The Bayelsa State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has condemned Tuesday’s killing of residents of Amassoma, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, by the police. In a statement released on Wednesday in Yenagoa signed by APC’s State Publicity Secretary-Elect, Mr Doifie Buokoribo, the party described the killings as an unwarranted display of raw power against defenceless natives. It blamed Governor Henry Seriake Dickson for failing to exercise mature leadership through sincere dialogue with the protesting residents, but choosing, instead, to invite the police and army to visit death and destruction on the people.
APC lamented what it called “pointless cruelty” by Governor Dickson against the community of former governor of the state and Governor-General of the Ijaw nation, late Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, saying it is a re-enactment of a previous inhuman behaviour meted out to Alamieyeseigha by Dickson.
APC called for the immediate withdrawal of the soldiers from Amassoma to allow the people return to the deserted community, and an independent inquiry into the killings. It appealed to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to send relief materials to the community to reduce their suffering.
The party said, however, that Tuesday’s onslaught on Amassoma, on the orders of Dickson, “shouldn’t really surprise anyone because it was the same Dickson who, along with other protesters, buried an empty Alamieyeseigha coffin in Yenagoa years ago, in his most trying time. Dickson has, apparently, decided to kill Alamieyeseigha a second time.”
Below is the full text of the statement:
“AMASSOMA KILLINGS: THIS POINTLESS CRUELTY MUST STOP
The All Progressives Congress (AP) in Bayelsa State is greatly shocked and saddened by the incidents on Tuesday in Amassoma, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, which resulted in the death of community members. Residents of the university town were engaged in a peaceful protest march against the forceful reopening of the Niger Delta University, when armed policemen moved in with tear gas and life bullets to try to disperse the protesters, causing the deaths and several injuries.
Reports from a plurality of sources say the demonstrators – mainly women and the youth – were protesting what they believed to be an arbitrary dismissal of their kinsmen and kinswomen from the school. The protesters had a few days before welded the metal gate of the university, which had been shut since March, to try to force the state government to address their grievances before reopening the institution. But the state government chose to deploy force to reopen the university, instigating the melee, and spilling blood.
Our hearts go out to the families of the slain and injured Amassoma community members. Some of those killed include: Jacob Eyigha; Paul Orus; Godnolie Gagede; Joseph Kpoun, and Douglas Moses, all APC members. Eyigha was Assistant Legislative Officer in Ward 9, Orus was Ex-officio Member of the party’s executive committee in Ward 2, Gagede was Financial Secretary in Ward 2, Kpoun was Ex-officio Member in Ward 2, and Moses was APC chairman in Ward 2. They were elected at the recent APC ward congresses in the state.
We believe the victims were deliberately targeted in a way that shows a complete lack of emotion. Their blood is on someone’s hands. And their blood would speak some Tuesday, for sure.
The ugly sequence of events that preceded that black Tuesday in Amassoma tells only a part of the story of the governance deficit in Bayelsa State under Governor Dickson.
From accounts already in the public domain, the former governor of the state, late Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, had acquired large portions of community land in Amassoma for the establishment of the Niger Delta University while he was in office. The acquisition was based on an understanding with the natives, who are mainly crop farmers and fisher folks, that they will be compensated with liberal employment opportunities at Niger Delta University for the loss of their means of livelihood.
The understanding remained until recently, when about 1, 700 of the locals were sacked in one fell swoop by the unfair, unsympathetic and ungodly administration of Governor Dickson.
We believe that agreements, such as the one under which the Amassoma people were employed at Niger Delta University, are a common practice all over the world, especially in developing societies. And if there was any need to change or review the process, the government and the people could have come to an understanding about it, rather than the resort to force by the state government.
Democracy is an unending process of negotiation and dialogue, and under no circumstance should a responsible government have lost hope and faith in discussion and elected draconianism.
We have just gathered that soldiers have joined the riot police to sack and occupy Amassoma, and the place is currently a ghost community. This is sad and unfair, especially for a community that produced the illustrious Ijaw son and Governor-General of the Ijaw nation, Alamieyeseigha.
But it shouldn’t really surprise anyone because it was the same Dickson who, along with other protesters, buried an empty Alamieyeseigha coffin in Yenagoa years ago, in his most trying time. Dickson has, apparently, decided to kill Alamieyeseigha a second time.
To reduce the suffering of the people, APC in Bayelsa State calls on the military authorities to immediately withdraw the soldiers from Amassoma so that the people can return to their homes to begin to pick themselves up after the harrowing experience.
APC calls on the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to come to the aid of the traumatised Amassoma community with relief materials and medical supplies.
We call for an independent investigation of the killings in Amassoma to bring the perpetrators to justice.
As ever, Dickson has pointed accusing fingers at “opposition political leaders”.
But as the world can see, the whole tragic episode in Amassoma typifies the pointless cruelty, lack of tact, and inordinate display of raw power that is the hallmark of Dickson’s government.
APC believes mature leadership is what Bayelsa State requires at this trying moment, not the hackneyed search for those to take the blame for the government’s failure.”