Residents of Oyigbo Town, in Oyigbo local government area of Rivers State have raised the alarm that the Nigerian military were reportedly on the brink of a major attack on the area.
They have, therefore, cried out to the Rivers State government to intervene and save them from possible “repeat of the Umuechem episode.”
Residents in the area who called The Neighbourhood on the telephone on Sunday night, said the area has become a ghost town as most residents had moved out in fear. Despite the 24-hour curfew imposed on the area by Governor Nyesom Wike, The Neighbourhood confirmed mass movement of people desperate to leave the area as the night approached on Sunday.
The residents claimed there had been information that the military had issued a four-day ultimatum to the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, to produce the bodies of their men its militants reportedly killed last week. The residents told The Neighbourhood that the ultimatum would expire today, Monday. They said the military had claimed five of its soldiers were killed by the IPOB group but that only three corpses of the five had been found. The other two, they said, quoting the military, were still missing.
On Sunday night, the area was quiet and free from the usual gunfire that had characterised the night in previous days.
A family that also spoke with The Neighbourhood on Sunday night on the telephone said they were living in fear and had no food in the house. “We can’t go to anywhere to buy food as nobody dares open shop or go out. We just ate the little half piece of yam left in the house with no hope of what to eat in the morning”, one of the parents told The Neighbourhood.
They added, “We live in fear of what the military might do to us at the end of the 4-day ultimatum which expires on Monday(today). We have no food at home. What we have is just Two Hundred Naira(N200) with children in the house. We can’t go out to look for food if we even have the money. Our situation in Oyigbo is desperate. We appeal to Governor Nyesom Wike to please intervene to prevent any killing of Oyigbo residents by the military.”
The Neighbourhood was unable to speak with the Spokesman for 6 Division, Nigeria Army, Major Charles Ekeocha, but a military source told The Neighbourhood they suffered casualties in Oyigbo which was attributed to IPOB. The source, not to be quoted as he was not authorised to speak to the media on the matter, said soldiers were drafted to Oyigbo purely on peace mission, “Soldiers are in Oyigbo to maintain peace and stop bad elements from continuing their reign of terror in the area. So, the residents have nothing to fear.”
Chairman of Oyigbo Local Government, Gerald Oforji, could not be reached on Sunday night when The Neighbourhood placed a call on his mobile telephone number as the network provider said it was switched off or outside its coverage area.