N’Delta Group Calls For Withdrawal Of Military from Rivers Communities
Sylvester Idowu in Warri
The Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative(IPDI) yesterday called for the immediate withdrawal of soldiers allegedly occupying Udouda and Okobe communities in Egene kingdom in Ahoada West Local Government Area of Rivers State, in order to allow homeless and defenceless residents return to their homes.
The Niger Delta Pressure group, in a statement signed by its national president, Austin Ozobo, copies of which were made available to journalists in Warri, Delta State maintained that it, “has not seen any provocation in the South-South or Niger Delta region currently to have made the military bombard, kill and conquer a residential community compared to the glaring provocations in northern Nigeria which the military is sentimentally ignoring.”
It added that, “Uduoda and Okobe communities were not at war with the Nigerian military and, as such, needed not to be haunted, killed gruesomely, and conquered by Nigerian troops.
“If the Nigerian military is looking for somewhere to conquer and occupy, it should be the Sambisa forest and not residential communities whose common trade is fishing and farming.
“We want to make it abundantly clear that Uduoda and Okobe communities in Rivers State are not militant hideouts or camps and can’t be shelled or bombed with crude military intelligence because these are communities that have government schools, churches, MTN mast, government power lines, and others,” it added.
Consequently, IPDI called on the Nigerian military authorities to prevail on the Chief of Army Staff to evacuate soldiers out of Udouda and Okobe communities without further delay to allow the fleeing residents to return to their homes immediately “as hundreds of persons have been made homeless and suffering as a result of these invasions.
“Again, we call on the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, the Chief of Defence Staff, and Chief of Army Staff to prevail on the military task force, Operation Delta Safe in Rivers and Bayelsa State to stop further invasions in Niger Delta Communities and ensure the military personnel who have perpetrated this heinous crime against Uduoda and Okobe communities be made to face justice,” the group added.
IPDI, however, urged Niger Delta communities to sue the Nigerian military for at least N100 billion for any unlawful military torture, harassment, and invasion, “to check the excessive militarisation of the Niger Delta communities.”
The group insisted that, “mere suspicion that some people are carrying a gun or doing bunkering business in a community is not enough reason to bombard such community, because it should be remembered that as people, carrying a gun is being targeted, there are also good people in that community who are not carrying gun or doing bunkering.”
IPDI’s statement read partly, “The military should tell Nigerians why ancient Udouda and Okobe communities were bombarded and who are they looking for and the crime committed by such persons should be told.
“The way the Nigerian military invades and bombards defenceless communities in Niger Delta, if they had replicated it in fighting terrorism, banditry and Islamic militants, by now, Nigeria might have been free completely from Islamic Taliban.”