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Militants, Ondo Govt to swear before Egbesu... over N500 million deal

Posted by By Kayode Fasua on 2007/09/16 | Views: 670 |

Militants, Ondo Govt to swear before Egbesu... over N500 million deal

Wearied by the kidnap saga of last week, elders of Arogbo-Ijaw communities of Ese-Odo Local Government area have reportedly embarked on steps aimed at cleansing the land.

Wearied by the kidnap saga of last week, elders of Arogbo-Ijaw communities of Ese-Odo Local Government area have reportedly embarked on steps aimed at cleansing the land.

A source in Opuba, one of the troubled communities in the locality, confided in Sunday Sun that the first such step being contemplated was to discover the truth out of an allegation that the state government promised to reward the Ijaw militants with N5oomillion to rig the last governorship election in the area.

Following "a tentative settlement", the militants had Friday released the remaining eight hostages who happen to be leaders of ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state. Three other were let off earlier in the week.

The source informed that officials of the Ondo State government and members of acclaimed Movement for the Emancipation of Niger-Delta (MEND) would soon be invited to swear before the dreaded Egbesu deity, to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of their respective claims.
The MEND, shortly before it kidnapped the 11 leaders, had alleged that agents of the state hired the group to rig the last governorship election, with a promise to grease its palm with a whooping N500million.

But stridently, the Ondo State government has denied the allegation, describing it as cheap blackmail.
According to our source "any representative of either side that comes before Egbesu to make a false claim should just go and write his will as Egbesu’s judgment for lying is instant death".
But in an exclusive interview with Sunday Sun last week, Secretary to the State Government, (SSG), Mr. Isaacs Kekemeke, an Arogbo Ijaw native, challenged the militant to a ‘swear-duel’ before the Egbesu deity as he would stop at nothing to prove the innocence of the state government.

"Egbesu is a respected deity in Ijawland, let them come and swear before it that government had even an oral agreement, much less a written one, with them.
"If they can do this, the whole world will know who is lying"
Speaking further, Kekemeke said he took exception to media branding of members of the acclaimed MEND as militants. "They are not militants but criminals," he said.

"Is robbing people of their hard-earned money a militant act? No. Is barging into people’s homes and raping their wives a militant act? No. Is storming the market place and maiming innocent traders a militant act? No. Is engaging in oil bunkering and living like princes a militant act? No. Certainly, these boys who are not MEND members, are criminals and not militants," Kekemeke averred
He also sneered at the allegation that the state government was owing the group N500million being payment for election rigging contract.

"Does it make sense for any government or anybody to pay N500million for election rigging in two wards out of 203 wards that make up the state?" the SSG asked rhetorically.
He, however, disclosed that information reaching him indicated that the militants had made their captives to sign documents under duress, implicating the state government in the alleged N500million election rigging deal.

He blamed a faction within the PDP in the locality for the kidnap incident, saying the opposition party did not have a hand in it
The government, he vowed, would not be cowed by the development.
Meanwhile, wife of Mr. Corporal Nanaopiri, one of the kidnapped PDP leaders, told Sunday Sun on phone that she was in the hospital. She also said that she was not in the mood to react to her husband’s kidnap.

In the same vein, shortly after the kidnap last weekend, family members of the kidnapped PDP leaders in Arogbo-Ijaw area decamped apparently afraid that they too could be kidnapped.
Although Kekemeke vowed that government would not pay any ransom to secure the release of the PDP chieftains, it was gathered that Mr. Kingsley Kuku, a former member of the House of Assembly in the state, "was empowered by the governor to negotiate with the militants towards the release of the leaders".

Another top government source said family members to the kidnapped men put Governor Agagu under pressure. "Wives to some of them would phone the governor and cry, cry and cry, without any conversation," the source disclosed.
But Kuku in an interview with Sunday Sun, denied giving money to the militants to secure the PDP chieftains’ release.

"They did not demand for money and we did not give them money. They only complained about the attitude of a government official. We’ve resolved the disagreement and we are forging ahead," he said.
Already, the Ondo State Police Command has lamented that it could not forestall the kidnap because "the people did not give police information early enough".
Giving the excuse in a chat with Sunday Sun, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Aremu Adeniran, urged the Arogbo-Ijaw people to cultivate the habit of tipping off the police ahead of any fore-known crime.

He said the state Commissioner of Police, Shehu Babalola, had beefed up police presence in the area, adding that a joint patrol of the water ways by the police and the Navy was already complementing security arrangement in the area.

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