Charles Nwoke, Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Image courtesy of local Nigerian news services.
The 6 Division of the Nigerian Army has revealed that six of its personnel were killed and their weapons carted away by suspected members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, in the guise of #EndSARS protest in Oyigbo, Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers.
Major Charles Ekeocha, the public relations officer of the Division said this while speaking on a Port Harcourt based radio station, Nigeriainfo FM on Friday about the ongoing operation by security operatives in Oyigbo which many residents of the area have been complaining about.
But Ekeocha said the operations in Oyigbo were not targeted at innocent persons, but criminals who killed innocent persons and six of its personnel.
“Our operation in Oyigbo is not targeting innocent persons. Six of our soldiers were killed and their weapons were carted away. It was really planned and executed. If we don’t retrieve the weapons they could be used on innocent citizens of that area and in other parts of Nigeria”.
Reacting to the allegations about human rights abuse by soldiers, including bursting into people’s homes forcefully, Major Ekeocha said: “The Places the soldiers are bursting into were possible hideouts for criminals and weapons.
“What we are doing is stop and search, to see whether we can recover those rifles from the so-called IPOB members. We are very professional about it”.
Residents of Oyigbo have been in anguish for the past one week since the joint Operation between Police and Military to fish out suspected members of IPOB from the area began.
All the exit and entry routes into the community have been blocked by soldiers who have been carrying out house to house search.
Panic gripped residents of the community on Thursday when Police helicopters and Airforce jets hovered their airspace for some minutes.
The operation by security operatives was declared after hoodlums, under the guise of ENDSARS protest went on wanton killings and destruction of public and private properties on Wednesday, October 21.
The hoodlums had also invaded Oyigbo Police Area Command where they killed three policemen, two soldiers, and burnt three stations.
In total, according to the Police, about 50 vehicles parked inside the station, a State High Court were burnt down during the violence.
Governor Nyesom Wike had subsequently imposed a 24 hours curfew while ordering the deployment of soldiers to keep the hoodlums in check.
But residents of the community, especially those residing in Oyigbo urban areas, have been complaining that the curfew has resulted in serious economic and social challenges in the area.
The three markets in the area have been shut down while shops, pharmacies and petrol stations in the area are also not operating.
Some of the residents complained that they were dying of hunger while appealing to the Governor to relax the curfew to enable them to restock and take care of their medical needs.
“Many of us were taken unawares by the curfew. Many residents were not able to restock. All the markets were shut down, the banks are not working, there is no electricity, filling stations are not selling fuel and there is no way many of us can charge our phones,” a journalist residing in Oyigbo said.
“The curfew came without prior notice. Many residents are dying of hunger and starvation. Many of the residents who are sick cannot access drugs or medical facilities. I am on BP drugs and my stock is exhausted. I cannot restock because of 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.
“The residents were taken unawares by the curfew. Many of us have exhausted our food supplies and there is no way to restock because of the curfew.
“Those who are sick cannot get medication. Children are crying with hunger because there is no food to give them. We are suffering. We want our dear governor to have mercy on us and relax the curfew,” she said.
POS and Mobile banking operators, our reporter learned, have taken the advantage of the lockdown to exploit the residents who could not access bank ATMs to withdraw money.