Forty-eight days after the arrest of ten youths by the Joint Military Task Force during a search for the members of the Niger Delta Avengers in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State, women and students in the area yesterday gave the Federal Government a seven-day ultimatum to effect their release.
The women and students of Gbaramatu community gave this ultimatum during a peaceful protest in Warri,.
Carrying placards and banners with various inscriptions, they also demanded the immediate release of all those arrested by the military.
According to the protesters, the youths arrested by the JTF during the raid on their community were not members of any militant group, but students who were preparing to write their examinations.
Speaking on behalf of the women, the National leader of the Ijaw Women, Mrs. Veronica Tanbowei, accused the Federal Government of oppressing the people of Gharamatu kingdom by wrongfully labeling their children militants.
Tanbowei said, “If the Federal Government comes out and tells us that they have killed our children, then they should be ready to kill all of us. We are giving them seven days and if they do not allow us to see our children, we all will march to Abuja and they will kill all of us.
“Buhari’s government has sent the army to kill our children, but today we are asking them to bring back our children to us. They should bring our innocent children back to us.”.
She claimed that the youths were rudely woken from their sleep in the middle of the night and whisked away to an unknown destination.
The Ijaw women leader added that they later read in the media that their children were militants, stressing that such an allegation was untrue.
The women, therefore, called on the Federal Government to urgently order the release of all those arrested or risk a mass protest by all Gbaramatu women in Abuja at the expiration of the ultimatum.
The Ijaw woman leader stressed that as mothers of the arrested youths, the women in Gbaramatu deserved the right to know the whereabouts of their innocent children.
She further said that the mothers had become worried that their children might have been killed by the security men who arrested them, since their whereabouts remained unknown.
Tanbowei also urged the Federal Government to grant them access to their children being held by the military in order to ascertain their well-being.
She said, “For the past two months, the Army has taken over our community. When they came they took some of our children away saying that they were members of the Niger Delta Avengers. They are not members of Avengers, they are ordinary students and cooks.
“For the past two months, we have not heard from these children. If you arrest somebody, why dont you take them to court? But in this case, it is not so and we believe that they have killed our children. They should bring our children back to us.
“Look at some of the mothers of the children that they have taken away. They are crying day and night because they do not know if their children are alive or not. Now I know that the police and the army are liars. They arrested our innocent children and put guns in their hands and label them criminals. Our police can just arrest somebody and plant guns in their hands and write petition against them.
“Gbaramatu people are peace loving people. Our children are not part of the Avengers. They might have killed them and the mothers are worried and they are disturbing me, asking me about the whereabouts of their children. Some of these children are students and they were preparing for their WAEC.”
One of the mothers of those arrested, Mrs. Endurance Uyaotede, who cried and rolled on the ground during the protest, lamented that her son, Friday Uyaotede, her only child, was taken away by the soldiers during the raid.
Uyaotede said that she had not been herself since the military arrested her son, stressing that her son knew anything about the Avengers.
Another affected mother, Mrs. Rona Odike said, “My son was sleeping in the house when they came to whisk him away at midnight. I have not seen my son in the past two months and we are beginning to get worried because we do not know if he is alive or not.
“My son is a small boy and he is not a member of any militant group. We are pleading with the Federal Government to release our children because they are innocent.”
On his part, the National Assistant Secretary of the National Association Of Gbaramatu Students, Freeborn Abraye, said the arrest of the students by the military was the height of oppression against the people of GbaramatuKingdom.
Abraye said, “These students are suffering for what they do not know anything about. It is now forty six days and we have not heard anything about them. We neither know how they are faring over there nor do we have a clue on where they are.
“We are calling on the Federal Government to release our students because they are not members of Niger Delta Avengers. We are appealing to President Buhari to release these students. They have missed their exams and they are now missing classes and loved ones”.