N’Delta group demands withdrawal of soldiers from communities

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A Niger Delta pressure group, the Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative, has called for immediate evacuation of the soldiers allegedly occupying Udouda and Okobe communities in Egene kingdom in Ahoada West Local Government Area of Rivers State to allow homeless and defenceless residents to return to their homes, without further delay.

The group made the call in a statement signed by its national president, Comrade Austin Ozobo, copies of which were made available to journalists in Warri, Delta State on Tuesday.

IPDI insisted that it “has not seen any provocation in the South-South or Niger Delta region currently to have made the military bombard, kill and conquer a residential community compared to the glaring provocations in northern Nigeria which the military is sentimentally ignoring.”

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It added that “Uduoda and Okobe communities were not at war with the Nigerian military and, as such, needed not to be haunted, killed gruesomely, and conquered by Nigerian troops.”

“If the Nigerian military is looking for somewhere to conquer and occupy, it should be the Sambisa forest and not residential communities whose common trade is fishing and farming.

“We want to make it abundantly clear that Uduoda and Okobe communities in Rivers State are not militant hideouts or camps and can’t be shelled or bombed with crude military intelligence because these are communities that have Government schools, churches, MTN mast, government power lines, and others.”

Consequently, IPDI called on the Nigerian military authorities to prevail on the Chief of Army Staff to evacuate soldiers out of Udouda and Okobe communities without further delay to allow the fleeing residents to return to their homes “as hundreds of persons have been made homeless and suffering as a result of these invasions.”

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“Again, we call on the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, the Chief of Defence Staff, and Chief of Army Staff to prevail on the military task force, Operation Delta Safe in Rivers and Bayelsa State to stop further invasions in Niger Delta Communities and ensure the military personnel who have perpetrated this heinous crime against Uduoda and Okobe communities be made to face justice,” the group said.

IPDI, however, urged Niger Delta communities to sue the Nigerian military for at least N100 billion for any unlawful military torture, harassment, and invasion “to check the excessive militarization of Niger Delta communities.”

The group insisted that “mere suspicion that some people are carrying a gun or doing bunkering business in a community is not enough reason to bombard such community, because it should be remembered that as people, carrying a gun is being targetted,  there are also good people in that community who are not carrying gun or doing bunkering.

IPDI’s statement read partly, “The military should tell Nigerians why ancient Udouda and Okobe communities were bombarded and who are they looking for and the crime committed by such persons should be told.

“The way the Nigerian military invades and bombards defenceless communities in Niger Delta, if they had replicated it in fighting terrorism, banditry and Islamic militants, by now, Nigeria might have been free completely from Islamic Taliban.

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“Even the Bible is against clearing the weeds and the wheat together. Jesus said live with them to grow together but on the last day, they will be separated. If what we call military intelligence nowadays is now mere hearsay. When you want to attack a residential community, you should know first, whether the place is a residential area, what the population size of those being hunted for, and other lawful residents in the community because you must avoid collateral damage. 

“The weak needs to be protected in all operations, but the case of Niger Delta is different. It is wrong to embark on any operation especially in a residential community to kill the weak. Why the weak? because the strong ones will always escape unhurt.

“It must be made clear that no force is expected to destroy her people with weapons of mass destruction or meant for external aggression because of some provocation arising from a community. This is an act of war crime and abuse of the fundamental rights of innocent citizens.

“There is no city or town in the world that does not harbour a criminal element or is completely free from criminal activities.

“If the barbaric military invasions and bombardments in the Niger Delta are embraced, then the military should invade the entire world for consciously or unconsciously abhorring criminal elements or activities.

“If Nigeria military is not lopsided or sectional, Kaduna, Zamfara, Sokoto, Abuja, Yobe and other cities and towns in the northeastern part of the country abhorring large presence of bandits and terrorists should have all been heavily air-raided by now.

“We are seriously provoked, and we don’t care to know the crime in which the Rivers communities were shelled, because thousands of such crimes are perpetrated in the cities and towns of northern Nigeria and no raid has been carried out. This shows that Nigeria’s military operations are selective and lopsided.

“Again, we are not moved by these lopsided attacks against Niger Delta communities in whatever coloration the military wants to paint it to justify their inimical action.

“Currently, Abuja is under siege of Islamic terrorists and we expected Abuja to be bombed with the Islamic Taliban including all innocent people thereof, as it is being done to peaceful law-abiding Udouda and Okobe communities in Rivers State in recent times.

“We want to state unequivocally that the suspicion that a community abhors some suspected criminal elements do not mean that there are no good people in the community. So the military should be brave enough to avoid causalities if there should be any such operation at all. If you say the good people should evacuate such a community, we will ask why the people in the northeast, Abuja, Kaduna, and others have not relocated despite the heavy presence of bandits in such communities.

“Sadly, the military in Nigeria wants to wipe out Niger Delta communities, they protect innocent citizens in northern Nigeria but in Southern Nigeria, they kill the innocent together with suspects.

“We want to make it abundantly clear that Uduoda and Okobe communities in Rivers State are not militant hideouts or camps and can’t be shelled or bombed with crude military intelligence because these are communities that have Government schools, churches, MTN mast, government power lines, and others.”

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