The leadership of Bilabiri community in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa on Tuesday said it is seeking the return of residents forced to flee the settlement for criminals from the area.
The people had on April 3 asked the state and federal governments to restore normalcy following the sack of residents by criminals but regretted that peace was yet to return.
Chairman, Community Development Committee (CDC) for Bilabiri 1, coastline settlement, Mr. David Bazigha, said in an interview in Yenagoa the Bayelsa state capital that the state government had waded into the issue.
He said that the call had become imminent following the rise in criminal activities in the area led to the death of a former Council Chairman, a development that compelled residents to flee the area.
“We are appealing to the state and federal governments to salvage the Bilabiri Kingdom from criminal elements holding sway in the area and attacking residents.
“We lost the former Chairman, Aliebiri Rural Development Authority, Bilabiri Hon Frank Seide and two others and this led to the entire settlement taking refuge elsewhere leaving the area desolate.
“The community leadership as we speak are all in exile and the criminals have chased residents away while they engage in their nefarious activities, that is why we are sending a call to the government.
“We had raised concerns earlier on the activities of these miscreants in a letter the CDC Chairmen of Bilabiri 1 and 2 wrote alongside the monarchs to security agencies dated March 19.
“We had appealed to the security agencies to wade in and sanitize the area by helping us flush out these undesirable elements amongst us, but things have degenerated.
“The loss of lives would have been prevented and now those of us who championed to end criminality have become their targets and we have to flee,” Bazigha said.
It will be recalled that Bayelsa government had in a meeting with leadership of Bilabiri community on April 4, promised to ensure the arrest and prosecution of those behind the violence.
Lawrence Ewhrujakpo, Deputy Governor of the state who presided over the meeting, urged the stakeholders to close ranks with government and security agencies to halt killings in the area.
He recalled that the community leadership had in a March 19 letter to the security agencies urged them to flush out criminals from its fold.
In a letter, the community appealed to the Joint Task Force deployed to protect oil facilities in the Niger Delta to deploy its surveillance boats to the area to fish out miscreants.
The letter was signed by Chief Peter Pinne, Amananawei (Paramount Ruler) in Bilabiri 1 and Chief Minna Fun, Amananawei of Bilabiri 2.
Other signatories are Mr David Bazigha, Community Development Committee (CDC) Chairman, Bilabiri 1 and Mr Esau Joshua, CDC Chairman Bilabiri 2.
The letter stated that the community leadership had resolved to rid the area of pirates, militants, oil thieves and kidnappers who brought the name of the area to disrepute.
He explained that one week after state government assurances in a meeting with stakeholders, the people were eagerly awaiting action to wrest the community from the control of the armed gang.
“Our people who fled the communities are yearning to come back to the ancestral homes but the armed gang are still looting kiosks and shops abandoned by people who fled the area for safety.
“We further appeal to the government and security agencies to fast track action to salvage the community from the grip of criminal elements,” Bazigha said.
However, when contacted for reaction on the development, Superintendent of Police, Asinim Butwat, Spokesman for the Police Command in Bayelsa, said he was awaiting details on the incident.
The JTF Headquarters in Yenagoa declined comments, and said that only the Defence Headquarters has the mandate to comment on their operations.