It was a day of grief, tears and emotions in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, yesterday as the remains of the Government House Photographer, Reginald Dei, and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Seidougha Taribi, allegedly murdered by soldiers on the day of the last presidential election, were committed to mother earth.
Taribi was until his death a Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Grassroots Mobilisation.
Governor Seriake Dickson, who spoke during the commendation service in honour of the two young men in Yenagoa, said they were gruesomely murdered in their own home by yet to be identified soldiers during the last presidential and National Assembly elections in Oweikoroagha, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area.
A statement issued by Governor Dickson’s Special Adviser on Media Relations, Mr Fidelis Soriwei, quoted the governor as condemning incessant deployment of state institutions to undermine the peace and stability of Bayelsa for political reasons since 2015.
The governor offered automatic employment to the young widows of the deceased as well as scholarships to the children they left behind.
The grieving governor said the two corpses were clear evidence of the politically motivated killings allegedly perpetrated by leaders of the opposition in the state.
He said it was absurd and reprehensible for criminals to be given security cover in the residence of supposed opposition leaders after allegedly committing brazen acts of criminality against the state as was the case in the murder of Dei and Seidougha.
“Security operatives were put at the disposal of APC leaders in the state to intimidate, kill and maim our people during the last election,” Governor Dickson alleged.
He described the burial of the Oweikorogha two as one of the saddest days of his administration as the duo were killed by soldiers who were taken to their residence by some Oweikorogha citizens to murder them.
He said: “Today is a sad day not because of the very young age at which their lives were cut short, but because of the way and manner they were murdered in cold blood in Oweikoroagha in their own homes by uniformed men at the command and behest of political operatives.”
He lamented that the main culprit in the dastardly act boasted that he would go to the residence of an opposition leader in Abuja to evade arrest by security men, as if Abuja had become a sanctuary for killers.
The governor added: “The killers in Bayelsa are known and are protected by the agencies òf the Nigerian state. If anyone ever thought that all I have been saying about killers and their protection was politics, here lies the evidence.
“The Federal Government is not interested in the peace, security and stability of Bayelsa. They want Bayelsa to be turned into a state òf blood like other states.
“In Katsina, there were no killings. But here, soldiers were deployed for all opposition politicians.”
The governor urged the people of the state to remain calm and vigilant, stating that his administration would embark on what he called ‘the Niger Delta Movement’ to mobilise people in their various communities on how to defend themselves, since the Federal Government had failed in its primary responsibility of protecting lives and properties.
Paying tributes to the deceased persons, Governor Dickson described Dei as a very good professional, dedicated member of the media team in Government House, and Taribi as a decent and honourable young man.
He said that the late photographer drew commendations from even visitors and foreigners to Government House because of his devotion to duty.
Speaking during a meeting with political appointees in Yenagoa, Dickson had accused the leadership of the nation’s security agencies of deliberately shielding the perpetrators of the heinous acts.
He also described the gruesome killings as an act of terrorism against the state, noting that Dei and Taribi were not near any polling unit when soldiers were led to kill them in their residence in Oweikorogha.
Dickson berated the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and its Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state for allegedly conniving with the opposition to subvert the will of the people.
He pointed out that despite the sacking of Bassambiri in Nembe LGA, and failure to use card readers during the election, INEC went ahead to accept fake results to foist a Senator and House òf Representatives member on the people.
He said: “You can see that in most of the states where the RECs were firm, INEC said no, let the result come from the field. Even with the big names and money, they were firm.
“But here in Bayelsa, a community like Bassambiri in Nembe LGA was sacked and the next day, after 24 hours of shooting, they just drove election materials straight to their location and INEC went on to announce what it got. Card readers were not used and yet some persons are parading themselves as winners.”
The governor told party faithful to expect more intimidation and harassment from the opposition ahead of the gubernatorial election in the state.
“The APC’s plan for the governorship election is more than what we saw in the last election because the next one is an isolated election. They are planning to do 10 times even more, and that is why you must be steadfast and calm,” he said.
He said that the state PDP Chairman, Mr. Moses Cleopas, would soon set up a committee to examine the party’s results in the last election in the various units, wards and communities.
He said stakeholders and party leaders would appear before the committee to give account of their stewardship.
In his own remarks, the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah (rtd), expressed shock that soldiers who are funded with tax payers’ money could turn their weapons against the people.
He said that the murder of innocent people was unacceptable in any civilised clime, as there are specified rules of engagement for the military whose role in elections are defined.
He said that the military had a responsibility to investigate the killings.
Cleopas, the State Chairman òf PDP, also wondered why Bayelsans would kill their brothers over an election contested by two northern brothers whose places did not record such incidents.
Others who paid tributes to the deceased duo are Senator elect for Bayela Central, Douye Diri; the Speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Chief Kombowei Benson; the Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Doudei Week, and the member Representing Southern Ijaw 2 Constituency in the House of Assembly, Monday Oboko-Bubou.
However, the Bayelsa State chapter of the APC had earlier dissociated itself from the electoral violence that claimed the lives of Reginald Dei and Taribi, who were shot in the area by gunmen in military uniform.
The state Publicity Secretary of Bayelsa APC, Mr. Doifie Buokoribo, in a statement, dismissed insinuations by Dickson and the PDP that the deceased were victims of violence perpetrated by APC supporters.
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The opposition challenged the picture painted by the state government, saying nothing could be further from the truth.