By Ndu Samuel
A leading Niger Delta rights group, Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative IPDI has passed a strong worded message to the Nigeria Police Force in the Warri Area to tread with causion over the burning down of Etekele community by alleged Itsekiri youths to avoid another round of crisis between the Ijaws and Itsekiris.
IPDI asked the Police to immediately effect the release of two Ijaw youths who are allegedly in detention currently in Police Headquarters Asaba.
The group issued a press release signed by its acting secretary Comr. Emma Keneware, on Saturday, a copy was sent to The Liberator Newspaper in which it urged the Police to arrest the perpetrators of the heinous crime.
Keneware described the invasion and burning of the Etekele community by a group of Itsekiri youths from Warri as barbaric, noting that unless urgent steps are taken to bring the culprits to book, the Ijaws will begin to see the action of the police from the ethnic angle.
”It is also our demand that the unlawfully detained two Ijaws in the force headquarters at Asaba be released without further delay, those Ijaws who are unlawfully detained are innocent. they are good Samaritans who went to A division Warri to incident the uproar in Etekele community. ” He noted
While giving insight into the genesis of the crises, Keneware said ”our source told us that about some days ago, a woman went to Etekele with a big boat for ferry, the other ferry owners refused to allow her to use the boat, reason being that the size of the boat was overwhelming and it led to a dispute.”
”Suddenly, some Itsekiris who got the information about the minor dispute in the community invaded the community with speed boats and began to harass and accuse them that they were trying to gang up to take over their land.”
The IPDI scribe however said that their investigation revealed that contrary to claims,the Itsekiris do not own any part of Etekete community, nothing that those who deals in felling of trees in the community pays royalty to the Etekele people.
They regretted that what started as a minor misunderstanding between members of the Etekele community and the Itsekiris later snowballed into a full blown crises, he said that while the trouble lasted, one Victor Otatuwawei and a few others escaped from the community through the bush to Warri to avoid being killed .
He explained that ”Upon reaching Warri, Information got to them that two persons have died in the conflict, the detained Victor Otatuwawei and Omoko Festus decided to go to A-division to report the situation to the police. Upon reaching A-Division, Victor and Festus were detained based on the fact that the Itsekiris had already informed the police on the matter.”
He lamented that the Police did not allow them to tell their own side of the story but rather moved them to force headquarters Asaba charging them for homicide, while all effort to secure their bail has been frustrated by the police on the excuse that they were acting on the orders of the Olu of Itsekiri.
”We condemned the action of the Itsekiri Monarch, the issue is a communal one, an Ijaw was killed and no Itsekiri has been arrested, instead of him to order for the arrest of other Itsekiris who fomented the trouble, he is giving frivolous order that the Ijaws who voluntarily visited the police station to inform the police about the incident should not be released. He is bias and such action is capable of causing another tribal war.” He warned.
”We demand that the police should tread with caution as their action could escalate the conflict.” He said
”It is our further request that the unlawfully arrested Ijaws be released without further delay to avoid other unfriendly reactions on the matter and the Police should carry out discrete investigation on the matter and bring the actual perpetrators to face the full weight of the law.”