An investment forum organized by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State hit a snag on Friday when news filtered into the state capital, Yenagoa, that pirates had killed two persons, including an aide to a former state commissioner.
The disturbing news came as the participants at the Bayelsa Investment and Economic Forum, held in Yenagoa, were preparing to leave to various destinations.
Details of the attack said armed men suspected to be sea pirates attacked a passenger boat along the Ogbia-Nembe waterways, killing two persons, including Awotimigha Iyabi, an aide to a former Commissioner of Information in Bayelsa, Nathan Egba. The identity of the second victim of the attack could not be immediately ascertained. Mr. Iyabi was in his forties, said a family source.
Our sources said Alfred Watson Belemote, a politician and state assembly aspirant, his mobile police escort, and the driver of the attacked boat were lucky to escape death in the attack.
Mr. Dickson’s administration had used bogus claims and assurances that the state was safe and secure to lure potential investors to the forum, but the pirate attacks exposed the falsehood of the government’s rosy depiction of the state, one of the participants in the forum told our correspondent.
Even though Bayelsa is one of the most indebted states in Nigeria, according to figures prepared by the Debt Management Office, Governor Dickson earlier this month asked the state legislature to empower him to seek a N40 billion loan for an airport project that is being financed substantially by the federal government. The controversial loan is widely unpopular, but one opponent in the legislature told SaharaReporters that lawmakers were afraid to openly defy Mr. Dickson. “We are going to end up accruing more debt that we don’t have the money to pay only because a lot of the honorable members are afraid to stand up and tell the governor the truth to his face,” said the source.
Meanwhile, survivors of the pirate attack said six gunmen attacked the speedboat conveying the deceased and four others from Nembe area of Bayelsa. They added that the gunmen were operating along the waterway, dispossessing boat passengers of cash and valuables.
“Our boat ran into the robbery operation and we were trapped by gunshots from the gunmen,” said one survivor.
One survivor claimed that the pirates must have laid ambush for the ex-political aide. “I heard the pirates shout, ‘He is not here, he is in the second boat,’” he said, adding that it indicated an assassination motive.
Our sources said the gunmen had stopped one of the two speedboats in the convoy of the politician, adding that the firepower from the policeman on the boat was not able to deter the six pirates’ operation.
Nathan Egba, Bayelsa’s former Commissioner for Information and Orientation, confirmed the tragic incident. Mr. Egba, who led friends of the deceased on a condolence visit to the family of his former aide, expressed shock at the attack and described the deceased as a “non-violent and gentle man.”
Alex Akhigbe, a spokesman of the Bayelsa police command, said that the police had been notified about the attack, but added that details of the pirate attack were not yet ready.