Tears from from Oyigbo as military crackdown enters week two

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Wailing changes from indiscriminate killing to total blockade by soldiers

* Over 500 arrested in one day as mass arrest continues

* Hunger, starvation as access to emergency drugs disappear

* Wild rumours continue as lucky residents flee by bush

(First used in BusinessDay Sunday By Ignatus Chukwu)

Noise from hell may be the only scenario to describe the wailing and cry for help oozing from Oyigbo near Port Harcourt, Rivers State, which has since come under military clampdown since last week when hoodlums attacked three police stations and killed/burnt three police officers and a soldier.

This was part of EndSARS protests which was believed to have been hijacked by groups suspected to be members of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).

Now, residents keep sending ‘save our soul’ (SOS) messages, at first saying they were being killed by those they believed were herdsmen backed by soldiers. There has been no iota of evidence to this as it all took place at night. Resients said military helicopters were flying overhead.

The authorities later clarified that the Army was in Oyigbo to maintain peace. Some pockets of killings by some strange persons suspected to be from far away of the country were however reported from Oyigbo to Iriebe, Eleme Round About up to Oil Mill and MTM Zone.

These were areas that were previously attacked by the suspected IPOB members who are easily identified by clean shaven heads and red bands with boasts of bullets not penetrating. The governor said these killings attracted counter actions. Many felt some persons from the north were aggrieved and burnt down some markets especially the MTM ICT market on Aba Road near the Oil Mill.

The latest distress messaging dwells on acute hunger and starvation due to endless curfew imposed in Oyigbo in the midst of strigent order by the governor for IPOB to be fished out in every inch of soil of Rivers State. A N50m bounty was placed on the head of a youth leader in Eleme believed to have led the rioting there that led to burning down of a king’s palace. Many from Eleme have hinted that the youth leader did so not as IPOB leader of aggrived youths over action taken by their king at the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) in relation with negotiation for jobs against N40m booty.

Most of the residents trapped in their rooms for days spoke to newsmen on mobile telephones and cried out over lack of access to any food for days. All the markets have ben shut, no shops are open, and arrests are daily going on at the roads.

One Henry Ukah said his his family had starved since the curfew was imposed.

“As I speak with you there is no single food in my house my children are crying of hunger because there nothing to eat. I am appealing to the governor to relax the curfew so that we can restock,” he said.

Also lamenting, Okechukwu Uche, another resident, said that he was not able to buy his daily Blood Pressure drugs before the curfew was declared. “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 the curfew. All the markets are shutdown, the pharmacies are not open. This is really a bad situation. As it stands now, we are at the mercy of God,” he said.

Chiamaka Dioke and others are rather pleading with Gov Nyesom Wike to show mercy. She said: “The curfew is not doing us any good. I know that government has good intentions in the declaration of the curfew to protect lives and properties but such good intentions can as well be carried out with human face.

“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 of 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.

Many said the young men who attacked the police stations knew the repercussion and fled in advance. Just like in Kastina-Ala of Bneue State and Odi in Bayelsa State where the military invaded years ago, innocent residents and villagers usually fall victim. Some 21 bald-headed men were first apprehended and swiftly taken to court for terrorism and acts of violence. The security operatives seem to be hunting for confessions to the killings, burning of police station and carting away of rifles.

Now, the soldiers are said to have blocked all the roads in and out of Oyigbo Urban and march from house to house. On a daily basis, according to Musa Danda, a media worker in Port Harcourt who fell victim on Thursday, October 29, 2020, over 500 persons including women are arrested and made to lie down in low bushes.

Danda said he left the house by 7am to try to go to Port Harcourt to take his press van to proceed to the airport to receive newspapers when he say a large number of soldiers at the at a place called Staff Junction.

“They stopped me, refuded to listen to anybody or even look at any ID card. They threatened to kill anybody who dared to move his hand or lips. That way, they first separated the women who were mostly going for food stuff buying.”

He said they were tortured to the point of bottles cutting their flesh as they rolled on the wet ground.

According to him, the soldiers were not ready to listen to explanation or appeals. He said they often beat up policemen who came to plead for workers from nearby corporations especially Intels. This action made civilians not to dare ask for anything.

He said it was after several hours that he was able to communicate to a soldier and mentioned his tribe that the man saw his identity card and took him to an officer who asked him to go. This way, according to observers, everybody in Oyigbo is guilty until proved otherwise.

These actions seemed to trigger wild rumours about Oyigbo. Some called their relatives to say there is an order to fish out any male above 10 years. Others say there is plot to exterminate people from a particular tribe. Others say they were being told that non-indigenes (from a particular tribe) must leave Oyigbo.

Many residents actually flee at night and treck till day break to board vehicles to otherside the state. Back home, they tell horrible tales and make sweeping claims about the order given in Port Harcourt. Many of them claim they were being attacked by herdsmen.

The official statement by Gov Wike is that IPOB members must be fished out but that law abding Igbos must not be touched. It is not clear how those implementing this order are doing it.

The governor made it clear that Rivers State has been accommodative over the decades but that this should not be taken as weakness. He said it was unacceptable for anybody under any name to kill security personnel, burn them, burn police stations, take guns, and cause general havoc. Over 50 vehickes parket at the stations were burnt. The governor has offered N20m to each security official that was killed and promised to rebuild the stations.

Other sources however said the operation is a welcome development to fish out dangerous elements. A resident who welcomes the onslaught said he has since thrown his doors open for soldiers to enter and search.

Army Public Relations Officer (APPRO) for 6 Division in Bori Camp in Port Harcourt, Col Charles Ekeocha, responded to texts by newsmen saying the soldiers were in Oyigbo to maintain peace.

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