It was tears and wailing on Monday as people testified against the alleged invasion of some communities in Rivers State by soldiers between January and February.
The 52-member House of Representatives Committee on the Army led by Honourable Rimamde Shawulu Kwemum were left in deep shock as the community members made shocking claims how the soldiers executed their brothers and sisters.
The lawmakers on a two-day fact-finding mission on the invasion, which left over 24 people dead in Yeghe, Zaakpor, Bori and Babbe, all in Gokana and Tai local government areas of the state were left appalled.
The fact-finding mission became necessary after a petition written by the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) against the army on the killings of Ogoni people in their communities.
Soldiers were deployed from the 2 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Bori, Port Harcourt, to Yeghe to effect the arrest of former militant leader, Chief Solomon Ndigbara, who was accused of kidnapping, killing and gun-running.
According to The Tribune, while military authorities had claimed that the soldiers were on a peace mission, several people from the affected communities, including two traditional rulers, claimed that there was relative peace before the two invasions by the soldiers.
The House of Representatives Committee on the Army commenced a two-day public hearing on the invasion, on Monday, sitting at the Auditorium Hall of the Rivers State House of Assembly.
Testifying before the Honourable Rimamde Shawulu Kwemum-led committee, the paramount ruler of Yeghe, Israel Mene Barinade, said his people had known no peace since the military invaded and occupied his community.
He appealed to the House of Representatives’ committee to prevail on the soldiers to leave his community, claiming that they had been terrorising and harrassing his people.
The traditional ruler also absolved Ndigbara, who had since been declared wanted, of any complicity in the crisis in his community, saying the ex-militant leader did not do anything wrong to warrant the military invasion.
Another traditional ruler, Chief Samson Adamgbo of Zaakpor, also claimed that soldiers shot one person, dead, injured three others and destroyed several boreholes when they invaded his community.
He said the victim was Bariture Zigbo, adding “nobody is telling lies here. The people, who came to my community are soldiers. They bullshit these people. I am not talking about other communities because I was not there,” he said.
Also testifying before the committee, a youth leader from Yeghe, Mr Christian Barile, said his brother, on Saturday, was killed by the invading soldiers, alongside a pregnant woman and a palmwine tapper, who was shot on top of a raffia tree.
In the same vein, Solomon Ndigbara’s counsel, Eugene Odey, absolved his client of any crime and expressed hope that the House committee would be able to correct the abnormalities allegedly perpetrated by the army.
He said the military invasion in the affected communities was not in tandem with the Nigerian constitution, the Armed Forces Act and other extant laws.
Odey said Ndigbara, though a former militant, should be declared a free man, being a beneficiary of the amnesty programme.
“Ndigbara was undoubtedly a militant, who fought for the Niger Delta agitation. But he has been granted amnesty. There was no conviction against Ndigbara; he was not charged before any court.
“By virtue of this, Ndigbara is a free citizen. After the amnesty programme, there is no record of his activities that breached the amnesty and thus warrant the manhunt for him. His rights has been infringed.
“First of all, call the army to order by telling them to leave Yeghe and Ndigbara’s property. His damaged property should also be repaired,” Odey said.
A victim, Sorbarinoi Dornubari Nwibani, a 27-year-old widow, said her husband was shot dead by soldiers at the Polytechnic Road/Hospital Junction, Bori, on February 23.
Nwibani, who said she was married to her husband in June, 2013, also asserted: “Who said soldiers did not kill? There was no crisis in Bori. It was when the soldiers came that people ran from Yeghe to Bori when the shooting was too much.
“Please, let us be factual. The panel (the House Committee on the Army) should ensure justice. Autopsy report on my late husband revealed several bullets,” she said.
Justus Tombari Winka told a pathetic story of how his son, Joel, who was about to write the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB), was allegedly shot dead on February 23.
Several others also gave evidences indicting the military and the included Ledee Meakwe, who said his pregnant wife was shot dead in Yeghe on February 22; Thomas Nwafor; Israel Ibaganali, who said he witnessed the killing of his elder sister’s husband, Kenneth Peter, on February 23.
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