbaramatu communities in Delta State continues. Sola Adebayo writes in the Punch:

Peace remained elusive in the Niger Delta on Saturday as troops of the Joint Task Force in Delta State razed Benikrukru community in the Gbaramatu clan of Warri South-West Local Government Area of the state.

Report also indicated that the soldiers advanced toward another community identified as Kokodiagbene after the Benikrukru operation. Kokodiagbene community, SUNDAY PUNCH learnt is adjacent to Benikrukru.

Many persons, including an octogenarian, identified as Kuku Olobio, were reported dead during the Saturday raid.

Bello said the raids would continue until the wanted militant leader, Chief Government Ekpomukpolo, popularly known Tompolo was found dead or alive.

He also tied the withdrawal of the troops to the discovery of the 12 military personnel declared missing in a clash with the militants in Gbaramatu.

It was gathered that the latest raid at Benikrukru, followed the earlier pattern with the JTF using jet bombers, gunboats and warships on the community.

A source from Benikrukru said, ”The community was burnt down this morning. Many people were killed in the air and land raids on the hapless community. The JTF was about to cross over to nearby Kokodiagbene when I escaped from the area.”

Also, some ethnic and political as well as youth leaders in the region have gone underground as the detectives embarked on manhunt for them as a result of their alleged relationship with the militants.

Sunday Punch gathered that wanted leaders, who had a prior knowledge of the planned action, had since fled their homes.

”We (JTF) are after some political and ethnic leaders who have been fingered as sponsors of militant operations and some of them who have benefited from the unwholesome activities of the militants. Some youth leaders are also under surveillance.

We are aware that some of them have taken cover but they can only run but cannot hide. It is a total onslaught this mess they call militancy once and for all,” our source who craved anonymity added.

Meanwhile, President Umaru Yar‘Adua has directed the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Paul Dike, to establish military bases at the two militants‘ camps seized by the JTF in Delta State.

The hideouts identified as Camp 5 and Iroko Camp were seized by the federal troops on Saturday and Monday, respectively.

A source in JTF told our correspondent that the President gave the directive to facilitate the monitoring of the activities along the waterways in the area.

The centrality of Camp 5 in particular, the source added, would ensure easy monitoring of the creeks in Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Ondo states and keep the trouble makers under constant check.

Meanwhile, the President of the Ijaw Youth Council, Dr. Chris Ekiyor, on Saturday raised the alarm that the JTF troops had invaded Warri on the manhunt for innocent Ijaw persons.

Ekiyor in a text message to our correspondent said, “Killings continue as soldiers now invade Warri in search of successful Ijaw business for extinction.

Also, the Delta Waterways Security Committee on Saturday said the peace process in the state was on course. The committee in a statement by its Secretary, Mr. Patrick Origho, said, “Everything was being done to ensure that normalcy returns to the creeks of the state, which was the scene of conflict in the past one week between a group of armed youths and JTF.

However, the JTF has approved the request of a committee set up by the state government to distribute relief materials to displaced persons to carry out its assignment.

The JTF, however, said only wooden boats would be allowed to convey the items to the communities.

This Day reports this statement. This is the deliberate language of discrimination. Paraphrased in shorter version it reads: it was “unfortunate” we had to kill so many, but it was “necessary”, they brought the problem on themselves. It is genuinely unfortunate that this seems to be a common reaction to the slaughter and displacement of the Ijaw communities.  The military action is called Operation Restore Hope. The JTF attacks are successfully characterized as a fight against the militants. It is not clear how badly the militants may have been harmed. But the communities have been destroyed. In the long run these actions just create more militants, and more incentives to crime as communities are destroyed, while the inhibitions against crime are destroyed with the communities.

Chief Sunny Okogwu, business mogul, has said resolution of militancy in the Niger Delta region lies with traditional rulers in the area.

Okogwu said given the level of influence the royal fathers wield among their subjects, all they needed to do was to direct cessation of such activities.
Speaking with newsmen in Kaduna, weekend, Okogwu said, “the traditional fathers know who these boys are and they always obey them. All they need do is tell the boys, ‘enough of these’ and the boys will obey them.”Commenting on the current military operations in the area, Okogwu blamed the militants for incurring the anger of the military by first killing some military personnel on a rescue mission, noting that the action of the militants was tantamount to a declaration of war of some sort.

While decrying the killing of innocent persons during the military operations, Okogwu said, “military tactics they call it. If you declare war on a nation and one man is the cause of the war, destroy him. There is no war without the innocent dying. If you analyse what causes a war and breakdown of civil disorder, it is unbelievable who causes that war. It is the innocent.”