Army lays siege to Rivers community over officer’s death
The military has laid siege to Abonnema community in Akuku-Toru Local Council Rivers State following the death of a lieutenant during the weekend’s presidential and federal legislative elections.
Sources in the town claimed that over 20 persons were killed during the disturbances between rival political thugs that brought the polls to an abrupt end.
A source, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian that scores of soldiers arrived the community yesterday morning from the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt and blocked Degema, the only entrance to the settlement.
The military also reportedly laid siege to all waterways, thus checking the movement in and out of the island locality.
“Abonnema community locked up by the army. No movement in and out of the town. Restrictions of movement since yesterday. No economic activities as shops are closed. House to house search ongoing. Young men arrested,” the source claimed.
A senior lecturer with the Rivers State University of science and Technology (RSUST) acknowledged that the “entire town is under siege.”
He averred: “Abonnema has been under siege since Friday. Soldiers as late as 1:00a.m. on Saturday started raiding houses and hotels in the town for inexplicable reasons. I have been ready since 7:00a.m. to leave for Port Harcourt but the troops have blocked the waterways and the only road that leads to Abonnema. Alot of young boys have been arrested and tied in Bob’s Square. We fear for their safety. This community has just witnessed an unprecedented bloodletting and we don’t need more.”
Eyewitnesses said the remains of the victims were seen floating on the sea yesterday.
A council official said she was allowed to leave the town early yesterday in company of her sick father.
The Deputy Director, Army Public Relations 6 Division, Port Harcourt, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, said the military operation was predicated on intelligence report that arms had been piled up in houses.
“Everybody is aware of what happened to our men on Saturday. We have clear information that there are a lot of weapons in people’s houses. That is why we are engaged in a cordon and search operation,” he asserted.
In the meantime, the traditional ruler of OpuKula, Hope Opusingi, has accused the military of invading the community with four gunboats a day before the killings.
He alleged that his subjects were harassed and intimidated by officers while moving to cast their ballots.
The monarch regretted that the army seized two of their 200HP boats, thus forbidding eligible voters to travel to the riverine community to perform their civic duties.
The Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Sagir Musa, stated that the troops had been in the area since 15 years owing to its volatility and would remain there to maintain peace.
Also yesterday, Governor Nyesom Wike urged President Muhammadu Buhari to order the immediate demilitarisation of the community.
He said the state government would pursue justice for all those killed by the military.
“I call on Mr. President to please, in the name of God, direct the army to withdraw the occupation and siege to Abonnema and Bonny communities so that the people can go about with their normal lives,” he pleaded.