Killing for oil and politics


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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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Killing for Oil and Politics


Sam Akpe


culled from PUNCH,  March 21, 2005


It was about 11. 15 a.m. on Thursday, February 3, 2005. The high sealeading to the bubbling communities of Brass and Nembe Local Government Areas of Bayelsa State was unusually devoid of high traffic. The open engine boat took advantage. It sped and splashedthe salty water, rising and falling rhythmically as it journeyed on.Inside the boat were four councillors and eight others, includingtwo women. One of the women was not yet married, the other was
pregnant. One of the councillors, had a masters degree, the other, an orphan, graduated a few years back after fishing at night andhawking at daytime to pay his school fees. He was a qualified accountant.

The four councilors from Nembe Local Government Area were the head of the Legislative Arm, Iniebo Chiefson; the Chief Whip, Iruosoumoye Godwin; Evans Nimibofa Ekosa; and Ingo Tari Sylva. The pregnant woman was Mrs. Ikaebinyo Eneni. Others were a schoolteacher at Oluasiri; Miss. Nyingilayefa Debo; Mr. Lucky Imbe Derri; Master Tonworio Godwill Keremah; Mr. Ebinyo Jeremiah; Ebi Okuro; a school teacher at Obioku, Mr. Erefagha Daulambo; and the boat driver, Mr. Bokolo, a.k.a Daddy.

What was their mission? Twenty-four hours before they set sail, the four councillors were present at a combined meeting called by the chairmen of Brass and Nembe Local Government Areas. The chairmen, Nathaniel Syha from Brass and Kuroghofa Walter from Nembe, called the meeting at Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, to make peace between Odioama and Obioku communities over a disagreement on land matters and an oil well found at a location at Obioku. At the end of the peace meeting, the four councillors were to convey the decisions taken at the meeting to the communities and solicit for peace until the outstanding issues were resolved at subsequent meetings. They were peace emissaries. In fact only the councilor representing Ward Seven, Tari-Sylva, was asked to take the peace message to the Obioku people. Other councillors only went with him to show their support.

Few nautical miles away, another boat had just berthed and inside it were seven persons. The occupants were young men with bloodshot eyes. They were armed with AK47 rifles. They were allegedly members of the dreaded cult group called Teme Iseinasawo, with headquarters at Odioama. The cult group was feared by everyone and worshipped by
patrons. Oseiekiobekuma Clever Munafa allegedly leads the group. He is known simply as Osei Clever. His mission commander has been identified as one Demain Nathan Demain. Few minutes earlier, the occupants of the boat were at a fishing settlement called Shelkiri on the West of Santa Barbara River. They inquired from the local fishermen whether a particular boat carrying local government officials had passed. On confirming that no such boat had passed, witnesses said they moved on without uttering a word. Just a few nautical miles away, they mounted an observatory at Berefamokiri Water Front. It was not a long wait. They soon spotted the boat conveying the councillors and trailed it.

It was now a few minutes to noon. The boat conveying the councillors has just hit the Akanaga River in the Nembe axis of the Bayelsa East Senatorial District. The sea was becoming pretty wild as noon approached. Waves rose violently and collapsed like tones of bricks, taking the boat with it. The occupants were all Ijaw natives and the
sea, no matter how violent, was native to them.

Suddenly, from the opposite side of the sea, a boat emerged almost from nowhere. And there was something eerie about its menacing speed. Every occupant of the other boat held a breath without betraying the fear inside. The strange boat was marked Bayelsa State Anti-Piracy. But the inscription was meant to deceive. The boat belonged to Teme Iseinasawo cult. Before the full identities of the occupants could be fully absorbed, a shot rang out and a bullet hit the boat driver. Other bullets followed in quick succession. The driver collapsed into the boat, swimming in his own blood.

Two councillors quickly recognised the gunboat leader, stood and raised their hands either in surrender or self-introduction. They were cut down instantly as the automatic rifles spit more fire. After the first few seconds of confrontation that claimed three lives, the assailants moved nearer the boat, which was now circling in the water having sacrificed its driver to gunfire. At close range, the occupants could now recognise the attackers. The pregnant woman, according to the fishermen who witnessed the gruesome action, was the first to shout at one of them, "You want to kill me, my blood and that of my baby will be on your head. Please don't kill me." Before she could finish the last sentence, the commander issued instructions and the boat almost went up in flames as the remaining nine occupants were shot.

Two people attempted an escape by jumping into the water. But they had barely hit the violent sea when hot leads hit them. Theirs were the only corpses recovered by the search party that responded to the attack. The killers were said to have driven the boat away with ten corpses that are yet to be recovered.

Dazed by the incidence, the Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, called an emergency State Security Council Meeting and was informed by the security chiefs that a total breakdown of law and order was imminent. At the end, he got in touch with President Olusegun Obasanjo and requested for better security measures to handle the situation. His request was simple: the situation is beyond the capability of the Police. It turned out to be the second time in about six years that Obasanjo had to call in soldiers from the specialised Amphibious Brigade to intervene in another Bayelsa State crisis. The first affected Odi.

The military team first went to Obioku where the victims came from. They were well received by the people who were still mourning the death of their loved ones. Then they left for Odioama. On arriving the jetty that leads into the community, eyewitnesses said they came face to face with a freshly built shrine. Just as the soldiers made to push aside the fetish barricade, gunshots tore through the bush. The soldiers suspected an ambush but did not return fire.

But as the attack became fiercer, the soldiers became aware that they must first stay alive to keep the peace. The commander ordered a return fire. It was war all the way. What worsened the situation was that in Odioama, like in any other fishing community, petrol required for operating engine boats are stored in drums and jerry cans at home. As the soldiers pushed into the community, spitting fire, bullets hit the drums of fuel. These exploded into balls of fire.

How did Odioama arrive at this? Historical information is unreliable about who actually founded Odioama, Obioku and Nembe Bassambiri. This is because every party to the crisis has a different story to tell. And the stories are told in manners that must favour the talebearers. For instance, Odioama believes that Obioku is its appendage and by right whatever belongs to Obioku belongs to it. This claim dates from the 12th Century. Recently, when oil was
discovered at Owukubu in Obioku, Odioama took steps to ensure that no activity would take place without its involvement as the owner of Obioku land. It wrote to Shell in October 1996 and followed up with a meeting last year. The community's demand was that Shell must not give to Obioku without her consent, whatever benefit should accrue to landowners before any drilling was carried out.

Odioama chiefs have asserted that the oil-bearing Owukubu in Obioku, located on the Santa Babara River, was founded by one of its sons, Okolo Ibologi, son of Ibologi Akanga of the Ikalamo family. There were indications that Shell went ahead to do its business with Obioku without involving Odioama. First, it acquired the location
called Owukubu and then dispatched a contractor to carry out the survey. Odioama was incensed despite promises by the frightened Obioku that there was a need for a compromise. It was the tension generated by the disagreement that resulted in the meeting called by Brass and Nembe council chairmen on February 2, 2005.

Chairman of Nembe Bassambiri Council of Chiefs, Chief D. F Sokare-Olali, and his deputy, Chief D. J. Erewari-Oruwari, in a document presented to the Senate identified those in the killer boat as Demain Nathan Demain, Mr. Olali Mark, Mr. Sunday Otari, Mr. Woki Ngomunabo, Kastinah Suotongha and Mr. Fyneface Frank, the boat driver. But the Obioku Council of Chiefs in another prepared document said Mr. Solomon Obed and Mr. Pedro Titibo Suobo were also in the boat. None of these names could be confirmed since all of them have been on the run. But most of the witnesses have confirmed that they are all Teme cult members and disciples of Osei Clever.

But the metamorphosis of Osei Clever and his Teme Iseinasawo cult group is rather intriguing. Osei Clever is said to be a famous medicine man who has received endorsements and patronage across Ijawland. He is said to be so fetish that confronting him is like confronting the gods. But while he practiced fetish medicine, a certain militant group known as Isengufuro was terrorising the entire area. Though the group was allegedly formed with good intentions, it soon became a monster and was hijacked by certain politicians for dirty deadly jobs. The rise of Teme Iseinasawo led by the famous juju priest was a response to the outcry of many people regarding the atrocities of Isengufuro. The Teme Iseinasawo group soon chased about 2,000 members of Isengufuro out of the
community. That single feat endeared its leader to the whole community. The chiefs applauded while young ones adored the group.

However, Osei Clever and his boys soon brought the entire community under subjection, according to prominent members of the community. He became the kingmaker and a terror. In Odioama, his word is law. At present, he is said to be completely out of anyone's control.

A new twist has been introduced to the situation: A self-confessed patron of the Teme Iseinasawo cult group, a lawyer and a politician, Chief N.B.P. Barigha-Amange, said, "I know Osei Clever. He is a registered native doctor, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party and a political leader in Brass Local Government Area. Every politician in the Local Government Area pays allegiance to him in order to win elections, Creek Haven (Bayelsa Government House), not an exception. In 2003 elections, Osei Clever and his Teme Iseinasawo Boys performed so well for Creek Haven, the seat of Bayelsa State Government, that he was compensated with appointment as the Brass Local Government Coordinator for Bayelsa Volunteers, the Bayelsa State Security outfit. In addition, both Nembe Local Government Council and Brass Local Government Council pay monthly allowance to Osei Clever and his boys. If Osei and his boys are cultists, thus criminals, are those local and state governments supporting them
with money and appointments saints?"

The Vice-Chairman, Odioama Council of Chiefs, Chief Dennis Orumegha-Bari, confirmed this when he appeared before the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee investigating the crisis. He said Osei Clever and his boys were always fully armed with automatic weapons, which he doubted even the Nigerian Army could boast of. He said it was impossible to get Osei Clever to disclose the sources of the weapon since he was regarded as the coordinator of the government-owned anti-piracy force. Orumegha-Bari said, "They told us that Bayelsa State Government provided the guns they were using. The boats were written clearly Bayelsa State Anti-Piracy. But I felt it was too much to ask the state government. But Osei Clever has been told severally to control his boys and not allow them display their rifles. We are not very aware of the cult side. Teme Iseinasawo members are not military trained. It was just some months ago during an incident that Osei Clever disclosed that government gave them some rifles for their operation. It is rather unfortunate that our ancient town has been so destroyed because of the search for Mr. Osei Clever and his
men. We wish to say that government should have stopped the support for him and his people when it was learnt that his organisation was a cult outfit, known as Teme."

But another lawyer, Mr. Dennis Otiotio, who represented the families of the deceased, gave a deeper insight into how the group acquired its weapons. Otiotio said apart from receiving direct financial patronage from their godfathers, the cult members were very rich. They engage in oil bunkering and exchange the product for rifles. He
said except the Teme Iseinasawo, all other chapters of Bayelsa Anti- Piracy groups were not armed. He said "People are protecting them for 2007 and God will not allow that to happen."

Another witness, Tekenate Ikurite, mentioned names of people suspected to be the financiers of Teme Iseinasawo. In a written submission, Ikurete alleged that Barigha-Amange and Pedro Ikata were financiers of the group. He said, "That the Iseinasawo killer squad has gained grounds in different branches throughout the entire length and breath of Bayelsa State is no longer news. The level of sophisticated weapons at their disposal shows how highly placed
persons in a bid to achieving their selfish and political motives would spend millions of Naira to unlawfully procure weapons for the purpose of destroying human lives."

Another chief from Nembe, Percy Diette-Spiff, said there were lots of political cover-up. Diette-Spiff said anytime the deals sponsored by the financiers of the group unfolded in such a manner that they
could be exposed, they would run to Abuja to hide under the shadows of their political godfathers, adding, "These people are so protected and we are in a country where there are murders without questions. Politicians purchase the guns the boys use. If you have irresponsible friends that have political connections, then you have
to be careful. When you report them nothing happens and they will tell you so."



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