Anderson E. Hart
In renewed protests to draw attention as well as action by the government and its relevant agencies to wanton killings in Bonny Town, in Rivers State, youths from the area will tomorrow, Thursday, in Port Harcourt, continue the warning protest started earlier in Bonny to register their angst against incessant kidnapping, killing, and general insecurity on the Island.
The protest, to draw natives of the famous island, shall also condemn the continuous silence and inaction on the path of the Local, State, and Federal government,respectively, over the critical issue.
The protest, which is scheduled to start at UTC junction, is to terminate at the Rivers State Government House where a presentation of a 5-point request, among others, will be to Governor Nyesom Wike.
Bonny youths had on Monday 11th January, 2021, protested to strategic institutions on the island to call for an urgent solution to the ugly monster of insecurity, in the form of sea piracy, kidnapping, and killing on her waterways, that has continued to claim the lives of vibrant youth and residents of the area. The youth who must have endured to a strangulating point decided to take this path to critically draw the attention of relevant authorities from the government at all levels, to the Bonny traditional institution and armed forces domiciled in the area.
The killing, kidnapping and criminality in the Bonny territorial waters has taken another trajectory since 2017 where the people witnessed a whopping 22 attacks and the loss of nine lives, uncountable injury, and kidnapping cases. This was sustained in 2018, 2019, and 2020 with massive annihilation by criminal tendencies on the sea.
The recent protest was sparked off by incidents of January 5th, 2021 where two vibrant Bonny youth, including a former President of National Union of Bonny Youth, NUB, were brutally attacked by sea pirates and allowed to drown and die in the creek around one of the Bonny villages.
Speaking to newsmen, Comrade Wisdom Chapp Jumbo, a frontline member of the #EndBonnyKillings protest, said the warning protest is aimed at sending a clear message to leaders at all levels that “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!”.
“We cannot continue to remain silent and unconcerned while our people are brutally murdered, kidnapped, and killed daily”, he said.
The protest had a five (5) point agenda which included a demand to government to set up and maintain security houseboats and gunboats with an ambulance at strategic points along the Port Harcourt to Bonny sea route; call on the Federal Government, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and the Rivers State Government to look into the Bonny Ring Road to aid security in the island villages in Bonny and set up a community surveillance team for the sea routes in the area; and, ensure boats and all traveling facilities or equipment (life jacket, engine, etc.) are in good conditions and adequate for operations.
The other demand of the youths is for public profiling of all boat drivers and owners, including those plying the villages.
Wisdom Chapp Jumbo noted that in December 2020, the Federal Government withdrew over $21billion from the dividends account of NLNG noting that Bonny, being the host community to the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas, had been peaceful. “If Bonny was not peaceful, will the Federal Government make this much money?”, he asked, condemning the inaction on the path of the Federal government which he described as “quite disturbing”.
Jumbo also condemned the neglect by the Rivers State Government saying it was enough. “Bonny Island generates at least N6 billion yearly in revenue to the Rivers state government. Why this neglect? Why allow us to suffer? Why allow our people to die? We don’t deserve this neglect. See how my people suffer on the Bonny waterways to travel home. Aside from sea piracy, we suffer rape and kidnap. The #EndBonnyKillings peaceful protest by the youths of Bonny is to send a clear message that we are tired. Enough is Enough! The sea piracy attacks are enough and must be brought to an end.”
He equally condemned the non-challance of Bonny local government Chairman, Hon. David Irimagha, whom he said stayed away from his office at the council’s headquarters when the protesting youths went there to convey their demands.
Though it was claimed by some council workers that Hon. Irimagha had traveled to Port Harcourt to attend to official issues, the youths were adamant, insisting that he must address the protesting crowd. Some of the protesters slept over at the secretariat in the course of the protest that drew a large crowd.
It was gathered that up until today, the Chairman had yet to address the protesters.
But at the palace of His Royal Majesty, King William Dappa Pepple, Perekule XI, Amayanabo of Bonny, they were received by one of the palace chiefs, Se-Alabo Abel Attoni, who assured the crowd that the traditional institution was in similar pain as the youths. As a result, he said, the Chiefs’ Council, as a matter of priority, was resolved to work closely and effectively with government, the media and other relevant authorities to bring lasting solutions to the insecurity and sea piracy in Bonny.
For Gladstone Hart, a concerned Bonny indigene, “Bonny sea-route isn’t safe and fashionable anymore as it used to be the beehive of activities. This is due to high profile unchecked recurring sea pirates attacks. Our villages too are the worst hit. They(armed bandists) point-and-kill or take.”
Mr. Hart continued, “The people that are meant to use this jetty more prefer to use the NLNG boat booking system; flight or through Ogoni-Bodo jetty axis due to fear of being hacked to death untimely or disposed of their valuables while traveling. Disgustfully, there is no age bracket or gender-friendly exemption to these barbaric and heinous crimes they commit against humanity. He prayed government to possibly go back to the drawing board, look at the map, connect or detour any State Government owned coastal road project network to Bonny Ring Road. Through any available nearby Bonny village, reroute to Bonny main town, or let government take over the construction of the Bonny Ring Road entirely in other to connect it to any nearby Port Harcourt route by road while we await Bonny-Bodo Road by the Federal Government in partnership with NLNG. I believe strongly that it will be a desirable and appropriate gesture. Thus, a much to celebrate parting gift to the good people of Bonny kingdom for voting massively for the Governor twice.”
Though amidst the protest there were people who think otherwise, a Bonny youth, Emmanuel Hart, in his remark said the protests may not be the last resort but that the people would engage relevant stakeholders in constructive discussions and dialogue.
He noted that dialogue would help the youths achieve their demands as he said that previous protests that did not involve dialogue yielded no resolution. He called for a change of strategies, bearing in mind also that the attacks were well-orchestrated “by enemies of our beloved Kingdom to cause distraction and anarchy amongst ourselves.”
He said it was expedient for the apex youth body in the area, Bonny Youth Federation, BYF, to call an urgent meeting comprising of all Bonny youths, to be held at the Ibanise Town Hall, to deliberate on the way forward in the face of the challenges. According to him, “it takes a rational and unselfish nature to work for the achievement of the common good and enhance the value of human life and dignity. Let us map out useful strategies on how to deal with these issues that have besieged us”, he opined.
Another native of the area, Ferdinand Wari, who spoke to newsmen said, “It is good to apportion blame, however, there is a need to make sure you blame the right people” noting that there was no need blaming only Gov. Wike and his administration while omitting successive Bonny local chairmen, commissioners from Bonny, and even Your Youth Federation and to some extent the traditional institution.
According to him, “Let’s be practical. If you want to hear the truth, BYF/NUBS/MULTI-NATIONAL Companies in Bonny should hold a conference on insecurity on our waterways, so we can talk and find a lasting solution”. Protests have never worked in Bonny” he said. One Minabo Bristol who spoke real name withheld said a certain amount of money is annually given to the Bonny community by NLNG and SPDC. According to them, if this money is well harnessed, and with the government support it can provide a far-reaching solution to these security challenges.
However, according to him, the money is not even accessible, because certain persons are in court over critical issues of the kingdom. It is indeed disheartening to see what the Bonny people are passing through in terms of insecurity and killing while relevant authorities look the other way. Bonny Youths should however be proud of themselves, they showed resilience and strength today. The insinuation is that the leaders have looked down on the youths way too long. The statement #EndBonnyKillings movement today is just the beginning of greater things ahead.
The protest on Monday was followed by a candlelight procession at the Bonny Cemetary for those who lost their lives in the hands of the daredevil sea pirates and will be followed by a massive protest in Port Harcourt on Thursday 14th January 2021.