Members of Agonla Sumoge Community Fishing Ground in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State have called on the authorities of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS DELTA) to release one Piroro Tomola Omope, who is allegedly in their custody in Warri.
Forty-seven-year-old Omope, a local fisherman, was allegedly arrested on June 17 along with two teenagers, Orimisan Igbaya and Meshack Ifiriyele, while on a fishing expedition at Escravos waters where members of the community had been carrying fishing activities for ages to earn their living.
Community News gathered that the two teenagers were later released on June 19, leaving behind Omope in the custody of the Navy in Warri with the promise to let him off the hook at a later date due to the absence of the commander of the base, Commodore Raimi Mohammed.
Members of the fishing community, including elder brothers of Omope, Chief Eko Okolo and Mr Omope Adewale, who spoke with Community News, on Monday in Warri, however, said since the release of the two teenagers, the Navy, which promised to effect the release of Omope soon after, has consistently denied that Omope is in their custody.
Chief Okolo, who spoke on behalf of the community, said the people were not sure whether something untoward had happened to Omope, whose aged mother, wife and four children had been thrown into mourning since his arrest.
Okolo said the family members were worried because Omope had been incommunicado since his arrest on June 17, not knowing what had befallen him.
He said an officer from the naval base, on Monday, eventually directed them to visit the Warri Area Command, that Omope had been probably handed over to the police.
But when they visited the Area Command in Warri, Okolo said they were allowed to identify inmates in the cells but did not find Omope among them.
According to him, three of the inmates, who were in the same cell with Omope at the naval base, confirmed that Omope is still being held at the cell at the naval base as of the time they were handed over to the police.
Okolo said the family and community were now at a dilemma being unsure of what might have befallen him in the custody.
He called on the Chief of Naval Staff to prevail on the NNS Delta authorities to produce Omope dead or alive, adding that he is innocent of the accusation of pipeline vandalism.
Meanwhile, the naval authorities at NNS DELTA, have denied having custody of any fisherman suspect.
Although the outgoing commander, Commodore Raimi Mohammed, could not be reached on phone, the Base Information Officer, Lt. N.B. Lamu, said nobody bearing Omope was in the cell of the Navy.
“I’ve checked round the cell, there is no one bearing Piroro Tomola Omope. Nobody like that, maybe not in Warri Naval Base,” he insisted.
It will be recalled that a petition, signed by Taiwo Orisabinone of Taiwo Pius Orisabinone Chambers at Udu Road, Effurun-Warri had been sent to the Chief of Naval Staff as well as authorities of NNS DELTA, on the continued detention of Omope.