The Nigeria Army has released three suspected associates of runaway ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, arrested about a fortnight ago in Warri, Delta State, on suspicion that they have link with the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, and know the whereabouts of the runaway ex-militant leader.
Two of the suspects, Simeone Bebenimibo, a member of the Delta Waterways and Land Security Committee, DWLSC, Warri and Bomby Oluba hail from Okerenkoko community, Gbaramatu kingdom in the state. The other, Ayiri, an Itsekiri, is a driver to the Chief Security Officer, CSO, to Tompolo, Ebipade Kari.
Tompolo cried out, last week, in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, cried out that his family and associates were under siege by the army, navy and DSS, while his 84-year-old father, Chief Thomas Ekpemupolo, brutalized by soldiers had his leg amputated recently by doctors to save his life.
He pointed fingers at two APC politicians in the state, who he said were working in connivance with security agents to tarnish his image because of their greed for money and pipeline contracts.
His family in a statement by Frank Ekpemupolo also decried the continued military assault and brutality on members, saying the witch-hunt of Tompolo by APC leaders in the area does not represent national interest.
The family appealed to President Buhari “to put to an end these political and military madness directed at the Niger Delta and Ekpemupolo’s family in particular.”
Bebenimibo, yesterday, said: “Actually, I know nothing about the Niger Delta Avengers. I am a politician, a onetime councilor representing Gbaramatu ward, Okerenkoko, one- time SA on Security to Governor Timipre Sylva and presently, Member, Delta State Waterways and Lands Security Committee.”
“Before I was arrested, I was receiving threat messages on my phone from one of my younger cousins, that I am part of the Niger Delta Avengers and that he is going to arrest me.
“I told him that if you are the one that is going to arrest me, I would be very proud because I would know where my problems are coming from, but though I never believed he was go to go through with his plan,” he said.
Bebenimibo stated: “My arrest was a setup and I am saying this categorically because when I was arrested, members of my immediate and extended family confronted the person having being aware of earlier threat messages he sent to me.”
“When accosted, he boasted to them that I am going to rot in detention as far as the APC government, which he is a member is in power for having the effrontery to boast with him,” he added.
“On the day of my arrest, I think on the 17th or18th of July, I was in my house at about 1.00 a.m, before I knew what was going on, soldiers invaded my compound in Warri. Owing to the fact that everywhere was locked up, they jumped into the compound through the fence, using a ladder from inside the compound, stretched it on the house, which is a duplex and climbed into one of the balcony in the apartment.
”At the balcony, there is an adjourning door, which they broke down to enable them gain access into the apartment. Inside the apartment, they went to the bedroom of my eldest son, who is 12 years old, apprehended him and asked him to take them to my room.
“Inside my room, I asked the operation officer, who is an Army Captain that led them to my room what is the problem? He then told me that someone reported me to them that I am a member of the Niger Delta Avengers. Right there, I told him that I do not know about anything that he is talking about and there is nothing I am going to say on the matter,” he said.
Bebenimibo said: “Not satisfied, I was taken away to the 3 Battalion, Effurun, near Warri, amidst sufferings and was detained for 11 or 12 days, but after their investigations, they did not find anything incriminating against me. They were making plans to transfer me to Asaba or Bayelsa, but by the special Grace of God, I was released on Thursday at about 6.00 p.m.”
He said: “I cannot really tell what they found out in the course of my interrogation, but to the best of my knowledge, I am free of the allegations and that was why I was released unconditionally, but earlier, they were telling me that I am innocent of the allegations leveled against me. Personally, I am embarrassed by the incident.”
“I was interrogated severally while in custody. They asked if I know anything about the Niger Delta Avengers, I told them no.
“They also asked me who is Tompolo and who he is to me, I told them that Tompolo is my leader, my cousin and my Oga, but I do not know if he is the Avenger. However, that he is my brother, but I have not spoken with him for a while because of these problems and I do not know where he is.
“They also asked about some of his (Tompolo) boys that were working with him, I also told them that I do not know anything about that, as I have not seen them for some time now and that though, I know them in person, I do not know anything about them,” he said.
His words: “They never fed me and even if they had tried to, I do not think I would have been able to eat their food, but the CO was a very kind man to us. He ordered his boys to allow us buy whatever food we want to eat and I was spending my money for feeding while we were in detention.”
“Soldiers arrested me in company of one of my cousins, Bomboy Oluba, together with one Ayiri, an Itsekiri driver to the Chief Security Officer, CSO, to Tompolo, Ebipade Kari, on allegation that he knows the whereabouts of Tompolo.
“He was brought in a day after my arrest; three of us have been released. They did not tell us to return for further briefing or interrogation on the matter, as we were all released unconditionally,” he said