Armed anti-riot policemen, yesterday, sealed off Ijaw House, in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, venue of the meeting of the leaders of former militants in the Niger Delta.
The meeting, summoned by the leader of the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta, MEND, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, aka Tompolo, was later put off due to the tension generated.
The armed policemen, it was learnt, were deployed in the early hours of yesterday, to prevent access to the facility, which also houses the secretariats of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide and the Ministry Culture and Ijaw National Affairs.
Five police patrol vehicles and a truck were stationed in front of the complex with combat ready operatives guarding the place.
Residents, who visited the Ijaw House to make use of the ATM to cash money, were denied access.
Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson had, on Friday, called for the postponement of the parley, saying he would meet with the ex-militants to discuss the burning issues affecting them.
The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, in a statement by its spokesman, Eric Omare, yesterday, condemned the police invasion of the Ijaw House, describing it as illegal, unconstitutional and a draw back to the dark days of military dictatorship where Nigerians were deprived of their fundamental rights.
The statement read in part. “The IYC condemns, in the strongest terms, the invasion of Ijaw House, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, the administrative headquarters of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) and housing the Bayelsa State Ministry of Ijaw National Affairs and Culture.
“IYC wishes to remind the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari that we are in a constitutional democracy where things are done according to law.”
“The 1999 Constitution, which is the foundation upon which our democracy is built, recognizes the right to freedom of assembly and movement. The Niger-Delta people, whether as ex-agitators or youth groups, have the right to assembly in a meeting and free movement.
“This is a threat to our nascent democracy. Democracy is not only about having rice and beans to eat but the enjoyment of basic and fundamental rights which are enshrined and guaranteed in the constitution. The fears of many Nigerians that General Buhari would take Nigeria back to the dark days of dictatorship where there is no regard for human rights are coming to reality”.