Bayelsa State was soaked in tension on Friday after the police and protesting ex-militants and their leaders clashed in Yenagoa, the state capital.
The aggrieved ex-militants were said to have taken over the road to protest alleged meddling of their pipeline surveillance contracts by the Governor of the state, Mr. Seriake Dickson.
Guns boomed and teargas filled the air as the agitating ex-militants tried to resist a push by hundreds of armed policemen to get them out of the popular Mbiama-Yenagoa road.
Hundreds of ex-militants led by a former commander of the Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), Mr. Eris Paul, popularly known as Ogunboss, took over the Tombia roundabout area of the road.
The ex-militants were said to have stormed the roundabout at about 6am, made bonfires with two tyres and stopped all vehicular movement.
The action of the ex-militant leaders who chanted anti-Dickson songs created traffic gridlock and panic in the area.
It was gathered that matters went out of control when a truckload of armed policemen arrived the area to stop the protest.
The policemen were said to have fired gunshots into the air and thrown teargas at the protesting youths.
It was gathered that the agitating youths retaliated by hauling stones and other missiles at the police and their vans.
The angry ex-militants were said to have vandalized the trucks of the police with Ricky stones and demobilized the truck with bonfires.
The armed policemen were said to have further descended on them with heavy batons and butts of their rifles.
Over nine vehicles were reportedly vandalized in the ensuing melee while some shops and a popular camp muphy relaxation spot were torched.
It was further learnt that some of the ex-militants also fired their guns into the air forcing the police to apply more force against them.
As the police and the ex-militant leaders battled, drivers and commuters were said to have fled their vehicles to avoid being hit by stray bullets.
Many patrol vans and trucks of policemen were said to have arrived the area for reinforcement which compelled the protesters to retreat.
Most of the ex-militants were said to have relocated to the house of Ogunboss while others fled to unknown places.
Though some sources said an ex-militant was killed and eight others injured in the fracas that broke out, the claims could not be confirmed.
Some of the protesters were said to have been arrested and taken to the headquarters of the police command in the state.
A visit to the roundabout showed that the area was tensed with over 20 patrol vans of policemen and soldiers surrounding it.
The armed men frisked most pedestrians and ordered them to raise their hands before passing through the roundabout.
Speaking on the protest, the National Chairman, 6166 Presidential Amnesty Phase II, ‘General’ Aso Tambo, blamed the development on Dickson.
He said the ex-militants were angry with the governor for allegedly encroaching pipeline security contract awarded to them by the Federal Government through the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
“Other states like Delta, Edo, Cross River, Rivers and Akwa Ibom are also involved because they have ex-militants like us. The governors of these states did not encroach into these contracts.
“In the case of Bayelsa, we don’t know while the governor is making it peculiar that he wants to share the security contracts with the ex-militant leaders. He wants to take 50 per cent while the ex-militants will be given 50 per cent.
“As at the time this contract was awarded, Dickson was not even a governor. These contracts were awarded as a result of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) we undertook with the federal government that if we accept the amnesty offer, pipeline security jobs will be given to us. That was why the jobs were given to us”, he said.
He said they would never allow any governor to hijack the jobs threatening to make the stage uncomfortable for Dickson if he refused to stay away from the contracts.
He said: “If the governor has people he wants to empower, the state has many resources through internally generated revenues and statutory allocations. Bayelsa is a room and parlour state.
“We are even surprised that the state till tomorrow has not been developed to our state after all the trillions that had come into the state. The governor should not interfere with our contract.
“If he does so, we will continue to keep him restless. We will continue to suffocate him pending when his elections will come and we will definitely not give him any room to come back.”
Also, Ogunboss, said the angry ex-militants trooped to the streets to protest wrong policies of the present administration in the state and the plot by Dickson to hijack a multibillion dollar NNPC pipeline surveillance contract to communities in the state.
“Apart from the numerous show of incompetence by the present administration, Dickson is trying to hijack the job meant for the oil-bearing communities in the state.
“Most of the South-South states have signed the allocation of the surveillance contract but Dickson is insisting that the job be awarded to a self-styled company known as Izon Ibe, a security outfit that we don’t know.
“Dickson should concentrate on the use of state allocation and internally generated revenue to advance the good of the State rather than hijack jobs coming to communities.”
Contacted on the development, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Daniel Markson-Iworiso dismissed the claim of the ex-militant as “parochial”.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Asinim Buswatt, said the police did not clash with the ex-militants.
He said the policemen only employed civil means to disperse the protesters adding that nobody died during the protest.
“The police only shot tear gas canisters to disperse them.The police did not shoot live cartridges,” he said.