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Oyigbo: Nigerian soldiers on rampage in Rivers, kill dozens in troubled community

Nigerian soldiers chasing members of separatist IPOB have killed dozens of residents in an Igbo-dominated community.

• November 1, 2020
Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Yusuf Buratai. [CREDIT: Thisday]
Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Yusuf Buratai. [CREDIT: Thisday]

Nigerian soldiers are currently on a violent operation that has led to the killing of dozens in Rivers Oyigbo community, residents and rights activists are telling Peoples Gazette, warning that a wilful massacre might be underway.

Dozens have been killed since last week in the community by Nigerian soldiers, residents estimated to the Gazette Sunday morning. Multimedia posted on social media also indicated widespread killing blamed on Nigerian soldiers.

Charles Ekeocha, a spokesman for Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt, told the Gazette Sunday morning that he was tired of answering questions about the ongoing military violence in Oyigbo. Rivers police spokesman Nnamdi Omoni said he was not aware of the military violence, which residents said had been on for days. 

It is believed that civilian fatalities might well be in hundreds as of Sunday morning, but details of ongoing military operation remained largely fluid because the soldiers blocked journalists and rights groups from accessing Oyigbo, an Igbo-dominated settlement about 30 kilometres east of Port Harcourt. 

The community was shut down after a curfew was imposed by Governor Nyesom Wike last week. The governor cited a violence that broke out amongst suspected members of the outlawed Indegenous People of Biafra, IPOB, for the 24-hour restriction of movement.

The military operation came days after Mr. Wike asked security forces to resolutely deal with suspected members of IPOB in Rivers. He has yet to condemn ongoing military siege to Oyigbo.

A spokesman for the governor did not return a request for comments about the ongoing military operation in Oyigbo.

The police in Rivers also give a directive asking IPOB members to relocate from the state. IPOB has been proscribed in Nigeria since October 2017.

It was unclear how the latest violence broke out, but Nigerian Army accused IPOB elements of killing at least five soldiers in Oyigbo about two weeks ago. Some police officers were also killed by suspected IPOB members last week. Mr. Wike provided succour to the families of the officers killed earlier this week.  

But rather than allow an investigation into IPOB roles in the killings, Nigerian soldiers have since embarked on indiscriminate, extrajudicial violence against young people, most of whom residents said were not connected to IPOB.

“Soldiers are going home-to-home shooting people,” a resident Kelechi Francis told Peoples Gazette Sunday morning. “Most of them are not IPOB members and many bodies were left to decompose inside houses.”

Ken Henshaw, a rights activist in Port Harcourt, said Nigerian Army ordered “random and wholesale” executions across the community because it lacked the requisite intelligence to identify separatists.

“Every young man who is Igbo is seen as IPOB because they have no intelligence to identify those who are actually separatists,” Mr. Henshaw told the Gazette. “Journalists and civil societies have been banned from entering the community, which means we have a very deliberate massacre going on.” 

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