Army accused of killing 24 in search for ex-militant in Rivers
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions has announced its preparedness to commence investigation into the alleged invasion of four Ogoni communities in Rivers State by soldiers since February 22.
This disclosure was made by the Committee chairman, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, when the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) and traditional ruler of Mene Bua-Yeghe community in Ogoniland, Chief Barinaada Gbaranee, appeared before the committee to defend their separate petitions before it.
Gbaranee had told the senators that following the invasion, the armed military personnel went beserk, killing 12 persons including women and children.
He also said the armed men did not only invade the four communities but also invaded the house of a former Niger Delta militant, Solomon Ndigbara, vandalising his cars and buildings without any reason. He added that the soldiers proceeded further to arrest Ndigara’s wife as well as his siblings.
The monarch said: “The military occupation of Ogoniland escalated on February 23 to the extent that the army engaged themselves in the brutal killing of men, women and children numbering about 12. The sporadic shootings against the harmless and defenceless peace loving people of Ogoni land led to the displacement of natives of even neighbouring towns as Zaakpon and Wiiyakara communities, in fact even extending up to Babbe Kingdom.
“Consequent upon this, all economic activities in Ogoniland especially Bori town and other adjoining villages have been grounded to a halt. Men, women and children have deserted their homes and are taking refuge in the bush and forest due to heavy presence of the military personnel, patrolling in armoured cars with sophisticated weapons.”
Imploring the senators to come to the rescue of the troubled communities, Gbaranee said Ogoniland had been peaceful prior to the invasion. “The continued exposure of vulnerable men, women and children, certainly is beginning to cause hunger, sicknesses and diseases, the resultant effect is sudden death,” he lamented.
The second petitioner, CLO, in its submission, echoed the monarch saying the military invasion affected four communities in two local governments areas in Ogoniland. The group’s South-south Zonal Chairman, Mr.Chinedu Uchegbu, listed the communities as Yeghe, Zaakpo, Bori, and Babbe in the Gokhana and Khana council areas.
He also listed those said to have been killed, by the soldiers to include: Nwibari Mbu, Bariture Ziibo, Lesi Ledee, Saturday Gbarazia, Kelechi Nwafor ,and his brother Linus Nwafor, among others. He said Ledee was a pregnant woman.
Those arrested, according to Uchegbu, were Messrs Gambo Festus; Dennis Macaulay Nbinna; Ndikwa Tekpe; Nwii Peter and two others from Tai Local Government of the state.
Uchegbu also disclosed that a number of members of the communities were still being held by the soldiers while others such as Chikwodo Nwankwo, Azubuike Iga, among others, who sustained various degrees of injury are on admission in various hospitals in the local government.
According to him, the situation is worrisome, noting that security agents who ought to secure the people turned out to be the threats to their existence.
However, Anyanwu assured both the monarch and the CLO that his committee would ensure a comprehensive investigation of the situation.
The Nigerian Army has been accused of killing 24 persons in Gokhana and Khana Local Government Areas of Rivers State, while on a search for an ex-militant, Mr. Solomon Indigbara who is being wanted for gun-running and election-related violence.
The community leaders also accused former federal lawmakers, Senator Magnus Abe and Hon. Harry Npigi of inciting the crises ahead of re-run elections into the National Assembly, holding next weekend.
The affected communities, Yeghe, Zaakpo, Bori and Babbe in the two local government areas, had petitioned Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, over the killings which they said happened February 22 and 23, 2016, where an eight-month old pregnant woman also died, while six injured persons remain in critical condition.
The House Committee on Army chaired by Hon. Rima Shawulu yesterday heard that the troops deployed from Port Harcourt Division invaded the communities, shooting sporadically into the area.
The Chairman of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), (South South), Mr. Kachi Uchegbu, demanded compensation for the families of those who died and for those who were injured.
Accompanied by three leaders of the community, they presented pictures of dead bodies, and telephone numbers of their relatives to the committee.
“Our concern is that there would be re-run in some parts of Rivers State next week, and we learnt some politicians are using this to destabilise the area,” he said.
The army however refuted the allegations insisting that no one died in the raid in search of the ex-militant.
Chief, Civil/Military Affairs of the Nigerian Army, Major General Rogers Nicholas, said the raid was targeted at Indigbara who is being accused of several atrocities including gun-running, inciting violence, murder and burying an informant alive.
He disclosed that the ex-militant escaped during the raid, and while several members of his household were arrested, they have all been released.
He provided pictures of the arms and ammunition found in Indigbara’s residence.
“This kind of situation where people are armed to the teeth should not be allowed to happen,” Nicholas said.