Pipeline vandalism: Killing of Ogoni youth by Army sparks row

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A youth in Ogoni area of Rivers State has been shot to death and another critically ill. This has however created a row as the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) has accused the Army and a multinational oil company of plotting the death of the youths in Ogoni.

Military sources however said they acted in self defence and that pipeline vandalism is at the root of the shooting in Ogoni.

A statement by MOSOP’s publicity secretary, Sunny Zorvah, said 39-year-old Nen-Elkpege Lezor was shot dead and Lenu Kpegezor was shot to critical condition, saying the killing was unprovoked. A video footage going viral showed Lezor lying lifeless on the floor in his family compound in Kegbara-Dere (K-Dere), Gokana local council area.

The voice which said the victim was his brother said soldiers burst into their compound and started shooting people, thus killing Lezor and wounding Kpegezor. A chief in the area and chairman of the Community Development Committee (CDC), Festus Legbara, said soldiers attached to the oil company working in nearby B-Dere came to K-Dere and killed the men.

He said the soldiers later went back to B-Dere and waited with the oil workers till 6.30pm and escorted them back to Port Harcourt. Addressing newsmen in K-Dere, the community leader showed pressmen round the killing zone.

MOSOP said the movement was galled by the shooting and killing in K-Dere community by men believed to be soldiers of the Nigerian Army, and totally condemns such operation. It called on the security agencies to stop reckless killings in Ogoni communities. The incident took place at about 10am on Friday, April 18, 2019.

MOSOP said; “The natives stated that men of the Nigerian Army came in company of oil pipeline workers and started shooting without any explanation resulting to the sudden death of a young man and other casualties. Even though the Movement is in support of genuine efforts by legitimate authorities and government to fight criminality in Ogoniland and other parts of the State or country, we do not support and will not tolerate unprovoked military onslaught and reckless killings in any Ogoni community or else where.

MOSOP urged security actions should be taken with respect of the rights of innocent citizens and that the military or any arm of the security agencies should act within the ambit of the law, especially, according to the rules of engagements. “We call on relevant security agencies, particularly the Police to urgently commence investigation into the reported military raid and killing in K. Dere community and ensure that all those behind such destructive and warranted operations are brought to book to avert total break down of law and order in the area.

MOSOP’s president, Legborsi Pyagbara, stated: “Most painful about this incident is the issue of the military men coming to the community, providing security to (oil) workers but killing our people. This is unacceptable.”

The Army official spokesmen did not respond to questions but a military source said what happened in K-Dere was no military invasion but that some boys set fire on the Trans National Pipeline (TNP), one of the two pipelines that deliver crude from parts the oil region through Ogoni areas to Bonny for export.

The source said bad boys setting fire on the TNP and infracting the lines attacked the pipeline technical crew by firing fiercely for over three hours from a place called ‘Evil Forest’. The source said the forest can only be accessed through the K-Dere community from where they said the firing was coming.

It was further said that the escort team returned fire towards the direction of the evil forest until the firing from their side was suppressed.  They stated that the entire K-Dere community was complicit to the act of attacking the crew and soldiers and that it is what the community members do all the time a bunkering point has to be clamped and taken out. The source said the community is into the business of opening points on the pipelines and infract the 24 inch and 28 inch pipelines passing through Ogoni areas.

The K-Dere leaders say they have footage as evidence of what happened and that they would lodge a report to the Police and other government agencies.

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