Scores of military men yesterday invaded Warri and some neighbouring Ijaw communities in search of a former militant leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo.
That action took place soon after it was announced that his father, Chief Thomas Ekpemupolo had died. He was aged 84. The military men were apparently expecting that they would find Tompolo in the vicinity following the death.
The military, which were deployed to the communities apparently to arrest the fleeing ex-militant leader embarked on houseto- house search for several hours. New Telegraph gathered that the sudden appearance of the military caused tension in which residents are deserting their various communities.
The military men invaded Krutiu, Okerekoko and adjoining Ijaw communities, ostensibly to arrest the fleeing ex-militant leader. Ekpemupolo reportedly passed on early yesterday morning at a private hospital, known as Lily Clinic, in Warri, after a brief illness.
Confirming the sad event, a close family source, Paul Bebenimibo, said the 84-year-old man died as a result of injuries sustained during the military expeditions into his community in Gbaramatu Kingdom recently.
Bebenimibo, who is Tompolo’s spokesman, also recalled that the former militant leader, who is currently in hiding, had made a mention of an injury his father sustained when soldiers invaded his home in Kurutie.
Another close family source, who confirmed the death of the octogenarian, said his health situation had been compounded by the rough experience he was subjected to during the military invasion as he was being moved from place to place.
”He died after 5a.m. at Lily Clinic in Warri. He should be over 80 years. He’s been sick for a while now, a couple of months, even before the invasion. It was not that serious.
You know the old age kind of sickness, but with all the tension and all that because he was in the village then.” According to him: “He went through some stress then because they were being taken from Kurutie to Kunukunuma, from Kunukunuma to Warri because he was not sure of his safety; whether he would be arrested.
So, he had to be running from one village to the other in the riverine area before he was finally moved to Warri. ”About two months ago, he had a problem with one of his legs, which they had to amputate.
He finally gave up the ghost this morning”, the source further said. Reacting to the death of the Ijaw chief, a Gbaramatu community leader from Kokodiagbene, Comrade Sheriff Mulade, described the development as a shock to the people of Gbaramatu Kingdom.According to him, “The news came to us as a shock because he was a great gem.
We didn’t expect to lose him at these trying times. We pray for courage and fortitude for his immediate family. We sympathise with his immediate family.”