Kinsmen of Government Ekpemukpolo, known as Tompolo, a former militant leader, have asked the military, the Nigerian Police, and other security agencies to exercise restraint in the execution of President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to “deal ruthlessly with ballot box snatchers”.
Tompolo's kinsmen, under the aegis of the Warriors Ijaw Peace Monitoring Group (WIPMG), said the Nigerian military and the Police should not take advantage of the directive to “harass and intimidate voters as the riverine terrain is naturally difficult to navigate”.
Patrick Bigha, Chairman of WIPMG, urged the military adhere strictly to its rules of engagement or code of conduct.
The statement read: "There is over 200% increment of the cost of transportation in the riverine areas now. The only means of transportation is by boats, and it is certain that voters must be transported from their living homes to their voting units by boats, either speedboats or slowly moving boats.
"This advice became imperative as there is already fear and tension in the riverine communities, because of the incessant harassment and intimidation of riverine dwellers by the Nigerian military in recent times. The greatest evil one can inflict on the riverine dwellers is to stop them from voting candidates of their choice during the elections, as it is the only means for them to participate in the affairs of the country.
"One thing the military should know is that we are in a democratic state and democracy has come to stay in Nigeria. The military must adhere strictly to its rules of engagement or code of conduct.
"The riverine dwellers have realised that the bane of development in our country is the election of leaders, as electing the wrong persons into positions of authority has contributed greatly to the present level of development in Nigeria, especially economic and infrastructural development of the riverine communities, for instance, the abandonment of the Escravos free trade zone (EPZ) project, which compromises a gas city at Ogidigben and a deep sea port in Gbaramatu kingdom.
"The project was inaugurated by the former administration in March 2015. This is a project that would have employed about 150,000 personnel at the construction stage. This project would have helped to reduce the level of unemployment in Nigeria today, but it was abandoned by the current Federal Government as a result of the 2015 election, even though the project was largely driving by the private sector.
"Another example is the politicization of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, established by the former administration in May 2014. The university was almost written off by the current government, if not for the aggressive public outcry of Nigerians, and the university is the only good thing that has happened to the riverine communities in the Niger Delta region since the existence of this country.
"It is in view of all these happenings that we want to sincerely appeal to the military to understand the plight of the riverine dwellers, so that they can exercise their civic right unhindered."