By Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The military at the weekend reacted to the alarm raised by some residents of Ajakpa in Ese-Odo, Ondo State, insisting that those complaining about high-handedness, benefitted from Ossy Iboriâ€™s booty while he was alive.
Â Reacting to enquiries that soldiers deployed in the area to secure the place after the killing of the wanted militant, were molesting residents, the Commander of the Joint Task Force, Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman, noted that many of the complaints were mere propaganda.
He maintained that his men were after the remnants left behind by the deceased suspect, noting that the lockdown will continue until the military was sure the area had been fully cleared of criminals.
Ibori, who boasted of a 7,800-strong foot soldiers, was killed last week during a confrontation with the military , an operation that also led to the death of some soldiers, with several others wounded.
According to Rear Admiral Suleiman, who spoke in Yenagoa, contrary to reports that only churches were left standing in the area, only camps used by the militants were destroyed, while their collaborators were being sought after.Â
â€œWe know that he has a number of followers and that is why after he is dead, we are still there to find out those who were with him. What we are doing is clearance operations on the shrines, the hideouts and the militants camps used as safe havens by the militants,â€ he said.
He denied allegations that his men were razing houses and harassing innocent residents of the area, insisting thatÂ those that have either died or arrested were properly identified.
The militaryÂ maintained that anybody found complicit would be counted as a criminal collaborators with Ibori, who allegedly coordinated killings, robberies, kidnappings and vandalism in Ondo, Ogun and Lagos States.
â€œWe identify them. We donâ€™t just burn houses , we use our intelligence to identify them. Those who are coming out to say this is premeditated are his cohorts who have enjoyed the proceeds of his criminality.
â€œThe only way they can douse our operation is to go to the public with such sentiments. These places were used as havens by the criminals. They were proceeds from the acts of criminalities. We are looking for the criminals.
â€œThey are protecting or sponsoring or housing criminals and such people have lost their immunity and we will go after them. All the hideouts were nobodyâ€™s houses. It is just propaganda. But if you are collaborating or protecting them, you have lost immunity,â€ he vowed.
The military Commander said rather than harp on houses that were being taken down, Nigerians should spare a thought for the soldiers who lost their lives during the operation.
â€œWe have lost men there. You should be also interested in the number of soldiers killed. These are innocent soldiers making sacrifices for this nation . They have families . They were murdered in cold blood.
â€œWe lost quite a number of them. Some are in the hospital. So, we cannot give the actual number that we lost, but we lost quite a number of our men.
â€œYou should also ask what the cost of this operation is. We will not operate outside our mandate, but if you are hiding criminals, we will go after you,â€ he insisted.