Suspected arsonists have set about 300 houses in Ijawkiri, Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, ablaze on Friday. The unidentified arsonists who arrived in a speedboat in the dead of night while the people were asleep, set the neighbourhood ablaze before taking off the same way they came.
Ijawkiri is one of the host communities of the disputed Soku Gas Plant in Oluasiri kingdom. There is, however, suspicion that the fire was started to instigate trouble in the area because of the disputed oil well.
Presently, the situation is tensed between the Kalabari kingdom in Rivers State and Nembe in Bayelsa State – two communities laying claim to the oil well as there are fears that the incident could lead to reprisal attacks.
Chairman of Oil and Gas in Nembe, Chief Nengi James, confirmed that over 300 persons were displaced by the fire. “Their major occupation is fishing. The fire destroyed properties worth millions of naira. There is confusion in the community. We don’t know who set the community on fire because the incident happened suddenly,” he said.
Confirming the incident, Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr. Fidelis Odunna, said the police had deployed operatives in the area to forestall breakdown of law and order.