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Worries as sea pirates threaten Rivers waterways

Boats parked at a jetty during the strike
Boats parked at a jetty during the strike

Hundreds of people who use the waterways to travel in Rivers state are daily finding it a nightmare to do so following the escalation of the activities of sea pirates.

Matters got worse just last Monday when boat operators embarked on a three-day warning strike to press home their concern about the insecurity on the waterways.

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Hundreds of passengers plying Billie Bonny, Bakana and Nembe  routes were left stranded due to the strike.

The boat operators said the strike was aimed at drawing the attention of the security agencies and Rivers state government on their plights and that of passengers.

Activities of the pirates have escalated in the last three months as no fewer than 10 of such attacks were recorded along Billie, Bakana, Buguma, Abonnema  and Bonny waterways.

Just last Saturday three people were shot dead when gunmen, suspected to be sea pirates,  attacked three passenger boats en-route  Port Harcourt from Billie in Degema Local Government Area of Rivers state.

An eye witness said the gunmen, who attacked three different boats along the route, also carted away properties belonging to passengers on board the three boats.

The witness said two of the victims of the attack were the best man to a bridegroom and his father, who were on their way to attend a wedding in Port Harcourt.

The witness said the attackers dropped passengers of the first two boats in the creeks and went away with their belongings.

He said the third boat sent to rescue the passengers was attacked and riddled with bullets sinking it.

Chairman of Rivers Maritime Association,  Jumbo Jona, who confirmed the incident  said three persons lost their lives in the incident.

Earlier on September 2 passenger boats were attacked and diverted by gunmen suspected to be sea pirates terrorising the Billie Bonny sea route.

The armed men hijacked the boat en-route Port Harcourt from Bonny. The incident took place at Dutch Island in Okrika.

A victim of the attack, who pleaded anonymity, said that the boat was attacked as they approached Dutch Island in Okrika.

“We left Bonny for Port Harcourt and as we approached a place called Dutch Island in Okrika heavily armed gunmen double crossed our boat and ordered the boat driver to stop. When the boat stopped the masked gunmen started shouting,  ‘Asawama, Asawama, everybody face down’ at that point two of the gunmen jumped into our boat and collected our handsets , money and other properties after which they zoomed off. They collected two of my handsets, money and clothing,” he said.

He called on the state to beef up security in all the waterways to stop the incessant attacks on passenger boats.

Shortly after that incident heavily armed gunmen attacked a boat returning to Bakana from Port Harcourt.

A witnesses said the gunmen hijacked the boat and diverted it to a creek near Bakana. The witness said passengers in the boat were robbed of their possessions and two of them were taken hostage.

A boat traveller, Michael Johnbull, called on the security agencies, especially the marine police, to do more to secure the lives of people using the waterways.

“This recurring attack is really getting out of hand. Everyday passengers that transit through the waterways are afraid because of the menace of sea pirates. In less than two months we have recorded many cases of attack and that do not speak well of the government as well as the security agencies. We want the state government to come into this matter and find a lasting solution to this serious security challenge on our waterways,” he said.

Rivers state police command said that it is doing its best to ensure that all parts of the state are protected and secured.

The command’s spokesman, Nnamdi Omoni, said that the command would  go all out to arrest the menace of sea pirates.

 

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