Alleged military invasion: Rivers community seeks Federal, State government, NHRC intervention

(L-R) Comrade Enefaa Georgewill, Chairman, RIVCSO and Ken Henshaw, Director, We The People, during a press briefing on alleged military invasion of Udoda Community in Ahoada West LGA of Rivers State

From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt

Few months after an attack was launched on Udoda community in Ahoada West local Government Area of Rivers State by alleged military personnel, residents and indigenes of the community are now calling for the intervention of the Federal and state government.

The community also called on the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, and authorities of the Nigerian Army to wave into the situation that led to the attack on the community and bring them justice.

It would be recalled that on May 23, 2019, suspected military men invaded Udoda community, allegedly burnt down houses and destroyed other properties worth millions of naira. It was gathered that the incident which led to the alleged missing of some community youths, was carried out by soldiers in search of bunkerers involved in illegal refinery of crude oil not too far from the attacked community.

Meanwhile, during a joint press briefing by We The People and the Rivers State Civil Society Organisation, RIVCSO, on Tuesday in Port Harcourt, victims of the Udoda attack lamented that since the incident they have become homeless and dying of starvation, claiming that their sources of livelihood were also destroyed in the unexpected attack.

One of the victims of the attack who spoke with our correspondent at the briefing and gave his name as Amiofori Frank Ugwuozor, disclosed that the alleged military personnel invaded the community unexpectedly, burnt down houses, shops, including a health centre constructed by the community.

Mr Ugwuozor who thanked God for escaping death, said the personnel invaded the community with gunboats and helicopter, shooting sporadically.

He said: “It was a sad story when it happened. The soldiers first came on Thursday, killed seven persons and injured some. After two days, precisely on Saturday, they came and burnt our community. They selected the houses at random. They burnt the health centre to ashes. Thank God we were able to escape because the shooting was at random. They used helicopter and gunboats to destroy our community”.

Also speaking, the Central Working Committee Chairman of the community, Ade Aketibia Mackintosh, regretted that the military personnel left their suspects and allegedly attacked innocent community that have no gun.

He said severally, the community has written to the government and security agencies on how bunkerers and other hoodlums enter their community, commit one evil or the other and leave without any security agencies coming to their rescue, adding that the response they got from the series of petitions and letters was the brutal attack on the community by the military.

According to Mackintosh: “This issue of illegal bunkerers, the community has written series of letters to the government, police and other security agencies to save us from possible consequences of illegal refinery activities but we did not get any response.

“Our community has no guns to fight back in attack, we made our complaint to the government but nothing was done to salvage us from our fears. But all we got was destruction of our community by military personnel. Since this incident, I live in fear and I have not been able to travel home because my house was razed down in the attack.

On his part, Okenya Onem, Chairman, Engenni Development Support Forum, appealed to the state governor, Nyesom Wike, National Assembly, National Human Rights Commission to intervene in their situation for justice.

Onem said “we need compensation, our buildings should be rebuilt and normal life should return back to Udoda community, our home”.

Speaking at the joint civil organisation, Enefaa Georgewill, Chairman, RIVCSO, Ken Henshaw, Director, We The People, condemned the alleged action of the military in Udoda community, stressing that the state CLO and We The People have written several letters to NHRC demanding for the immediate investigation into the attack.

“This press conference is specifically to discuss the case of Udoda community in Ahoada West Local Government Area. On the 23rd of May 2019, the Military invaded the community with gunboats and helicopters, randomly bombing the community. In all, about 23 houses were set ablaze and totally destroyed with all properties in it worth millions of naira. Several person were also killed in the incident. We The People and RIVCSO sent two teams to have a firsthand assessment of the level of damage done in the community, capturing audio and pictorial evidence of the actions of the military.

“We in partnership with the affected community went ahead to write a petition to the National Human Rights Commission demanding an investigation and immediate remedial action. We shall also be writing the Army headquarters and detailing this atrocious event, complete with videos and pictorial evidence.

“They have lost all their worldly possessions and been left destitute. Let us also remind you that people have died in the course of this event. Our society deserves an explanation. The people demand accountability for these events”.

The group frown at the action of the military, stressing that “the military has adopted a policy of attacking and burning communities whenever there is suspected case of artisanal refining in proximity to those communities”.

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