Bayelsa community, soldiers clash over crude tankers
There is palpable tension in Biseni community in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State as women and youths of the area prevented some soldiers from freeing five tankers conveying ‘black liquid’ suspected to be stolen crude oil.
A community leader in Biseni, Chief Justus Bekesu, said Friday’s clash was triggered by an incident in the area last Sunday when residents suspected some trucks coming out of oil drilling sites.
Bekesu said: “On that day, our people saw tankers coming out of Biseni forest where both Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) drill crude oil from. Suspecting foul play, our youths stopped them and wanted to know what the tankers were carrying.
“When our people asked, they said it was water mixed with chemical. They claimed that they avoided disposing the chemical at the site to avoid damage to the environment.
“They also claimed they were taking it to a safe place for proper disposal. But our youths insisted that they wanted to confirm if what they said was true.
“But to our greatest surprise, when they checked, the first tanker was conveying water while the remaining four tankers were filled with crude oil. And when the soldiers were confronted with the facts, they claimed that they didn’t know that the other tankers were carrying crude oil. After much argument, they left.”
He claimed the residents woke up on Friday morning to see over 30 armed soldiers in their community to allegedly free the seized trucks.
He further alleged the soldiers even came with tire pumps to put air in the tires of the tankers the youths had deflated with the intention to move them away by force.
Bekesu noted: “That was when our youths and women came out en masse and blocked the road preventing them from leaving by any means.
“It was so terrible that schools were even shut down to safeguard our children from any eventuality. At the end, they failed and left after the clash. But we still fear for a reprisal from the military and whoever sent them.”
The Head of the Niger Delta Resource Centre of the Environmental Right Action (ERA), Morris Alagoa, also confirmed the incident.
He urged the Bayelsa and Federal Government to investigate the matter to its logical conclusion and deal with the issue accordingly.
“The good people of Biseni should be commended for exhibiting this rare act of bravery and patriotism. The act of those responsible for this attempt at stealing crude oil in five giant tankers should be condemned in its entirety,” Morris stated.
Efforts to confirm the development from spokesman for the Joint Task Force, Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), Major Victor Odukoya, were unsuccessful as calls to his mobile phone failed to connect.