Sea-side calm is gradually returning to Opu-Nembe, the ancient town of Bayelsa State that was invaded by a combined team of soldiers and policemen. There were divergent accounts on the mission of the security operatives in the town.
While one account said the soldiers were there because of an illegal armoury believed to have been maintained by some youths in the town, another account said a top politician from the area had invited them to arrest those who were not supportive of his political ambition.
As at Sunday, there were unconfirmed reports that one person had died, while many others were wounded as a result of gun shots.
Also on Sunday, Opu-Nembe women went into the streets to protest the repeated invasion of the town by security operatives. A similar invasion had taken place in February this year.
During the last incident, the community was said to have petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, asking him to investigate and bring perpetrators to book. The petition was said to have been given to the immediate past minister of petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, to deliver to the IGP.
The raid by security forces was said to have led to the arrest of some youths with guns. They have already confessed the source of their guns, listing a youth leader in the community among those behind the illegal armoury.
Meanwhile, the police in Bayelsa State has spoken on the crisis. Police image maker, Asinim Butswat said in a statement on Sunday “that a detachment of Mobile Policemen (PMF) and SWAT operatives from Force Headquarters, Abuja carried out a sting operation in Nembe Bassambiri on 12 August 2023, Some Arms and ammunition were recovered and suspects were arrested.
“The sting operation was conducted professionally, based on the standard operating procedure of the Nigeria Police Force. No life was lost. Members of the community are urged to go about their lawful and legitimate businesses as the Police would not harass or intimidate any law abiding citizen. Investigation is on-going and the outcome would be made public.”
This is coming even as the Bayelsa State government has challenged the police high command to get to the root of the matter and ensure that those behind the troubles in Opu-Nembe are punished.
A statement by the state commissioner for information, Ayiba Duba, on Sunday, said “the attention of the Bayelsa State Government has been called to the Saturday 12th August, 2023 unfortunate security situation in Opu-Nembe (Bassambiri), creating a serious sense of insecurity, panic and fear among the people of the community.
“There is the suspicion that the attack on the community is not unconnected with the upcoming November, 11 gubernatorial elections in the state and the crude desire of some unpopular politicians to impose their will on the voters of the area.
“The State Government wishes to enjoin the people of Bassambiri in Nembe Local Government Area and indeed all residents of the state to remain calm as government will continue to work with the police and its sister agencies to ensure that the perpetrators of this dastardly act are brought to book.
“The Bayelsa State Government calls on the Inspector General of Police to cause an immediate investigation aimed at unravelling the identity of these criminals, and their sponsors, who have continued to undermine public peace in Nembe.
“It is time to stop handling the tormentors of the Nembe people with a kid glove. The police high command must be on top of the situation without further delay.”