Yesterday, the Nigerian Army arrested the chief ruler of Yeghe community in Ogoniland, Rivers State, Chief Barinaadaa Gbaranee, for interrogation over the recent alleged killings in the area.
In reaction, women and youths in the area staged a peaceful protest, demanding his immediate and unconditional release.However, a statement signed by the Chairman, Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, King Suanu Baridam, and sent with email address of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), claimed that the monarch was abducted by the Army and condemned the act.
Baridam said in the statement: “We consider the abduction of Gbaranee a desecration of the highly respected traditional institution and strongly reject the humiliation of an Ogoni traditional stool by the Army.”
He also accused the Army of dubious intentions, calling on Nigerians and the international community to take note of what he described as clear genocidal intentions against the Ogoni, particularly the Yeghe people.
He stated that an abduction of a government-recognised monarch and member of the state council of traditional rulers was unacceptable to the entire Council.
But the spokesman of 2 Brigade of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt, Capt. Eli Lazarus, said the monarch was only invited to clear some issues, adding that the Army cannot abduct a monarch.
Lazarus said: “The Army cannot abduct his Royal Highness; we invited him to come and clear some security issues.“We are conducting investigations and immediately we are through with it, we will make it public.”It would be recalled that the military recently invaded Ogoniland, where over 20 persons were reportedly killed.
During a public hearing on the matter last month when members of House of Representatives visited the state to investigate the killings, Gbaranee accused the Army of deliberately carrying out the killings in Yeghe community.
But Baridam said: “We demand the immediate release of Gbaranee and expect that if their be any issues regarding his conduct, he ought to be treated with respect, decency and in a dignified manner with an invitation.”
Also, the National Youth Council of Ogoni People (NYCOP) and youth wing of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) have condemned the arrest of the paramount ruler.
President of NYCOP, Young Nkpah, made the position of the group known in a statement in Port Harcourt, where he demanded for the immediate and unconditional release of the paramount ruler.
In another development, thousands of women, pupils and students of primary schools and Bua yeghe community secondary school in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State have began protesting the alleged arrest of their monarch, Barinaadaa.
The NYCO statement reads: “It is disheartening to note that it is only in Ogoni that persons of high stake in the society can be treated as common criminals. The army should save us from remembering that we are fifth class citizens. NYCOP, therefore, demand the immediate release of Chief T.D. Gbaranee and an apology granted him.”