Palpable tension on Friday enveloped Gbaramatu kingdom in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State as men of the Nigerian Navy recently deployed to the area following renewed vandalization of oil installations, were alleged to have shot dead a sand scooper on Thursday.
The victim identified as Bernard Pius was allegedly killed at a jetty in Tebujor Okpelama community, a Gbaramatu enclave where wanted ex-militant leader, High Chief Government Ekpemukpolo alias Tompolo hails from.
Since the incident, anger is reported to be building up among the people as the fragile peace existing in the kingdom was said to have been threatened by the killing.
Tebujor Okpelama community chairman, Moses Yabrade told journalists at the village that the late Pius was scooping sand at the jetty when a naval officer he identified as Izonfade Kenneth led other naval men to the area and shot at their son unprovoked who fell into the river where he struggled to death.
The Navy officer who is incidentally an Ijaw, regularly patrolled the vicinity in a gun boat following recent vandalization of major pipelines in the waterways of Warri South West Council, Yabrade narrated.
Tebujor Okpelama community chairman explained; “The incident happened at about 10pm Thursday night. Pius was scooping sand and it is a normal commercial activity at such quiet time when fishermen also ply their trade. The victim was alerted by folks that his sand boat on a 40 horsepower engine at the Jetty was drifting.
“He then rushed back and was pulling it back ashore with another boat. That was the point Izonfade patrolled in with other colleagues in a gunboat. After shooting and killing him he moved into the community bragging about the act and threatening to shoot another person if he does not get gratification.
“He was offered N5000 before he joined his colleagues in the waiting gunboat and they disappeared, leaving us to mourn our dead. Incidentally, the shooter is an Ijaw man we initially see as one of us, but he and his colleagues have been terrorizing us. The officer must be brought to book or we will take to self-help.”
A prominent Gbaramatu Chief, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, the Bebenowei (Chief Mobilizer) of Gbaramatu kingdom lamented the incident calling on the federal government to ensure that the naval officer was arrested and persecuted.
Gbenekama who conveyed the corpse of the middle age man to mortuary said if nothing was done by the government the situation may snowballed into crisis in the Niger Delta region.
But in a swift reaction to the allegation, Commander, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Delta, Commodore Raimi Mohammed said it was too early for him to give true picture of what transpired, noting that his men may have followed standard operating procedures.