Tension yesterday gripped the riverside settlement of Igbomotoru in Southern Ijaw local government area of Bayelsa State following the alleged collision of Joint military task force gunboat with a passenger boat leading to the death of a community chief.
Five others reportedly sustained serious injuries.
As at press time, it was gathered that the traumatized natives were still combing the bed of the river in search of the corpse of the missing man identified as Chief Patrick Eriye.
The names of those injured were given as Solomon Eriye, Lyon Kuwa, Godknows Eriye, Timipa Ikebiri and Esquire Godgift.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the incident occurred at about 9pm Thursday when the passenger boat rammed into the JTF gunboat patrolling the area.
A Youth Leader in the community, Comrade Ibegi Alakurogha, told Saturday Vanguard that the men of the patrol team of the JTF were responsible for the incident and the death of the chief.
According to him, the passenger boat was heading to Ikibiri community and loaded with about six persons including a sick indigene of Igbomotoro and was allegedly harrassed and pursued by the men of the JTF.
”The sad news came to the community that a traditional Head and Chief in our community is missing in the river due to the undue harassment and intimidation by the men of the JTF.
“We were told that two passport boats and a gun boat was stationed along the waterways and had stopped and asked them where the passenger boat was heading. And the people told them. On their way back at about 9pm,they were chased by the men of the JTF and out of fear they ran and the accident occurred. Our Chief is missing and we hope he is not dead.
But the Joint Task Force through the Media Co-ordinator, Lt.Col. Onyeama Nwachukwu denied the claims of complicity against the patrol team and said the youths were not vigilante on their trip and rammed into the gun boat.
He said, ”the men of the JTF even assisted in the rescue of six of the passengers of the boat.”