In a seeming indication that he is overwhelmed by rising insecurity and violent crimes in Bayelsa State, Governor Seriake Dickson has set up an 11-member task force to tackle issues of maritime insecurity in his state. The governor appointed Ebikabowei Victor-Ben, an ex-militant and leader of the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), to head the task force charged with securing the state’s creeks and waterways against violent criminals. The ex-militant is popularly known as “Boy Loaf.”
Bayelsa State has been plagued recently by a spate of high-profile abductions and homicidal attacks by pirates. Among recent kidnap victims were the 90-year-old mother of a senator from Bayelsa State as well as a brother of the speaker of the state assembly. Both victims have since been released.
Some critics of Governor Dickson’s constitution of the maritime security task force said the move was dictated by partisan political considerations. “This is all preparatory to the general elections in 2015 and the governorship election a year afterwards,” said one critic who asked for anonymity. The source said the governor’s move also signaled a lack of confidence in the established security agencies present in the state.
“Bayelsa State is already the headquarters of the joint military task force in the Niger Delta,” said the source, adding, “Why then do we need another task force headed by Boy Loaf if not for political reasons?”
The joint task force comprises units of various services of the Nigerian Armed Forces, including the Air Force, Navy, police, civil defense, and the State Security Services (SSS).
Bayelsa State also has a volunteer security outfit that reportedly has 11,000 members in addition to a special security outfit known as “Operation Doo Akpor Marine.”
A source close to Governor Dickson told SaharaReporters that the decision to constitute the “Boy Loaf” task force came after a coalition of ex-militant leaders brokered deals that led to the release of three recent high-profile kidnap victims, including Mrs. Florentina Paulker, mother of Senator Emmanuel Paulker, and Iniokpoemi Benson, a younger brother of the Speaker of Bayelsa House of Assembly, Kombowei Benson.
The “Boy Loaf” task force has Osei Clever as the vice chairman, while Tony Ekisa, Reuben Wilson, Ayibatari Odio, Alalebo West, are some of the members. The other members are Ibarakumo Otobo, Daubiri Samba, Chiefson O. Chiefson, Etai Daniel and Pius Andabai Wariyai.
A statement signed by Governor Dickson’s spokesman, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, disclosed that the task force was aimed at stemming the tide of kidnappings, sea piracy, illegal bunkering and oil pipeline vandalism that have been on the increase in recent times in the state.
Mr. Iworiso-Markson also explained that the task force is expected to collaborate with “Operation Doo Akpor-Marine” which is to be headed by a naval officer.
The government statement revealed that Mr. Dickson was deeply concerned about the rising cases of insecurity in the waterways. The government called on community leaders, youths and the general public to be vigilant and cooperate with the special task force as well as the various security agencies to combat the perpetrators of criminal activities in the creeks.
It remained unclear how the joint task force and various security agencies in the state would work with the series of rival security outfits created by Governor Dickson.
Both the special task force and the leadership of “Operation Doo Akpor Marine” are to be coordinated by Colonel Bernard Kenebai, a retired army officer who serves as special adviser to the governor on security.