Operatives of the Joint Task Force (JTF) codenamed Operation Delta Safe, has arrested the Niger Delta militant Peregbakumo Oyawerikumo (General Kareowei), whose activities led to a major military offensive in Delta and Bayelsa communities.
The Guardian learnt that Kareowei was arrested in early hours of yesterday in Ogbobagbene Community, country home of former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe in Burutu Local Council of Delta State.
Another version said the military officers arrested the 28-year-old militant, also known along the creeks as 'Small Man' was arrested on Wednesday night at his maternal home in Edegbene, Burutu Local Council.
Kareowei, a notorious kidnapper and murderer, was said to be leading a gang of militants involved in abductions, sea robberies and other criminal activities in the area. Sources disclosed that Kareowei, who had been declared wanted by the military authorities, was under pressure to surrender following the ongoing manhunt on him in Delta and Bayelsa states riverine communities.
He surrendered himself to the soldiers after a curfew was imposed on Bomadi and parts of Burutu Local Council and is now in JTF's custody. Commander of Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Suleiman Apochi, who had deployed troops in the community to intensify the manhunt for the militant in the creeks, confirmed the arrest but declined further comments, saying a statement would be issued on the development.
Kareowei, whose notoriety spread across Bayelsa and Delta states was responsible for the abduction and subsequent killing of one of a British missionary, Ian Square in Enekorogha Community, Burutu Local Council of Delta State last year.His alleged criminal activities on the Bayelsa and Delta waterways, culminated in the beheading of a military personnel and making a caricature of the incident by sticking the head and dancing with it around Toru-Ndoro Community, Ekeremor Local Council of Bayelsa State.
The deceased, as Naval officer was said to be in Toru-Ndoro Community on a peace mission to Kareowei that was facilitated by ex-militant leader, 'General' Bonny Gawei who was later abducted by Kareowei while fleeing the community.The development had led to heavy military offensive against Toru-Ndoro Community between January 3 and January 7, 2018 by soldiers who lost four other officers personnel and had according to the villagers, razed down over 50 houses.
Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, while commending Kareowei's arrest yesterday, accused the former Governor Timipre Sylva and Minister of State for Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri, of sponsoring criminals, which had led to the rise of militancy and criminality in the state.
Dickson in his first new year briefing held at the Banquet Hall, Yenagoa, accused Sylva and the minister of sponsoring Kareowei and his gang.The duo have, however, denied the allegations, saying it was irresponsible of the governor to link them to criminal activities in the state.Dickson said: "Lokpobiri is the one that armed and equipped Kareowei that has now killed soldiers and subjected innocent communities into this problem.
"He supplied all the guns, AK47, the boats and others he uses to kill and other arms and ammunition. I have evidence that on January 2, Kareowei and his gang of killers were in Ekeremor celebrating with the minister. The President should call them to order. But in a swift reaction, Lokpobiri said he had nothing to do with the arrested militant leader and challenged Dickson to prove his claims.
"I don't know this militant leader. I have never met him before and it is irresponsible for anybody to accuse someone like me, who has been preaching peace of buying arms for a criminal. It is unimaginable.Whatever Dickson has said came from his imagination," he said.
Responding to the allegations, Sylva's Media Aide, Doifie Buokoribo, said the governor was sick, adding that he had returned to his notorious game of accusing Sylva of sponsoring crimes in Bayelsa.
"This time he has joined the minister of state to his list of culprits. As always, Dickson has provided zero facts to support his irresponsibly frivolous claims that Sylva and the minister are providing cover for alleged cultists and other criminals. Dickson lied during his briefing in Yenagoa," he said.
Meanwhile, tension has continued to mount in Bomadi communities, Delta State following threats by some militants' leaders yesterday to breach the peace in the area.But the JTF said security had been beefed up to secure lives and property in Bomadi and its environs.
Sources, however, said that Kareowei's co-militants have threatened to kill more military officers in a manner to avenge the gun duel and in proportion to the injuries sustained by Kareowei.
It was learnt that one of the persons treating Kareowei had also been arrested and taken to Abuja for interrogation.A trader, Ebi Commissioner, who spoke to journalists, said he was forced to close business on seeing the increasing number of soldiers on the streets and major roads as early as 7am yesterday.He explained that vehicular and pedestrian movement were, however, restricted, while vehicles coming from Ughelli and Yenagoa were subjected to thorough search at the JTF check point in Bomadi.
Also, panic-stricken residents were forced to stay indoors for fear of being brutalised by the soldiers.But the Delta State Commissioner for Information, Patrick Ukah, assured the people of their safety, adding that efforts were on to ensure that peace prevails in the area.
It was gathered that a Nigerian Gas Company (NGC) pipeline belonging to the Nigerian Gas Processing and Transportation Company Limited (NGPTC) at Ejere Community in Warri South Local Council, exploded yesterday.
The explosion, it was learnt, may not be unconnected with renewed tension between the Ijaw and Itsekiri over the siting of the Maritime University of Nigeria in Okerenkoko.