Sometime last year, the notorious eader of the dreaded militants who terrorized Ogun and Lagos states from the creeks of Arepo and Ibafo, called on phone identifying himself in a typically hoarse voice as ‘De don of Militants in Nigeria.’ Threatening fire and brimstone, he warned security agencies to get off the creeks or they would meet their waterloo. After explaining that he got my telephone number from the pages of Saturday Vanguard, he swore to make the two states ungovernable if security operatives failed to stop raiding the creeks and allow them to continue with oil bunkering unchallenged. He even promised to reward this reporter handsomely if he could avail them with certain security information, a request that was rebuffed immediately. However, the cat and mouse game continued until the ‘day of the jackal’, which was the day jet fighters unleashed bombs ceaselessly into the creeks which the militants had earlier boasted was impenetrable. On the second day of the raid, De don called this reporter again lamenting the carnage being carried out on their abode when, suddenly, his telephone went dead amidst a barrage of bombardments from Air force planes. There was a deafening silence and it appeared De don may have been killed. He did not call again and all calls to his line failed. Then, midnight last Monday, his voice rang out again but from a different number to re-assure that he was alive. However, he stated that the essence of the call was to beg for amnesty from the government alongside other top ‘Generals’ who survived the military onslaught inside the creeks. Interestingly, one of the other ‘Generals’ who also spoke on phone after De don turned out to be the most wanted and deadly kidnap kingpin in the country, ‘General’ Ossy, whose exploits in the criminal world in the past two years had jolted security agencies to their wits’ end. The two militant ‘Generals’, on one hand, made passionate appeals for amnesty while on the other hand, warned that hell would be let loose if their request was turned down. Excerpts: How we started bunkering business I am General Ossy Ibori. I am 40 years old. We are from Niger Delta region, from Isaac Boro’s hometown. We started this business of bunkering in 1998 here in Lagos during which we had an agreement with the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) to settle them. In those days, we were giving the OPC between N250, 000 to N350, 000 every night
before the mobile policemen later came on the scene. That was in 2001 and 2002. After paying them the money, they would allow us to do our bunkering work but later they killed our brothers.Militants-ok1 This infuriated us because the killings were done after collecting bribe from us. So we decided to come together to fight it. I even tried to reach an agreement with them to allow peace reign but they later conspired with the police in Lagos state including operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and Anti- Vandals unit some of whom started collecting bribe from us also. Then, the Mobile police and Federal SARS came to us at Abule Egba, and Arepo where we were doing our business and reached an agreement with us as they also started collecting bribe from us. We were giving them N2 million every night. That was during the era of a top Commissioner of Police (name withheld). Again, these people too conspired and arraigned some of our brothers in court. Shortly after arresting some of our brothers and collecting bribe from them, the police stormed the area, killing innocent people. How we subdued the police We went to the police and tried to find out why they arrested our brothers, collected bribe from them but still went ahead to kill them. When we saw that they were ready to arrest us as well, we now launched an attack and exchanged fire with them before we subdued them. This happened in 2013 and the following year, we came back to work but the people we were working with complained that the area had become dangerous, arguing that if they came to us we would kill them. We then decided to go to them and settle them. Then, the Nigerian Army was sent to stop our bunkering but they allowed us to continue after we started to settle them also. The army also, at a stage, conspired with the people and they were no longer giving us access to the area we wanted, so we resolved to fight for our rights and started doing things to draw government’s attention to us but government refused to listen to us. Then we began to attack pipelines, Federal SARS and Civil Defence just to attract government’s attention but the government ignored us. After a while, the government now sent a delegate to us that they wanted to give us amnesty. It was one Colonel whose name I cannot remember again. He claimed to have come from the amnesty office. We started the negotiation but later found out that he was a betrayer and the whole thing ended like that. Apart from that Colonel, one Captain Okotie, also came whom we strongly believed to be a fraudster. That was when we started operating in Lagos and Ogun states. We operated in Irekpete, Gburumu, Arepo, Ibafo, Majidun, Ajegunle and Abule Egba. We were trying to fight for our rights by attacking the government, bursting oil pipelines, kidnapping and robbing the residents so that the government could pay attention to us but it’s unfortunate that they did not. Now, we are very much ready to dialogue with the government and to make sure that none of such things happen again. Our activities in 2015 and 2016 (De don takes over) I am General Don. I am 45 years old. We are ready to allow peace to reign and guarantee the safety of oil pipelines. Before, when we came to work, we used to settle those people. Meanwhile, we have members in FESTAC, Arepo and Abule Egba. This is how we used to do the business. We used to vandalize oil pipelines, siphon the oil. But when they stopped pumping the oil, we then started kidnapping and armed robbery. We robbed so many banks in Lagos. We started kidnapping in 2015, we kidnapped in FESTAC and Epe areas of Lagos. If government does not pay attention to us soon, robbery and kidnapping will resume at a very alarming rate. We are determined to make peace reign between Lagos and Ogun states. So, let their governments come and dialogue with us. If that is done, all these things will not happen again. We will come together with the security operatives and work hard to ensure absolute peace within the region. How Nigerian Air Force bombarded our camp On Thursday evening, June 23rd 2016, while we were in the camp, we saw a jet displaying in the air and we asked ourselves, what is this that’s displaying in the air? Shortly, we discovered that it was a fighter jet. Before we could figure out what it was up to, they started bombing our camp. They bombed the first camp in Irekpete. We lost nine souls in that place, which was the first day. The second day, after shooting, we went out and discovered the corpses of four children and few women. After five days, when they came back with heavy bombardment, we now started escaping from the forest because the bombing was too much for us. We left the area where we were working to the other side. During the air raid, none of our generals died. Even those who died were not part of us, they were innocent people. They killed mostly Yorubas and some other few tribes. We still have 21 generals and 7,800 battle-ready boys. Even now as we are still in the forest, we can see everything the government is doing but we don’t want to cause problem again. How we escaped from the bombardment We believe so much in God., we work like spirit and disappear any time. God sets us free, we don’t have any spiritualist (Jujuman), we believe in God. We are members of different churches like Baptists, Redeemed, Cherubim and Seraphim. We used to pray before going on revenge mission. We call on God to help us out. We didn’t start the killing, they did by provoking us when the killed our brothers unjustly. Before we go to battle, we pray to God to help us because we are fighting for our rights. Is oil bunkering your right? So many youths and graduates are suffering without jobs and many are even managing this oil bunkering business in Lagos and Ogun states. We have more than 100 graduates working with us and earning their living. What else do you expect from us? Are we not part and parcel of this oil rich country? Are we not entitled to enjoy our natural resources? That is our right and nobody, I repeat, nobody can deny us that. We escaped with our weapons (General Ossy Ibori) We escaped the bombardment with a lot of weapons though not all. Right now, we have fire guns, artillery, GPMG, K2, Pump Action, Double Barrel and locally made guns. You can’t find out how we buy our arms, we won’t disclose it but we want the government to know that we are ready for peace. But if they fail to dialogue with us, we are ready to bring down the economy of Lagos and Ogun states. We can even vandalize pipelines but for now, we don’t want that to happen. We want dialogue but if they refuse to comply, we are ready to destroy the economy of these two states. We want the government to know that, we are human beings like them and we are suffering, the youths are suffering but we don’t want to kill innocent souls. We have been in the creeks for the past 18 years. Within this period, so many souls were lost there but we are just ready to dialogue with the government to let peace reign. We want amnesty We are not demanding monetary settlement, we are not demanding anything other than freedom and dialogue with the government. We want peace to reign. Secondly, we need amnesty as well as pipeline and waterways security. That will bring to an end kidnapping, armed robbery, bunkering and other criminal activities in the region. We are ready to stop all criminal activities. We are not money conscious, what we want is peace, we want dialogue first. If we are granted amnesty, we will be glad to provide security to oil installations. That’s what we want to do. We know much about the creeks and because of our expertise, we will like to work with the anti-vandalism team and the police to ensure absolute security in the creeks. Civil Defence’s claim that they chased us out of Arepo is not true. We are still in the creeks. We are even very close to them and if we decide to go offensive, we can even slaughter all of them, we can wipe all of them out of that area. We are together but we don’t want that to happen and that is why we want government to ensure there is peace here. Our sponsors We are our own sponsors. We don’t have anybody in government or politician sponsoring our activities. We sponsor ourselves. Concerning our feeding, you won’t understand how we feed. We have enough money to feed ourselves. We have money to make problem with the government and to cripple the economy but we don’t want it to be that way. We have so many connections and I tell you that everything in Lagos belongs to us. If we are given amnesty nobody will kidnap, nobody will rob, nobody will vandalize. We know about every criminal activity in the region. If government is ready to dialogue with us, we will put a stop to everything. Our pains in the creeks We are in the creeks suffering. We cannot go out and enjoy with our families. If the government is ready for peace to reign in the creeks, we will have the opportunity to go out and meet with our various families. There is no single woman or children in our camps and you know what that means. It is only men who live in our camps. We have not got any chance to meet with women because we don’t go out. We don’t even see anyone in the creeks. Some of our brothers’ family members were arrested by the police. They are still being held by the police even as we speak while so many innocent people who are not even our members are still in police detention. But we are still in the creeks, and if we go out for any reason, we come back together. Nobody, not even army or police can come to the main creeks where we live unless we permit them. They can’t penetrate it on ground because of the weapons we have and the roads are made just for us alone. A stranger cannot just get in and when you force yourself in, you cannot find your way back unless such a person comes from the sky. Even at that, we will not allow it because of our latest weapons. If we don’t come out in the open, even fighter jet cannot get us where we are right now. Wanted General Ossy on why he has not been arrested That’s why I’m the Don, that is how it is supposed to be. The robbery incident that happened in FESTAC where a pregnant woman and her child were killed was an unfortunate incident. It was not deliberate. We can operate anywhere we want between Lagos and Ogun states. Concerning innocent people who lost their lives in the course of our operation, you can see that is how security agents used to kill our people. They collect bribe from us and then kill our brothers. They would even set fire in the area where we are engaging in bunkering. We are remorseful about the number of people we have unintentionally killed, it is better to leave it to God. We don’t kill innocently, we kill reasonably. Our main anger is that, after collecting bribe from us, the OPC, the police, army, and civil defence would turn around to kill our brothers and that is we decided to retaliate. Our regret Our worst regret since this fight with the security started is that, they are killing innocent Nigerians and we are also killing innocent Nigerians. They are Nigerians and we are also Nigerians. Our brothers that they have killed are also Nigerians. We lost our people and they also lost their people and this is not helping the country. That is why we want genuine dialogue that would bring this to an end. You can’t find out how rich we are, we are average people in terms of money. We cannot also expose our other businesses to the government.