Tony Ita Etim, Port Harcourt
There is tension in the four Ogoni local government areas of Rivers State as soldiers invaded Bori the trqditional headquarters of the Ogoni people and that of Khana local government areas.
Scores of heavily armed soldiers Tuesday morning invaded Bori following the burning of the Constituency Office of Senator Magnus Abe located in the council headquarters.
The heavy presence of soldiers which reminded the people of the events leading to the judicial murder of late environmental activists, Kenule Saro-Wiwa ad other Ogoni martyrs caused tension in Ogoniland forcing many residents, especially youths to flee the area to other parts of the state ad nearby Abia ad Akwa Ibom States.
Reacting to the presence of the soldiers, the apex organisation of the Ogoni people, MOSOP, is outraged and condemned in strong terms the invasion of Ogoni communities by the Nigerian military and demand from government the immediate withdrawal of the invading soldiers.
The condemnation was contained in a press statement signed by Fegalo Nsuke, Publicity Secretary, MOSOP.
According to MOSOP, “Reports available to MOSOP have shown that rather than end the condemnable campaign, the military has this morning (23/2/2016) extended the violence to Bori, shooting indiscriminately and advancing into adjoining communities including Zaakpon. The shooting, which is on-going had saddeningly seen to the cold blooded murder of innocent persons, infliction of serious gunshot injuries on others, paralysis of activities in the Ogoni capital and its environs as well as arbitrary arrests thereby forcing natives and residents to flee to safety.
“The soldiers had on February 22 violently invaded Yeghe community in Gokana local government area of Ogoni, Rivers State occasioning the killing of three (3) innocent natives including Saturday Gbarazia, inflicted severe gunshot injuries on other victims, whose health conditions are said to be very critical; destroyed properties and made arbitrary arrests.
“Similarly, the military aided by one notorious Isaac Obe had raided Alode in Eleme local government area on Friday, 19th February, 2016 occasioning torture and arbitrary arrest of victims, destruction of properties belonging to Messrs. Ndo Chizor, John Saloka and others, MOSOP lamented.
According to MOSOP, “We consider as extremely disappointing and unfortunate these unprovoked military violence against our people, which betrays repressively sinister motive and reminiscent of our sad past. We find it difficult to rationalise the wisdom in this military campaign, cruelly motivated by hidden and evil intent. No matter what may be adduced to have informed this appalling military approach, violence in our view, cannot provide the necessary solution to civil issues but dialogue.
“Insofar as we are concerned, we are not in a military state neither are we in a state of war that should warrant such degree of military violence. It is shocking and smacks of hate and callousness that in a democratic dispensation, which requires proper civil conduct on the part of all including the military, such level of military hardware including tanks will be deployed to purely harmless civilian communities in a matter that has not been well substantiated.
“The military must therefore tread cautiously and maintain its independence and professionalism as well as resist attempts by desperate politicians to drag them into the murky waters of politics including being used to commit human rights abuses.”
MOSOP pointed out that “Facts abound that Ogoni had made enormous sacrifices including paying the supreme price for the rebirth and sustenance of the current democracy. We have thus expected that we would be treated fairly and not turning our communities into theatres of violence and killing fields.
“It appears to us that this devious campaign may be aimed at creating an unconducive atmosphere in the area to frustrate the planned Ogoni environmental remediation and restoration project billed to commence in the first quarter of this year.”
Demanding for the immediate withdrawal of the soldiers from Ogoniland, the statement continued “We are therefore passionately calling on all men of goodwill including the international community to prevail on Abuja to withdraw soldiers from Ogoni and stop further violence against our people.
“For obvious reasons, we would be protesting the unprovoked violation of the inalienable rights of our people including the right to life to the United Nations, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation and Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission.
“At this crucial moment, we call on the Ogoni people to remain calm and resist the temptation to take laws into their hands. We will continue to monitor the situation and report appropriately.”
In his reaction, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has called on all residents of Khana and Gokana Local Government Areas who fled their homes as a result of military presence in the area to return to their homes.
The governor stated that the heavy military presence in the area is aimed at promoting security of lives and property and not to harm law abiding residents.
In a statement issued by Simeon Nwakaudu, Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media, Governor Wike assured the people of their safety.
Wike underlined that his administration will always enhance the security of all residents of the state, urging the people of Khana and Gokana Local Government Areas to cooperate with the security agencies to maintain law and order.
Reacting to the arson at Abe’s Constitiency Office at Bori, Parry Saroh Benson, Spokesperson to Senator Magnus Ngei Abe alleged that, “armed men clad in army uniform suspected to be thugs of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State is alleged to have been responsible for the dastardly act.
“Information available to us has revealed that the senatorial liaison office of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the March 19th re-run election in Rivers South East Senatorial District, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe has been attacked in Bori, Ogoni on Monday 22nd Feb., 2016.”
Benson claimed that “Eye witness account said that the criminals carrying sophisticated weapons threw dynamites and bombs into the senatorial office of Senator Magnus Abe in Bori while staff and visitors as at the time of incident scampered for safety.
“Meanwhile some staff and visitors who escaped are yet to be accounted for.*
The statement, “Recalled that few days ago, Governor Nyesom Wike had at the 50th Birthday celebration of Senator Lee Maeba in Luuwa, Khana Local Government Area in Rivers State charged PDP supporters that he will not be happy unless they stop Senator Magnus Abe’s re-election bid by all means.
“The event of today has clearly shown that the charge by the Governor to his supporters to stop Senator Abe has just begun by the attack on the senatorial liaison office.
“We view this attack as a cheap attempt to intimidate our supporters and so fear to participate in the forthcoming re-run election”.
“I want to call on all our supporters and all law abiding citizens of the Rivers South-East Senatorial District especially the people of Ogoni not to take laws in their hands nor do anything that will lead to lost of lives and property but to remain resolute and ready to participate fully in the forthcoming re-run election in the area”. Abe said.
He went further to say, “the struggle to liberate Ogoniland, Rivers State and particularly Rivers South East Senatorial District from the claws of political gangsters, criminals and thugs masquerading as political leaders cannot be won without sacrifice”.
Abe added that the reign of impunity, violence and lawlessness has reached its zenith in Rivers State and “we cannot pretend that any kind of election could be held under this atmosphere unless something is done to bring to book the perpetrators of this heinous crime as March, 2016 may not be different from March, 2015”.
The statement submitted that “we do not need to wait until the Omoku experience repeat itself in Bori where over 20 persons were killed in one day. Therefore, I called on President Muhammadu Buhari, the Police and other security agents in the State to act fast in order to forestall further attacks by criminal gangs on the people”.
Ogonis Flee Homes As Military Invade Communities
Tony Ita Etim, Port Harcourt