The residents of Igbomotoru communities in the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State have cried out over the armed military invasion of their communities for demanding their rights, appealing to the state and Federal Governments and the international community to intervene and save them from further brutality and dehumanisation by the soldiers.
According to the acting paramount ruler of the Igbomotoru 1 community, Chief Simon Alagodei, the armed soldiers were allegedly acting on the instructions of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) in collaboration with a pipeline surveillance company, Darlene Security Nigeria Limited.
Alagodei, who was flanked by other community leaders, told journalists at a press briefing in Yenagoa, on Saturday, that the military onslaught was being intensified despite a formal letter dated July 6, 2022, which they wrote to relevant state and federal authorities notifying them of the unprovoked siege to the communities.
He said, “With deep pains in our hearts and from a state of new-complete helplessness, we the leaders and bonafide representatives of Igbomotoru 1 and 2 communities in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, hereby call on the Bayelsa State Government, Federal Government of Nigeria and the international community to, with earnestness, urgently intervene and bring under control the ongoing siege and persistent dehumanisation in our Igbomotoru 1 and 2 communities being perpetrated by armed military personnel and their cohorts, believably acting on the directives and instructions of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company Ltd and GARLON Security Nigeria Ltd.
“While we do not have any quarrels with military personnel providing security in any part of Nigeria, including our Igbomotoru 1 and 2 communities, it is not in dispute that they are expected to keep to their standard code of conduct and maintain international best practices. It cannot be a medium siege mentality and subject our people to dehumanisation.
“As of today, our poor and hapless women are beaten and harassed re-currently by this armed military personnel. Living and doing business in our communities is now virtually impossible.”
The traditional ruler, therefore, urged the governments and the international community to prevail on the allegedly sponsored soldiers to vacate their lands and stop inflicting pains and sorrows on them.
Also speaking, the solicitors to Igbomotoru communities, Prof. Festus Emiri (SAN) and Stanley Damabide, claimed that no fewer than seven people had been killed and several others arrested in Igbomotoru since the soldiers stormed the communities on June 22, 2022.
While debunking insinuation of oil bunkering camps in the area, Emiri described the military invasion as a part of divide-and-rule tactics deployed by the oil firm and its ally to keep the communities disunited, stressing that there was no problem in Igbomotoru to warrant the presence of soldiers.
He said, “There is no problem in the community, and in any case, soldiers have no powers whatsoever to invade any community. The Constitution of Nigeria is very clear, Section 217 to 218; soldiers are only deployed and employed to protect the territorial integrity of the country.
“If they perceive there is any problem in the community, what they should do is to seek police help and the police have the powers under our law to prosecute. But what they are doing is to frighten the people and once the people are frightened they cannot come together to present a common front against Agip used as a surrogate by Darlon Security Limited.
“At least, seven persons have been killed. How many more they want to kill we don’t know. Several persons have been arrested, people can’t go to their farms, and people are just in prison but the constitution guarantees their right to life, property and movement. These cannot be abridged without any court of law convicting a person. There is nothing like community guilt. The law does not provide that a community can be guilty. An individual can be guilty, not a community.”
Damabide, on his part, said it was regrettable that despite the formal complaint to various organs of government, the alleged acts of dehumanisation were still being perpetrated in Igbomotoru.
He, however, disclosed that they had just received a phone call from the state government informing them of a meeting scheduled for Friday this week and described the military brutality in the community as “sad and unfortunate.”