Some members of the Omadino Community in Warri allege that a youth leader and ex-militant has hijacked the leadership and resources of the community, threatening all who oppose him, and they are alarmed that the police is doing nothing
By Temi Otubu
Aginejuone Oritseweyinmi Aguinejone counts himself lucky. Like a cat with nine lives he has managed to survive what he describes as the murderous antics of Austine Oniyesan Erubore, the sit-tight youth leader of his Omadino village, Delta State and a former militant. Mr. Aguinejone’s sin is daring to stand up to Mr. Erubore who has been accused of failing to relinquish his headship of the community’s youth group, despite completing his three-year term in 2007 and in the face of a restraining order from the High Court Warri. Aguinejone counts himself lucky because some other people who opposed the regime of Erubore have been attacked by thugs alleged to work for the ex-militant. And petitions on these allegations have flooded the Police area command in Warri, police station in Jeddo, a neighbouring village, the Force Headquarters Abuja and various security agencies to no avail. Instead, Erubore waxes stronger.
Aguinejone says that he has been threatened by Erubore since 2005 when he opposed his leadership of the community youth, forcing him to relocate from the riverine community to Warri township. He has been forced to engage the services of a lawyer to compel the police to bring Erubore to justice for his crimes but the area command in Warri has turned a blind eye, instead inviting him to a settlement meeting. On why he is not keen to attend such meetings Aguinejone claims that Erubore has never been sincere, using the relaxed atmosphere to launch further strikes against his enemies. Also, Erubore is not ready to settle along the terms demanded by the youths and elders of the community, which is chiefly that he steps down from the office he is holding illegally five years after his tenure. Two persons, Progress Uwatse and Victor Esu, have reportedly disappeared after they denounced Erubore. Esu’s house was allegedly burnt down by hoodlums working for Erubore Two others Robinson Uwatse and Bernard Onye who opposed him and dragged him to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for defrauding the community have been shut up, say community youths and have since cringed out of fear. Those who dare suffer the brunt.
In 2009, thugs were sent to the wedding ceremony of Aguinejone in Warri where they beat him up, stole his traditional beads, watch and other personal effects, left family and guests scampering for safety. They then left a firm instruction to Aguinejone to stay away from Omadino, his home town. The young man says the thugs were from Erubore. In a petition addressed to the Inspector General of Police and dated July 12, 2010, Ekeinde Obas and Associates, solicitors to Aguinejone claim that “Austin Oniyesan Erubore recently used his heavily armed thugs stationed in Omadino Community on the 9th of May 2010 when he and his thugs assaulted, molested and battered some indigenes of Omadino community, including Dr. Robinson Uwatse Eyekosi and Benjamin Akure”. Unfortunately the police seem unable to tame the youth leader, prompting Aguinejone to write the acting Inspector General of Police M.D. Abubakar to intervene and compel the Delta State command to live up to its responsibilities. According to the petition, “the issue now before your office is the safety of the life of Aguinejone, his family and Mrs. Roli Esu and her family as we constantly receive threat from Austin Oniyesan Eruobore and his armed thugs stationed at Omadino . . as they now live in perpetual fear”. The youths want protection, while they seek the intervention of the police and the Delta State government to prevent a breakdown of law and order in the volatile region. While many back down, Aguinejone says he is ready to do battle for justice to be enthroned in the community, even at great personal risk.
Omadino is an oil-producing community, with two major oil companies – Shell and Chevron – operating in the area. Most oil companies in the area engage youths to guard their facilities and as part of their corporate social responsibility hand regular cash payouts to the community. It is this income which should be used for the benefit of all that Erubore does not want to let go. In a separate petition to the EFCC some concerned members of the community have asked that Eruobore be investigated and prosecuted for financial crimes. The allegations against him are that he misappropriated N30 million paid to the community by Chevron, among other misdemeanor. In all, Aguinejone claims that Eruobore has stolen over N80 million belonging to the community.
At best Erubore’s replies to the accusations have been laughable. Asked why he is being accused by members of the community he told a newsmagazine that he cannot understand how people he has ‘empowered’ with contracts from Chevron and the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) should oppose him and said the decision to elongate his tenure was taken by the community because of his hard work. But there is no evidence to this effect, says Aguinejone. Barrister Misan who is also a community activist and ran against Erubore for the youth leadership in 2004 also disputes the claim. The only hope of the youths is that the inspector general of police will ask his men in Warri to take prompt action to investigate the case and arrest the drift of the community into anarchy.