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Killing Of Soldiers: Okuama Women, Children Trapped Without Food For 6 Days


For six days, hundreds of women and children from Okuama community, Ewu Kingdom, in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, who fled their homes in fear of their lives as Nigerian Army troops began demolishing the community following the killing of 16 soldiers last Friday, have been stranded in the forests without food.

This is even as a young man from one of the warring communities, suspected to be a militant, dared the Federal Government to declare him wanted in a viral video yesterday, saying the soldiers were killed because they allowed commanding persons to use them to oppress the people of Okuama.

At the coastal town of Igbomotoru in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, the siege imposed by troops on the manhunt for a militant leader suspected to have masterminded the killings is pushing the community towards starvation. It could trigger a humanitarian crisis if it persisted.

Some days ago, the Okuama women cried out that they fled into the forests when soldiers allegedly opened fire on the villagers in the town hall after the community refused their attempt to take away the community leaders.  

As of yesterday, Okuama is out of bounds as only the military could enter in and out of the town. The place is deserted,  the state governor, Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori confirmed he could not visit the place because of the situation.

Vanguard learned that the neighboring communities to the abandoned Okuama refused to accept the fleeing residents as refugees in their homelands because of the persecution by soldiers, who come around searching for the perpetrators of the heinous crime.

Because of how they escaped into the forests, the women could not take food items with them, and they could not return to the community either, as soldiers had taken over the town.

One indigene of a bordering community in the Ewu Kingdom said the situation of the victims of the military onslaught on culprits of the Okuama killings was pitiable.

“Hunger is taking a toll on them, especially the children they are carrying. This is a humanitarian crisis, and the government has to open a refugee camp for these people and provide them with food.

 “Soldiers molest innocent people in neighboring communities of Okuama in Ughelli South Local Government Area. As I am speaking with you, soldiers are still in the Orere community in the Ewu kingdom, molesting innocent people in the search for perpetrators.

“The fact is that neighboring communities of Okuama in the Ewu Kingdom are not receiving fleeing indigenes of Okuama, who are mostly women and children, for fear of harassment and molestation by the military.

“As we speak, neighboring communities are living in fear because the military has set up drones watching over all communities”.
A resident of the Orere community said that people in neighboring communities have had sleepless nights over the presence of soldiers in their domains.

“We are having sleepless nights over what happened at Okuama because the military is after the perpetrators fleeing from the scene of the incident. To be candid, nobody is happy over what happened to the soldiers at Okuama.

“But, the issue has degenerated, and we are all affected. They would come to your community, brutalizing innocent people over their onslaught of fleeing perpetrators.

“I want to use this medium to call on the federal government to consider setting up refugee camps for women and children displaced from the Okuama community, which nobody wants to accommodate because of the fear of the rampaging soldiers in neighboring communities.

“This is a clarion call on the Federal Government to save these victims. The government should set up Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, camps to accommodate these vulnerable victims so they can be identified and avoid the harassment of neighboring communities.

“I want to conclude by saying that nobody supports the killing of soldiers at Okuama, and the federal government should do something to save these innocent victims”.
Some concerned indigenes of Igbomotuoru, who spoke to Vanguard, called on the relevant authorities to prevail on the troops to relax restrictions on free movement in and out of the community to allow the people to pick up the pieces of their lives.

Igbomotoru has been under military lockdown since last Sunday by troops in pursuit of militants allegedly behind the killing of some soldiers in Okuama, Ughelli South local government area of Delta State.

Many lives were reportedly lost during the Sunday morning invasion of Igbomotoru, with houses used by the militants razed.

According to local sources, the usually lively community is now a show of its old self; shops are shut down, and many of the natives who fled their homes are still taking refuge in the forest, while some relocated to other communities before the present lockdown in the area.

People cannot come into the community with goods and foodstuffs, and those trapped cannot leave the area.

It was, however, learned that the few persons in the community, especially the old, who could not run away are being denied access to their farms and fishing traps, a development informed sources said could trigger famine, as the people are facing hunger caused by restriction in movement.

Many are disturbed that five days after the invasion, no government official has visited the area to sympathize with the people or send relief materials to ameliorate their sufferings.

Access to food and water in the area is diminishing due to the military blockade, a source lamented, noting that the people may be compelled to source water from the polluted river.

“If two sachets of water are being sold for N50 in Yenagoa, you can imagine what it will cost at Igbomotoru where people are not allowed in and out. You can imagine what the local people are going through,” our source added.

A man who abandoned his wife in the village and escaped with two kids told our correspondent from his hideout that he trekked all through the day and night backing one of his kids and carrying the other on his shoulder through the forest to neighboring Tebideba, but that they were denied stay by the people for fear that soldiers may also invade their community.

“I trekked for one and half days through the thick of the forest, running away from the invading soldiers with one child strapped on my back and another lifted on my shoulder. I left my wife behind in that moment of confusion.

“When we got to Tebideba, I thought relief had come, but we were denied a stay by the people who said they did not want to have an issue with the military. Understating their fear, given the tense situation in the area, we had to return to the forest and continue our search for succor until we saw somebody paddling a canoe and pleading for assistance.

“The Good Samaritan paddled us to the boundary with the Sangana community, and there we got another lift through a local canoe to Sangana, from where we boarded a boat and left. You can imagine carrying two kids for one and a half days trekking through the thick forest, using the sun as a guide.

“It was just by the grace of God that we escaped. My worry now is about my wife, particularly, as  I have been unable to reach her on the phone since I fled the town.”
Lamenting the plight of the people, an environmentalist, Alagoa Morris, who is also from the Southern Ijaw local government area, urged the authorities to protect the law-abiding people of the community, saying, “With the restriction in Igbomotoru, a situation where nobody is allowed to go about, our people’s traditional means of livelihood – ‘fishing and farming’ the people may die of hunger, if not by a bullet.”

“The federal and state authorities should step in and save the lives of law-abiding Nigerians in the community. Even in the ongoing war in Gaza, humanitarian workers are going in with drugs,  food, and water, while criminals should pay for their crimes. The innocent citizens should enjoy the protection of the law.”

Also, a community leader and former councilor who represented Igbomotoru in the Southern Ijaw legislative council, Hon Ayebatari Easterday, said: “Although I am not at Igbomotoru, whatever information I am giving is not an eyewitness account of what has befallen my people but I have people who give me a report on daily basis.”

“I have been their representative as a councilor; they have confidence in me; they send the daily occurrence of the invasion of the community by armed soldiers. As of this morning, nobody living in the community can travel out, and nobody outside can also travel to the community.

“When I got the first report, I intended to go home and see how my people can be saved and how I can counsel them on ways of relating with the government, and particularly the security agencies. Several lives have been lost, but my appeal to everybody is to remain calm.

“As of yesterday, I talked to some government functionaries, and they said the government is on top of the matter to see how peace can return. Several people cannot be accounted for, and many people who ran into the forest are yet to be seen.

“They could have died of hunger in the forest. The children with no parents to cater to them may also die of starvation in the community.

“Our mothers are now helpless in the community and cannot go to their farms, and you know the source of livelihood in our communities is fishing and farming. They do not even have access to food anymore.

“Those who have shops cannot open not to talk of people coming to buy. When you cannot go fishing and farming- the only source of money to buy food to feed the family, these are some of the predicaments my people are passing through.

“The soldiers could have acted out provocation, but the beginning of every action determines the end. They should put their legs in the shoes of the community. Some of the victims are people who committed no offense.

“My candid appeal to the government headed by Senator Douye Diri and assisted by his capable deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo is to ensure that relief materials are timely sent to the people.

“These our brothers and sisters have no food to eat and water to drink, and you know that we live in an environment where the water is so polluted that they do not drink from it.

“These people have been helpless and could be forced to drink from the polluted river where they defecate, where the polluted oil flows, and also there could be another incident of unhealthy living for the people of the area.”
In the viral video, the militant claimed that Okuama and Okoloba communities were having a land dispute but some Ijaw people empowered by the federal government used the army to escort and carry out their crude oil business but decided to betray their brothers.

He disclosed they used soldiers to ‘carry’ three people and slaughtered them, adding, “The day the soldiers were killed, they came to carry our community leaders, and the youth knew that once the community leaders were captured, they would be powerless.”

From his explanation, they killed the soldiers to stop them from taking away the community leaders and making the youths ineffective.

“That is why the action took place – some people said the soldiers came for peacekeeping. Point of correction – no army came for peacekeeping. They are fighting in support of somebody (names withheld) who ordered them to do so.

“This is my last video; my father is a retired army captain; he died last year, and I have lost over six of my friends and relatives in Nigeria.

“So if you like, take the matter to the next level. If they like, let the Federal Government declare me wanted, I am proud of it. You people are saying show my face; if I show my face, what will you do to me.”


Source: Vanguard


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