John ODHE, Yenagoa
Miffed by heightened sea piracy on Bayelsa waterways, the leadership of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria in the state has given the state government a week to restore normalcy in the affected areas or be ready for indefinite strike action.
The union is calling on both the federal and Bayelsa state governments to step up security to secure lives and property on Bayelsa waterways which has been seized by suspected kidnappers who have made lives miserable for coastal dwellers in the state of recent.
Chairman of the state maritime union, Ogoniba Ipigansi made the call while speaking to TNN in his office at the Swali Ultra Modern Market in Yenagoa on the renewed wave of insecurity on the waterways.
In the past one week, several passenger boats have been attacked by the sea pirates in different riverine communities with reported cases of kidnap of passengers and stealing of properties as well as seizure of boats.
According to the chairman, several commercial boats conveying passengers to Brass and Nembe Local Government Areas of the state were attacked and passengers kidnapped while valuables were carted away by yet to be identified gunmen within the past one week.
Ipigansi recounted that Yenagoa bound speed boats that were coming from Akassa and Sangana communities in Brass LGA were attacked by suspected sea pirates who kidnapped some passengers and collected monies and other valuables belonging to the travelers.
He also narrated that boats coming from Odioma to Nembe and from Nembe to Brass as well as a boat heading from Yenagoa to Brass were also cornered by the suspected kidnappers who also kidnapped some passengers including a Chief from Odioma and stole their belongs, adding that boats were seized by the hoodlums.
The maritime union chairman lamented that the activities of the sea pirates have made river journey so unsafe and caused untold hardship to coastal dwellers as many have become stranded following the refusal of boat users to continue to ply the waterways for fear of being attacked.
He further hinted that the waterways had been left porous for a long time without security men on patrol to check criminal activities in the creeks, pointing out that the federal government was only interested in securing oil installations and careless about lives and property in the Niger Delta region.
As a result, we further learnt that the ugly situation has created food shortage and astronomical rise in the cost of commodities in the hinterlands following restriction of maritime movement, thereby causing untold hardship to those living in coastal communities which can only be assessed by water.
He said “we are facing serious sea pirate challenges on the waterways. The river is no longer safe. On Monday, a boat that was coming from Akassa to Yenagoa, the pirates bracketed that boat and carted away monies, properties and even the speed boat. The name of the boat is Godday Marine.
“They also stopped the boat that was coming from Sangana, robbed everybody and kidnapped one person from that boat just as they stopped the one coming from Kongho, robbed the passengers and equally kidnapped one person. All these things happened on Monday.
“Then, on Tuesday, a boat coming from Odioma to Nembe was stopped by the same sea pirates. They now dropped the two persons they kidnapped from Akassa to this other boat and kidnapped one Chief from there. That was around past nine in the morning.
“Around 2:pm on the same day, a boat known as Magnus Marine, which was coming from Nembe to Brass was stopped, robbed and three persons kidnapped. On that same Tuesday, a boat from Yenagoa to Brass was robbed and another three persons kidnapped.
“There are no security men in the river. The only security people are the ones securing oil rigs and flow stations but there are no security men securing the speed boats and the wooden boats.
“If the state and the federal governments and the security agencies do not look into these issues of insecurity properly, the union will have no other choice than to embark on strike.
“About 75 per cent of Bayelsa is covered by water. So, by next week, if the government does not listen to the cry of the people, we will serve a notice of strike of action.”