Army Confirms officer, Six Others Killed in Rivers

  • Wike vows to seek justice for the dead
  • US envoy calls for end to electoral violence

By Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

The Nigerian Army yesterday said it lost an officer to the election violence in Rivers State, adding that six other persons were shot dead during an ambush of troops by alleged assailants in Abonema, Akuku Toru LGA.

The deaths, which occurred during last Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections in the state, have drawn the ire of the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, who has vowed to seek justice for those killed.

The United States Consul-General to Nigeria, Mr. John Bray, has, however, called for an end to the violent conflicts in the state.

The army, which denied allegations that it planned to assassinate Wike, accused the governor of offering the GOC 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Jamil Sarham, millions of dollars in bribe, also charged the Chairman of Akuku Toru LGA, Mr. Rowland Sekibo, of masterminding the attack on troops.

An army statement signed by its spokesman, Col. Sagir Musa, said: “The pre-planned attack occurred in between Charles and Bob-Manuel’s compounds in Abonema Town about 1.00 pm on February 23, 2019″

“The attackers barricaded a major road into the town and laid an ambush in the adjoining built-up areas from where they opened fire on our unsuspecting troops when they attempted to remove the barricade.

“The gallant troops fought their way through the siege and in the process killed six of the assailants.  However, we lost a lieutenant and two soldiers were wounded in the encounter.

“Preliminary investigation indicated that one Roland  Sekibo, – the Chairman, Akuku Toru LGA, Omodo; the CSO Akuku Toru LGA and  Kenneth Kula, currently at large, were the masterminds of the unexpected and unprovoked attack.

“To this end, the Nigerian Army strongly hereby states that perpetrators of this ambush will be made to face the full wrath of the law.”

Meanwhile, the army in another statement, accused Wike of making offers of millions of dollars in bribe to which Sarham rejected, maintaining that his assassination claim was unsubstantiated.

It said: “Some of his rancorous claims were that the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division, Maj. Gen. Jamil Sarham, purportedly sent troops to cordon off his residence prior to the rescheduled general elections on February 15, 2019.

“The governor further went on to allege an assassination attempt on his life, which he claimed was orchestrated by the GOC 6 Division.

“The Nigerian Army is appalled that a governor who should epitomise leadership and good example in all senses could descend so low to employ smear campaign against the person of a GOC whose only responsibility amongst other things is about the safety and security of lives and property in his area of responsibility.”

But responding to the allegations, the Special Assistant to Wike on Electronic Media, Mr. Simeon Nwakaudu, said they were not only false, but a diversionary tactic to exonerate the GOC and his men from the atrocities they committed in the state.

Nwakaudu stressed that by his actions, Sarham showed that he has no respect for human lives, democracy and the rule of law.

He added that the lies are aimed at enabling them to hatch more false allegations to justify their killing of innocent people of the state in the next elections.

“In the coming days, the GOC and other criminal elements will hatch more false allegations to justify their unpatriotic killing of innocent Rivers people for the political advantage of their sponsors,” he said.

Meanwhile, the United States Consul-General to Nigeria, Mr. John Bray, has called for an end to violence in the state.

Addressing journalists at the Government House, Port Harcourt yesterday after a meeting with Wike, the diplomat decried the violence that greeted the polls in some parts of the state.

 The American envoy told journalists: “I am here as an international observer.  We have been watching elections in Rivers State.

“I am not here to grade elections or anything like that. I am just here to say that there has been enough violence.

 “Enough people have died. I am here today to speak with all the different candidates and party leaders.”

Also addressing journalists later in Port Harcourt, Wike declared that the state government would pursue justice for all those murdered in cold blood by  soldiers of the Nigerian Army, allegedly recruited by the APC to unleash mayhem on PDP members  in Abonema and other towns  during presidential and National Assembly elections.

The governor said all those involved in the cold blooded murder of innocent Rivers people to feather the presidential ambition of their benefactor would not go unpunished.

He particularly berated the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi; the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Jamil Sarham; and the Federal Special Anti-robbery Squad (FSARs) Commander, Mr. Akin Fakorede, for their roles in the murder of Rivers people during the elections.

He said: “Let it be known that those who masterminded the murderous assault on Abonema and other communities in Rivers State last Saturday have bloodstains on their hands, for which they are all answerable before the Almighty God.

 “I wish to assure all and sundry that we shall as a government pursue justice for the families of the victims against the perpetrators of the mayhem, killings and destructions in Abonema, Buguma, Degema and other places no matter how powerful they may seem and how long it may take.”

 Wike called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately direct the army to pull out of Abonema, so that the people can resume their normal lives.

The army has continued the lock down of Abonema Community in Akuku Toru LGA following the death of a soldier and six others in the community.