Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Military curfew clashes with tradition in Bayelsa community

NIGHT life, almost like a norm among the Nembe-speaking folks and other time-honoured ways of existence have taken flight from the ancient Nembe community on the Atlantic fringe of Bayelsa East senatorial district.
This followed the slamming of curfew on the coastal settlement by the military in the wake of the gruesome killing of four soldiers and a police officer, sometime in August, by unknown armed men suspected to be pirates.

The gunmen reportedly launched a surprise dusk attack on a military base in the area, which claimed the lives of the security men. A security source told Niger Delta Voice that the imposition of the curfew in the area was a precautionary measure, a development that has turned out to be an albatross on the neck of the natives, predominantly anglers.

For the people whose homes lack modern sewage system and rely on the community convenience built at the waterfront to pass waste, it is certainly a pain in the ass. Just as they cannot venture out on fishing expedition during the duration of the curfew, 10p.m. to 6a.m., they are also deprived of the freedom to walk to the community waterfront to defecate.

The natives, according to findings, are also denied the opportunity of  observing wake keeps on Fridays for their departed ones without due clearance from the military authorities. Once dusk sets in, the residents run against time to beat the curfew and retire to their homes to avoid the wrath of the military personnel in the community.

CLO protests ‘siege’

The turn of events in the area may have informed the decision of the leadership of the Civil Liberties Organization, CLO, Bayelsa State branch, to voice its anger against alleged extortion and harassment of the natives by the military deployed to the community.

The CLO, in a protest letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Tukur Buratai, said the curfew had turned out to be a burden to the law-abiding people of the community.

The CLO Chairman, Chief Nengi James-Eriworio, said the military personnel deployed to the area have placed the communities under siege with cases of extortion, harassment and indiscriminate shooting that have paralyzed socio-economic activities in the area.

Chief James-Erioworio said: “Reports from the preliminary investigation conducted by the group showed that instead of conducting a detailed investigation into the killing of the five military personnel and reviewing security report on the possible lifting of the imposed curfew, the military personnel have turned the curfew into a money-making venture and have destroyed the economic activities of the people.

“Most of the indigenes of Nembe communities can no longer go early to fish or defecate by the water side as those caught were made to bail themselves.”

Burial ceremonies,

other activities affected

“They have hijacked the tradition of the people and limit the burial rites of the people to Friday instead of the traditional kick off on Thursday,” said the CLO chair, who, incidentally is from the area. The group alleged that in spite of the curfew, kidnappers abducted the Manager of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Floating Station in Nembe and dispossessed him of staff salaries.

The group called on President Buhari and the Chief of Army Staff to review the curfew and call the military personnel to order, saying “the people have suffered enough from degradation, they cannot continue as if there is a war.” Attempt to get the comment of the Coordinator, Joint Media Campaign Centre of the Joint Task Force, code-named Operation Shield, Lt Col Isa Ado, proved abortive as there was no response to the repeated calls.