The Emergency situation imposed on Oyigbo Town in Rivers State has worsened as most families have run out of foodstuffs and medicines, The Neighbourhood can confirm.
Early Friday, a pregnant woman died with her unborn baby as soldiers refused she be evacuated to any medical facility on Thursday night as her condition deteriorated. She had waited for 9 years since marriage for the pregnancy.
Sources in Oyigbo, who spoke to The Neighbourhood on the unfortunate situation, lamented the loss of many lives in the hands of soldiers and stray bullets. A family was reported to have lost their only son who was reportedly killed by stray bullets when soldiers fired indiscriminately in the area. The 13-year old boy was, unfortunately, the only child of the couple.
This newspaper was told that the pregnant woman developed complications on Thursday night which led to her bleeding. The husband and other family members reportedly made efforts to arrange a means to ferry her to a hospital for urgent medical attention which she was in dire need of. However, soldiers in the area refused their request. Another attempt to evacuate her made on Friday morning was also declined by the soldiers who insisted she must remain indoors. While the bleeding lasted all of Thursday night, the woman went into labour with the baby struggling to be delivered of its mother. Unfortunately, by Friday morning, both mother and child had lost all strength to survive the horror of the bleeding. Both died and it was then the soldiers permitted their bodies be taken to a mortuary. When The Neighbourhood visited the area on Saturday, the dead woman’s husband and neighbours were still in tears.
Not to be named for fear of the soldiers visiting more horror on him, the grief-stricken 45 year old man told this newspaper that on Thursday night when the complication developed, he went to the detachment of soldiers stationed in their area with the news of his wife’s situation. “Rather than show me sympathy, they threatened to arrest me. They said if my wife liked, let her die that it was not their business. On Friday morning, when I saw that I was losing her with the baby in her womb, I went back to them, crying that they showed me mercy to let me take her to any hospital, but they still told me that if she liked, let her die. And now, my wife is dead. It took us nine years after marriage for her to conceive and now, Nigeria has killed my wife and unborn baby.”
Despite the growing humanitarian situation in Oyigbo, on Satuday, soldiers still had the area cordoned off as they continued with their house-to-house search. Spokesman of 6 Division, Nigeria Army, Major Charles Ekeocha, had on Friday, told a radio station in Port Harcourt, monitored by one of our Reporters, that the house-to-house search was to enable the soldiers recover military guns allegedly stolen by members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, who he said killed about 6 soldiers and made away with their guns.
However, residents in the areas affected by the informal State of Emergency, told this newspaper that the soldiers had engaged in indiscriminate arrest and torture of persons, including pregnant women, who were punished before they were driven away in military trucks. The soldiers were accused of beating their detainees and rolling them in thick mud water. There were also reports that dead bodies were taken to the military barracks at Asa in Abia State to conceal the reported atrocities. The Neighbourhood had yet to independently confirm that report as of press time.
But The Neighbourhood confirmed that soldiers had overrun the Mbano and Abiriba/Ohafia Camps, two of the oldest non-indigenous clusters in Oyigbo. Their origin dates back over 100 years.
The soldiers, who reportedly claimed those camps harboured suspected IPOB members, sacked a church there and took away worshippers.
A source in the beleaguered town described what is going on in Oyigbo as a “genocide” where a particular ethnic group had been reportedly targeted for either arrest or death.
A journalist in the area, Odimegwu Onwumere, who spoke with The Neighbourhood on Saturday, described the situation as a “State Emergency” as he accused the Nigerian Government and the military of hiding the truth from the world. “They(soldiers) went to a church near Oyigbo timber to TAP(The Adolescent Project) in the area where they presumed IPOB members worshipped and caused trouble. People are dying. People are being felled down by direct and stray bullets of the soldiers”, he told The Neighbourhood on Saturday.
The journalist further painted a gory situation of things in Oyigbo.
“The problem in Oyigbo is pathetic. People are mowed down and they can’t be taken to the mortuary. Homes (have) become a very shallow and dangerous mortuary for fear of being killed. The soldiers are very funny that even pressmen can’t be given chance(sic). It seems their order is shoot-at-sight. The whole area is clamped down. Properties wasted, likewise lives.
He continued: “Yes, there could have been a crop of IPOB members who infiltrated the #EndSARS protest. But Oyigbo was not exempted as news reports had it that the protests were infiltrated by some bad crops(sic). So, why should Oyigbo be the scape goat?
“Even at Iriebe axis during the protest, there were some crops of traders from the Yam Market in that area who had thought the protest was the South versus the North and they did theirs against the peaceful protesters. This scenario was also recorded in some areas in the state where the protest was disrupted by people who thought it was South versus North. The video clips are out there where some elements played ethnic attack with a view it was north versus south. So, why Oyigbo?
“If the reason for punishing Oyigbo is because it was recorded that some government property and personnel were torched during the protest, this was not different from what happened across the country. Remember that youths or thugs went berserk when news emerged on October 20 that soldiers massacred peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos. Since Oyigbo is part of Nigeria, the protest could have spread likewise it did in other parts.
“While not speaking for IPOB or anyone, let those who imposed the military in Oyigbo rescind the act. You can’t impose Emergency in Oyigbo and tell the world it is 24 hours curfew. What is happening in Oyigbo is pure State of Emergency. People are dying. You have money in your hands but can’t have food items to buy. This is democracy. Let the soldiers retreat. In all, I empathize with all the families and institutions that are victims of the #EndSARS and military invasion in Oyigbo.