Extortion: Tension In Bayelsa, Delta Riverine Communities Over Illegal Collections
A group of able bodied men under the aegis, “Timber Dealers Association, Burutu local government area, Delta State”, has appealed for quick intervention of Governors Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta) and Douye Diri (Bayelsa State) over what they described as massive extortion of its members along Ekeremor river, by a group of persons allegedly to be fronting for the Deputy Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Mr Micheal Ogbere.
The group in a peaceful protest stated that the appeal became necessary to avert civil unrest as there was already palpable tension in the area following the harassment and violence suffered by their members in the hands of the persons said to be collecting revenue for Forest Produce for Bayelsa State government, even when they operate in the shore of Delta State.
The placards carrying protesters with inscriptions “Allow us to do our legitimate business without stress and intimidation”, “We can no longer accept this illicit oppression from Ekeremor, Bayelsa state”, “Deputy Speaker, Bayelsa State House of Assembly tell your boys to stop the illegal tax”, “Diri, Okowa, save our soul”, “Enough is Enough”, “We are peace loving Deltans, Allow us to do our business”, noted that they only pass through the Ekeremor rivers which shares natural boundary between Burutu in Delta and Ekeremor in Bayelsa State to their destinations.
The spokesperson, Mr Peres Pereotukefiye, said, “Bayelsa State Government was said to had awarded a contract to Simonado Ventures, a company owned by the Deputy Speaker, Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Mr Micheal Ogbere to collect revenue on Forest Produce from Ekeremor loading point. The contract is to collect revenue from a loading point which is in the land and not to harass moving vessels in the river to offloading points. Ekeremor river shares natural boundary between Burutu in Delta and Ekeremor in Bayelsa. We are Deltans and do our business on Delta shores and not Ekeremor or Bayelsa, but ply the river to our destinations. We see no reason for the Bayelsa Deputy Speaker to be using Bayelsa government as a tool to perpetuate and foster illegal collection of tax from us through his fierce looking, arm wielding stooges”.
Continuing “the antecedents of these boys in the river is causing a lot of hardship that we can no longer condone.The boys extort from our members over N400,000.00 on daily basis. For every load of between a thousand and five thousand woods, they collect N13,000.00 to N65,000.00.
“We are condemning the activities of these boys for breach of contract and encroachment. We therefore call on the government of Bayelsa and Delta State to intervene and nip the broad day robbery in the bud to avert civil unrest. Every relevant stakeholder should come to our rescue. The Deputy Speaker should call his stooges to order to avoid breakdown of law and order. We are peace loving Deltans who pleasures in going about our business and not to be pushed to civil unrest”.
Mr Peres explained that the peaceful protest was to draw attention of the Bayelsa and Delta States government and other stakeholders to the threat to peace in the localities, stressing that any attempt to force them out of business they had been into over the years would be resisted.