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Memo To The Joint Military Task Force In Rivers State by Matilda Nengi-Amiofori



 Commander Sir, I salute you. This may be a very abnormal channel but the only available option to expeditiously reach you. With the peculiar situations that surrounded the recent attack or rather harassment and subsequent kidnap of a member of one of the most highly respected families in the entire Niger Delta, Chief Lulu Briggs, this memo became very necessary not only to condemn the cowardly act by whosoever was responsible but also to let you know some ‘interesting observations’ concerning your response or rather handling of the crime.

 With the heavy presence of soldiers, naval and air force personnel under the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) in Port Harcourt, it was very surprising that criminal gangs or militants would dare to invade a victim few meters from your operational headquarters, very few meters from the SSS Headquarters, and even fewer meters from three major police divisional/area offices. It was even more surprising that the criminals operated for about an hour unhindered and unchallenged.

 Several highly respected residents of the neighbourhood are ready to publicly testify that they alerted both the JTF and the Rivers State Police Commissioner of the incident when the gang started sporadic shootings. In his defence, the police commissioner was quoted as haven said: “An armoured personnel carrier (APC) was heading towards the scene from Mile One Police Station but suddenly ran out fuel.” What a pity! Though the SSS is yet to give its explanation for failing to act or rather encourage the JTF and Police to act, let’s leave them out of this for now because of the agency’s closed system of operation.


Commander, you are fully aware that your spokesperson in defence of the task force’ failure to act said: “We (JTF) are yet to fully employ military operation in containing the spate crisis. We (JTF) are mindful that the quagmire is a family creation and therefore the need for other options in resolving the crisis becomes imperative. Even though military solution is the most serious in this circumstance, we will exercise restraint knowing that other non-military options matter in dealing with the situation”. Please tell the public the yardstick you are going to use in assessing criminal situations on the spot to know the ones to intervene and the ones to restrain.

 Commander, comparing the JTF operation in Warri with the situation that brought the taskforce to Port Harcourt is an aberration and unaccepted because there is no single similarity between the two different kinds of crisis.

 The Warri case was an outright inter-tribal clash or war between two clearly-defined distinct groups- the Ijaws and the Itsekiris. In Port Harcourt, the violence has never been an inter-tribal conflict rather it was a complete breakdown of law and order where a few young people were armed by a few selfish older ones to harass, intimidate and most times kill anybody even members of their tribes, communities and families. So to observe a deadly incident of the very crime/crisis that brought the JTF to Port Harcourt in the first instance happen without your doing anything because you are not in ‘full military operation in the state’ was not only suspect of an outright negligence, but at worst an indictment of complicity in the crime.

 Though you are not in full military operation in Rivers state as your spokesperson claimed, you heard or were informed of fierce shootings few meters from your position, every reasonable person would have expected the JTF to use other tactics to ward-off the criminals and ensure they don’t succeed even without engaging them in direct gun battle as you claim you are not in military operation (partial or full) in the state. You could have also ensured that all escape routes from the scene of the crime were properly cordoned off to cage the invading criminals. All these, you failed to do.

 The vexing aspect of this latest crime was that it happened in the heart of Port Harcourt Old GRA very few meters from the JTF operational headquarters. Even the SSS headquarters is also few meters away not to talk of the three police stations around the area, yet the gun fire and the crime lasted for about an hour. How can anybody explain it if not to allege complicity of not only the JTF but other security agencies in the state?

 The JTF and other security agencies must muster the will power to be honest in this campaign because that is the only way enduring peace can be achieved in the state and in the Niger Delta in general. The poor handling of the Lulu Briggs’ attack by the JTF, SSS, and Police could be interpreted to insinuate power tussle among the three security apparatus which may have gotten to the point of each undermining the other. This is not good enough for the sustenance of the commendable level of peace and security already achieved in the fight against cultism and other criminal gangsterism

 Needless to point out that the outward indiscipline of JTF officers on the street of Port Harcourt and environs in recent times is threatening to overtake that of Police officers that is if it has not already overtaken it. Between Eleme Junction and Imo River Bridge (Oyigbo), there are three-four JTF road blocks plus another two sole manned by the Police. At these points, the JTF officers are not concerned about militants or cultists rather the barricades are purely coercion point for cash drive from commercial vehicles operators, fuel tankers and tipper trucks conveying sand from Imo River into the Port Harcourt metropolis. Commander, I know that you are not aware that your men are collecting N50-N100 from buses and other commercial vehicles any time they cross these points. You may need to investigate this allegation. The scenario is the same from Eleme Junction to Onne Junction. Inside the metropolis, in Diobu, Old Port Harcourt Township, Amadi-Abuloma axis the story of JTF’s extortion and glaring indiscipline even consumption of alcohol on uniform has become an open secret. Sir, you are being bothered with these information against the background of the quality of discipline code of conduct which the Military not the Police was known for in times gone by. How many of your officers have you court marshalled for misconduct on the streets of Port Harcourt? Defence Headquarters Abuja may need to be fully informed.


 By the way, Commander, your officers on the streets alleged that they “seek public assistance” because they have not been paid their upkeep allowance for months. Is it true? Has the state government not been giving you monthly allowances for each JTF officer currently engaged in peace keeping mission in Port Harcourt. There is no need for explanations on the allegation just look inwards and do some house cleaning or sanitizing.

 Commander Sir, once again, you need to be reminded that the Port Harcourt operation is absolutely different from your exploit in Warri. The approach and mindset has to be very different to achieve the desired result to justify your stay in the area as peace keepers not an occupation force.

 We, the entire peace loving people of Rivers state love you and your men. Salute them that do good works at their duty posts and those that do evil, warn them to repent because they bring reproach to the good officers and the entire good-intentioned JTF operation in Niger Delta and Port Harcourt in particular. Grow in grace and in the will power to be honest.




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