Posted by News Express | 3 November 2020 | 859 times
Following the killings of six soldiers by suspected IPOB members during the #EndSARS protests in Oyigbo, soldiers have stormed the town with reports of extrajudicial killings coming out. Our correspondent visits and reports.
Oyigbo, a fast-growing oil-rich community in Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers State is noted for its hospitality and peaceful disposition.
Located about 12 kilometres from Port Harcourt, Oyigbo is a cosmopolitan community with residents from different ethnic background. The Indigenous Oyigbo people are very few and have mixed up with people from other ethnicities who settled in the area.
The community was carved out from Asa province in Abia State, which shares a boundary with Rivers State.
This made it easy for members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to infiltrate the community. The group has always had a heavy presence in the community and it sights of the IPOB flag flying is not altogether strange.
On Saturdays, members of the group flock to their designated worship centres on Charles Ibe Street, Timbers Drive and the Kom Kom area of Oyigbo. And on Sundays, they gather at select locations for their meetings.
When the #EndSARS protests began, the group saw it as an opportunity and on Wednesday, October, 21 members of IPOB hijacked the #EndSARS protest. They burnt down three police stations, killed four police officers as well as six soldiers.
Prior to that, members of the group had reportedly invaded the SARS outpost base located at the popular Aba/Port Harcourt Road in Oyigbo. There, they killed an officer and torched the building, as well as an operational Hilux van belonging to the SARS, were also burnt down.
Shortly after the incident, the State Police Command deployed its tactical investigative unit to Oyigbo where many of the group members were arrested. Many of these were arraigned before a Port Harcourt High Court.
“Wednesday’s burning of a police station, the killing of six soldiers as well as four policemen was an offshoot of an accumulated anger,” a resident who did not want to be named said. “The boys were waiting for an opportunity to strike and the #EndSARS protest provided an opportunity for them. They hijacked the protest and unleashed terror on both the police and soldiers.”
The violence ticked off on Tuesday night, according to witnesses, when the group barricaded the popular Oyigbo Express Junction adjacent the Oyigbo Police Station. At about 10.30 pm, the group were said to have gained access to the premises of the police station after hijacking the armoured tank stationed in front of the station.
“The police armourer who was manning the tank was shot dead and his remains set ablaze alongside the tank. The suspected IPOB arsonists moved inside the premises and set the first building ablaze after engaging police officers attached to the station in a fierce shootout. All the detainees inside the station were releases while the station’s armoury was vandalised and all the weapons carted away. The arsonists came back the next day being Wednesday and set the next building housing the office of the DPO ablaze. The DPO, who was on duty, scaled the fence and escaped while his DCO was not lucky. He was killed and his body mutilated,” a source said.
Following the attack on its formation, the police appealed for help from the Nigerian Army.
“The soldiers arrived Oyigbo on Wednesday but before they could get into the community, the suspected IPOB members have taken position in strategic areas,” the source said.
He said the soldiers deployed to Kom Kom and Mbano Camp Junction, School Road Junction and Ijeoma Junction.
At Ijeoma Junction, the soldiers were overwhelmed by members of the group and were forced to flee for refuge in a civilian’s house.
“One of the occupants of the house tried to save the soldiers. He quickly brought some clothes and gave them to change into but at that point, the boys had overwhelmed them,” the source said.
The marauding group killed the soldiers, whose number he put at five, and took away their weapons.
Shortly after the incident, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike imposed a 24-hour curfew in the entire Oyigbo Local Government Area.
The curfew stretched to Mile 1, Mile 2, Emenike, Ikowu and Iloaubuchi areas of Port Harcourt Local Government Area as well as Oil Mill area of Obio-Akpor Local Government Area of the State.
He also signed an executive order to reinforce the ban on IPOB and its activities in the state.
The curfew brought hardship on people in the town. Hundreds of residents had also fled the community over rumoured planned reprisal attack by soldiers.
“Many of us were taken unawares by the curfew. We were taken unawares many residents were not able to restock,” a resident, Henry Nwachukwu said.
With banks and markets closed and electricity supply cut off, residents were put in difficult situations.
“As I speak with you now, there is no single food in my house. My children are crying of hunger because there is nothing to eat. I am appealing to the Governor to relax the curfew so that we can restock,” he said.
Another resident, Ikechukwu Orji, said that he was not able to restock his drugs before the curfew was declared.
“I am on BP drugs and my stock is exhausted I cannot restock because of the curfew. All the markets are shut down, the pharmacies are not open this is really a bad situation. As it stands now we are at the mercy of God,” he said.
From Wednesday when angry soldiers entered Oyigbo, residents said that they are at the receiving end of soldiers’ brutality.
A resident of Mbano Camp who refused to disclose his name said that three persons, two men and a woman, died from stray bullets shot by soldiers in the area.
“They were firing guns and bullets were falling from all directions. One boy was hit on the head, a lady, who was inside her shop, was hit while two other persons were also killed by stray bullets. We locked up ourselves inside the house and bullets were coming from all directions. The bullets were falling on top our roof,” he said.
Gideon, a resident of Kom Kom told our reporter that he too saw corpses on the streets.
“I saw four bodies and I believed the victims were felled by stray bullets,” he said.
A resident of the popular market road in Oyigbo, Emeka Okena, said soldiers broke into their house in search of IPOB members.
“They came to our compound and were knocking on the gate. They were shouting that we should open the gate that they are soldiers looking for IPOB members. The moment they barged in, they ransacked all the rooms in the compound. One boy had locked up his room and ran away. They broke into the room through the ceiling and turned the entire room upside down,” he said.
A resident of Iriebie, another community close to Oyigbo said that soldiers shot their way into their compound.
He said that the entire compound was ransacked while two young boys were arrested and taken away.
He said that the whereabouts of the boys are still unknown as of press time.
The Public Relations Officer of 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major Charles Ekeocha denied that soldiers were killing innocent Oyigbo residents.
Ekeocha, who spoke to a radio station in Port Harcourt monitored by our reporter, said that the soldiers were in Oyigbo to arrest those that killed six soldiers and carted away their rifles.
He said that the soldiers are very professional in their engagement saying that they only searched houses they have information might be harbouring IPOB members and the rifles they are looking for.
While that is ongoing, the Rivers State Police Command on Monday paraded four IPOB members who allegedly participated in the looting of the Afam Police Station.
One of the suspects said he saw the items near the fence where he collected it and kept it inside his house, adding that he had not started using it before the police came to arrest him.
Another suspect, Anthony Ikenna, said the items were found in his tenant poultry cage where it was hidden while another suspect Chibuzor Vincent admitted stealing a police uniform.
According to the Spokesman of the Police in the State, SP Nnamdi Omoni, the suspects will soon be charged to court after the conclusion of the investigation.
He said that the DPO of Afam police station arrested the suspects and recovered the looted items from them. (Text, excluding headline, courtesy Daily Trust)
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