According to reports, the Ogoni Council of Traditional Rulers, COTRA, has debunked the rumour making the rounds that the traditional ruler of Yeghe community, in Khana local government area of Rivers state, Chief Barinaadaa T.D. Gbaranee, died in the custody of the security operatives in the state.
Last Saturday, news filtered that the chief slumped and died in confinement but the information could not be immediately substantiated and it was not clear which custody he is still being kept.
Gbaranee was allegedly “abducted” by the Nigerian Army, 2 Brigade, Bori Camp, at Bori on his way back to his domain a fortnight ago on issues bothering on security in his community where many people, including a lecturer in the Ken Saro Wiwa Polytechnic, Dr. Vincent Eebee, have been murdered in brutal circumstances.
Speaking in Port Harcourt, Rivers state capital, on Monday, the chairman of Ogoni Traditional Council, HRH, King Suanu Baridam, said his phone had been inundated with calls from Ogoni people on the situation of the Monarch, saying that he could not confirm the rumored dead news.
“That story (death rumour) cannot be true. I have not been able to confirm whether he is dead or alive anyway. But let me use this medium to call on the security agencies where he is being held captive to come public and clear the air on this death rumour.
“There is tension already in Ogoni. I wish that such story is not true because knowing what Ogoni is and the economic importance of the area to this state and Nigeria in generally, it will not be a palatable news for anybody to hear. I believe it is not true,” Baridam said.
He insisted that the monarch was never invited as claimed by the Nigerian Army, Bori Camp, but “abducted on his way back to his domain and till this moment we have not been told why he was abducted by the soldiers. They have not told us where they keep him.”
While condemning the wanton killings of Ogoni people and similar cases in other parts of the state, Baridam called on the security agencies to, without further delay release the Monarch from detention as this was against the African culture and tradition.
“The person in their custody is a custodian of the culture of his people. By African tradition, he deserves to be respected.
That is why we call on the security or whoever is holding him captive, to free him immediately.
“It is very unfortunate that this is happening at a time we are expecting President Muhammadu Buhari in Ogoni to flag off the process for the implementation of the UNEP report.
They should release him and let him go and prepare his community and people for the reception of the President.”
King Baridam also warned politicians in Ogoni to eschew politics of bitterness and embrace peace for the progress and development of Ogoni, noted that nobody irrespective of his political lineage would be allowed to hijack the UNEP implementation process.