The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) has expressed concern over the continued military occupation and laying of siege to Ijaw and Niger Delta communities by federal troops for several years.
Urging the Federal Government to end the military onslaughts, the council condemned what it termed the indiscriminate invasions and genocide in Ijaw and Niger Delta communities perpetrated by federal troops under the guise of searching for suspected oil thieves and militants.
The council said that the killing and maiming of people and the burning down of communities by the Nigerian military at the slightest provocation by criminal elements were a huge threat to the peace and stability of the region.
The national spokesman for the IYC, Ebilade Ekerefe, who stated this during a world press briefing in Ijaw House, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, at the weekend, called on the Federal Government to demobilise troops from Ijaw communities and the Niger Delta without delay.
He said, “We have watched with restraint, the murderous destruction of communities, killings and maiming of innocent and harmless children, men and women, including the elderly, under the pretence of going after unrepentant militants and oil thieves.
“We want to place it on record that Nigeria’s colonizing Joint Task Force (JTF) has, in the past fifteen years, decimated our defenceless populations in more than Eighty (80) Ijaw villages, towns and cities.
“These communities that have fallen victims in the past include Gbaramatu in Delta State, Odi, Odioma, Gbaran, Ogboinbiri, Kaiama, Ndoro, Lima, Okpoama, Obioku, Yenagoa, Amarata, Ekeki, Opolo, Agudama, Epebu, Oluasiri, Okolobiri, Mbiama, Azuzuama, Ologoama Oboro, Ogodobiri, Peretorugbene, Warri Corner, Okerenkoko, Torugbene, Ogulagha, Odimodi, Okigbene, Olugbobiri, Olugboboro, Ikebiri, Nembe Town, Ferebaghagbene, Okokodiagbene, Oproza, Ogbe-Ijo, Burutu, Ekeremor Zion, Sagbama, Aven, Patani, Amabulu, Peremabiri, Obama, Age, Fishtown, Koluama, Okrika, Bonny, Ataba, Omelema, Degema, Kula, Soku Elem-Sangama, Opobo, Abula, Amadi-ama, Buguma and most recently, Letugbene, Azagbene, Bilabiri, Igbomotoru Bille, Touma and Odouda.
“These are just some of the Ijaw communities that the Nigerian State has razed in recent history for unjustifiable reasons. The relentless genocidal military campaign against our people will continue to remain a dark shadow in our heart.”
Ekerefe argued that while Niger Delta communities were frequently raided, similar military onslaughts had not been carried out in any community in the northern parts of the country ravaged by terrorists, insurgents and bandits.
He said the military would not be faulted if troops “go after criminal pirates and kidnappers disturbing the waterways in their camps” but armed soldiers had been rather engaged in the unjustifiable transfer of aggression on defenceless Ijaw communities.
The Ijaw youth leader further said, “Even in the northeast and the northwest where terrorists and bandits operate at will, we’ve not heard of the military ransacking communities in the guise of looking for terrorists. They are professionals and stick to the rules of engagement.
“But here in the Niger Delta, the rules are not followed. Is it because we are Ijaw people??? They forcefully took our God-giving oil wealth, destroyed our environment and use the proceeds of our oil to kill us with impunity. We consider this an ethnic cleaning and it is unacceptable!
“There have been numerous instances whereby the occupation forces of the oppressive Nigerian State have indiscriminately and recklessly killed Ijaw youths travelling in boats in our waterways in the course of their routine, normal and daily socioeconomic activities.
“Whenever such heinous human rights abuses are perpetrated against our people, the Nigerian military and Nigerian government dishonourably and deceptively defend and justify their crimes against humanity by falsely claiming, with plausibility, that the killed Ijaws were militants!”
He, however, added that the IYC was collating evidence and would take appropriate legal action against the military “to put to these crimes against humanity.”