Farah and Soboma later linked up with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a loose assemblage of armed groups claiming to fight for justice, resource control and self-determination for the Niger Delta peoples. They became its commanders, commanding the eastern Niger Delta (Rivers) command. MEND was founded on January 1, 2006. When on Sunday, January 28, 2007, some Police officers arrested Soboma George in Port Harcourt for a traffic offence; He was detained at the Central Police Station (CPS). Like the Israeli Operation Entebbe in Uganda, Farah again, and his dreaded-looking teenage fighters led by a 13-year-old then, code-named the Last Don broke into the cell while firing his AK47s in both hands and rescued Soboma from the Police custody and others. The late Soboma worked for the “victory” of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State. Scores of Outlaws members armed with AK47s assault rifles moved from one polling station to other, threatened peaceful and innocent prospective voters at gun point to either vote for the PDP in the state or leave the polling units. This took place in several places in mostly southern parts of Port Harcourt where The Outlaws controls, and before the watchful eyes of the Nigerian Police and other security forces there.

On such massive rigging, violent manipulations and criminality, Celestine Omehia, the Ubima, Ikwerre-born lawyer and politician came to power in Rivers State as governor. Omehia was later removed by a Supreme Court verdict, his cousin Hon. Rotimi Amaechi took over as governor to continue from where he stopped. Amaechi became governor as a result of the brand of politics played by the late Soboma George and cult gangs for the PDP. Our respected literary colossus, Professor Wole Soyinka once described the PDP as a nest of killers, while Major-General Muhammadu Buhari said the PDP is worse than a criminal kidnapping gang. After the massively rigged 2007 elections that brought Omehia to power in the state, groups like the Deebam, another infamous secret gang founded in Rivers State in early 1991 by Onengiye Ofori Terika, popularly called Occasion Boy continued the armed campaigns of violence. Terika was shot dead in October 2003 during a violent clash between his Deebam and Tom Ateke’s Icelander in Tombia in the Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State. The young Tombia youth activist, Prince Glad who later adopted the name, Prince Igodo became the head of the Deebam after Occasion Boy’s death. During the bloody conflicts between Tom Ateke and Dokubo-Asari, Prince Igodo fought on the side of Asari-Dokubo. 

 

Because Prince Igodo didn’t benefit from the Odili/Omehia election windfall to armed groups throughout the state, Igodo and his Deebam vowed to disrupt the inauguration of Omehia as governor on May 29, 2007. There was tension in the state, and while Igodo was preparing to take off from his house in the riverine Tombia community to launch violent campaigns against the incoming Omehia’s government, Soboma George and Farah’s fighters rounded him up in his house that early morning, and shot him dead and scores of his body guards. Those who killed Igodo were clearly acting on the orders of the new PDP government. The Prince Igodo of Rivers State is different from that of Bayelsa State, though they had their gang tutelage at the same time. The one of Bayelsa, Gibson Kala aka Prince Igodo was killed on Friday, June 27, 2008 by General Ogbumbos, with support from Tom Ateke’s Icelander. Ogbumbos was the second-in-command to Igodo, a 32-year-father of two, and a secondary school drop-out who was trained in Dokubo-Asari’s camp in Ogbakiri in the Emuoha Local Government Area of Rivers State. He hailed from Opuama community in the Southern Ijaw area of Bayelsa State (central Niger Delta). Average height, dark in complexion with a shooting goatee beard, he never wanted his Ogbumbos, to break away from his camp in Opuama, to form any other armed gang. On that fateful June 27, 2008, around 4:30pm, Commander Prince Igodo met his death by installment as his two legs were cut off with a sharp machete and left to bleed to death under the supervision of his disloyal second-in-command, Ogbumbos and fighters at Emete where he was hiding. 

 

On Sunday, June 29, 2008, heavily armed fighters of the Prince Dagogo Ipalibo Farah of the Niger Delta Strike Force (NDSF) invaded Abonnema town in the Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State in search of Commander Hassan, a top commander of Soboma George’s The Outlaws. Commander Hassan had fired gun shots at Farah’s fighters who were traveling in a fleet of engine boats along the Krakrama creek in the Degema axis of the State. In spite of Soboma and Farah being two soul-mates and commanders of the Henry Okah’s faction of MEND, Farah fished out Hassan and shot him dead, his body was deposited at the local mortuary in Abonnema, Farah later carted away to an unknown destination. The twosome leaders became estranged. On Tuesday, July 29, 2008, Soboma Jackrich (also known as Egberi papa), leader of the People’s Liberation Force (PLF) and also a MEND commander clashed with Soboma George’s The Outlaws. Violence swept through much of Abonnema, four soldiers of the Joint Task Force (JTF) were hit dead by stray-bullets of the gangs, while scores of innocent people were also killed as well as fighters on both sides. Both Soboma George and Soboma Jackrich hail from the Buguma community.

 

On Monday night, August 2, 2008, the gang war of attrition between the Sobomas spread to the rough Port Harcourt neighborhoods where the militias had strong cells. Faala Benibo, better known as Dagogo Farah supported Jackrich against George. They accused Soboma George of allowing The Outlaws men to commit of sorts of criminal things such as sea piracy, stealing of goods of innocent passengers along the waterways. In early 2008, Mrs. Seiye Lulu-Briggs, the wife of Chief Lulu-Briggs, the multi-billionaire oil mogul was kidnapped and millions of oil money was expended to buy her freedom, Egberi Papa (meaning “story teller” in Ijaw) was accused of the kidnap of Lulu-Briggs’ wife. The Police and other security agencies in Nigeria always draw hasty conclusions in critical matters like that of Soboma George. As a serious journalist and researcher on small arms and armed groups I knew Soboma George and other gang leaders in and outside the Niger Delta. The Police claimed that Pere, Dombra and Tommy, all estranged factional members of the slain ex-militant’s Icelander cult are suspected killers of Soboma George. The Soboma I knew was a very generous man who can get out of his way to do anything to take care of his fighters’ welfare. Apart from the monthly payments from the Presidential Amnesty Committee, Soboma was a rich man; monies from other sources were coming to him too. Money shouldn’t have been a problem. The life of a gang leader should be that of secrecy and mystery, and not that of playing football in the open like Soboma George was doing. The police couldn’t give a proper identity to Soboma’s group; he was an Outlaw, and not an Icelander.

Violence will also beget violence. The various violent acts of George can’t easily go off like that; they say in the gang world that revenge is sweet when it is cold. To unravel his killers we need to look at this as another angle to the puzzle. The late Soboma George is a victim of bad politics. Our society is a failed one. We have reached a point where every family will brag of how many guns each family has in their armory as we have now in the violence saturated Somalia. It is a harvest of guns; guns everywhere, whether the armed or the unarmed are not safe. My condolence to the poor youths throughout the country that our criminal politicians had turned into gangsters, who are killed on daily basis or maimed for a pointless cause, tomorrow is certainly far.                    

 

Naagbanton writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, Nigeria

Concluded 

 

 

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