Residents of Oyigbo Town in Oyigbo local government area, have argued that except Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, withdrew the military he sent to the area, their trust level in him would remain low.
They spoke to The Neighbourhood on Tuesday night as the news of the relaxation of the absolute curfew imposed on the area by the governor spread. A woman resident in one of the quarters, who lost her 13 year-old son through stray bullets, as she spoke to the newspaper, expressed joy they could now go out after about 15 days of the curfew and military operations. She, however, said that the presence of heavily armed soldiers and their battle equipment represent Gov. Wike’s insincerity. “If he(Gov. Wike) wants us to believe him, let him withdraw the soldiers he sent to kill our children. But as long as the soldiers remain here, we shall take the governor as not sincere. The soldiers she sent shot dead my son, my only son and joy of the family and he still wants them to remain. Seeing them walking Oyigbo streets each day will increase my pains.”
Award-winning journalist and a resident in the area, Odimegwu Onwumere, who spoke with The Neighbourhood on Tuesday night, said the people were still in fear with the presence of the military. “The best thing to be done now is to withdraw the soldiers”, he told this medium.
He continued: “What Oyigbo went through this time is a mini-war. It would have been a war had the military had enemies responding to their fire power. But since none, they had the whole town to attack. Oyigbo, at the moment, is a deserted town and it would take a very long time for the residents to recover from my the trauma of the past days. In civilised societies, the people would be offered psychiatric check-up to determine their sanity level because the soldiers dealt with them.”
The journalist gave a glimpse into the degree of horror the people were subjected to.
“The people were locked in with no food, no water to drink. In fact, many residents of Oyigbo, because they could not access water, have not had their bathe since the military invaded the area.
“Many pregnant women could not access medical facilities for ante-natal attention. Likewise the sick and the elderly; even children were not spared the agony of the war on Oyigbo.”
Onwumere still questioned the reason Oyigbo was singled out for such co-ordinated, heavy-handed military operations when hoodlums, who hijacked the #EndSARS protests across the country also killed state security personnel. “I do not justify any killing as every life matters, but my position had been why was Oyigbo singled out. It was a national fact that hoodlums hijacked the #EndSARS protests and unfortunately, caused the loss of lives and damaged to property, but we didn’t see government send in soldiers to attack such areas. In Benin City and other cities, hoodlums even broke into jails and releases prisoners. Yet, Benin City wasn’t attacked by soldiers.”
He added voice to the call for the total withdrawal of soldiers from the beleaguered town. “This is democracy. Soldiers are trained to kill and so, to keep them among civilIan population is to create suspicion and mistrust between them and the civilIans. Let the government bring in the police. The police may arrest a suspect and take such to their station for investigation. But soldiers have no station to take any suspect to for any investigation. So, Oyigbo residents prefer were the soldiers were withdrawn.”
The Rivers State Government, had in a statement on Tuesday, said the curfew time had been reviewed to now commence at 7.00pm until 6.00am. However, that would start on Wednesday, November 4.
The statement, signed by Kelvin Ebiri, Special Assistant to the Governor on Media, quoting the State Commissioner of Information, Paulinus Nsirim, said it was a decision reached at a meeting of the State Security Council on Tuesday. The statement, however, was mute on the reason behind the government’s decision though it claimed that aside the alleged killing of six soldiers and four policemen, a number of ammunition was carted away by membersof the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
“You will recall that following the killing of six soldiers and four policemen, and the destruction of Court buildings by members of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Rivers State Government imposed a 24 hour curfew on the entire Oyigbo Local Government Area on October 21, 2020.
“The State Security Council met today and reviewed the situation in Oyigbo and has therefore decided to review the curfew. From tomorrow, Wednesday November 4, 2020, the curfew will now be from 7pm to 6am until further notice” he said.
Nsirim explained that during the mayhem that claimed the lives of security agents carrying out their legitimate duties in Oyigbo, fifty (50) AK 47 Rifles were carted away. And as a result of this, he said security agencies in the area will continue to embark on surveillance and search operations to recover the rifles which are now in the illegal possession of some persons.
The Commissioner enjoined residents of Oyigbo and members of the public to cooperate with the security agencies as they go about their lawful business unmolested.
“Let me use this opportunity to let all those living and doing business in the State know that His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, is always committed to implement his social contract with the people; and will protect lives and property, at all times” he added.
Efforts The Neighbourhood made to speak with the Honourable Commissioner of Information were unsuccessful. The governor’s Special Assistant on Media could also not be reached as this newspaper was referred to the “official positron”.
The Neighbourhood wanted to know whether the decision to review the curfew was based on security advice or political pressure on Mr. Wike. Major Charles Ekeocha, Spokesman, 6 Division, Nigeria Army, could not take calls placed on his telephone line as of the time of this report. In their earlier positions, the Army said they blocked Oyigbo and were breaking into homes in house-to-housesearch to recover the six guns suspected IPOB members had seized to the dead soldiers. Gov. Wike, in earlier broadcast, said he the military operations were aimed at eradicating IPOB and its subversive activities in Oyigbo. But the Tuesday statement failed to address those official positions. To add to the curiosity surrounding the governor’s latest disclosure, it was announced that the number of arms at large and reportedly taken away by the alleged IPOB members rose to about 50. The Neighbourhood had yet to ascertain how the Rivers State Government came to the latest figures as of the time of this report.
The Neighbourhood learnt that Wike came under huge local and foreign pressure over the Oyigbo informal “State of Emergency”. Even his party men reportedly denounced his action in Oyigbo with some openly cutting their support for him.
In a a Facebook post on Monday, on his Page, facebook.com/namosky, Asiegbu a former die-hard fsn of the governor, wrote, “I am a member of the Official Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Nigeria.
“I am officially withdrawing my support for Gov Nyesom Ezenwo Wike – CON of Rivers State over the killings of innocent people in Obigbo otherwise known as Oyigbo.
“It’s very wrong to kill and only an evil man will partake or orchestrate the massacre of a whole community of unarmed persons.
“Heavenly Father hear our prayers, stop the bloodshed in Nigeria.