By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
IT will be laying the truth on the head for anybody to claim that Ayakoromor, the country-home of wanted militant leader, “General” John Togo, in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State, was not torn down by the Joint Task Force (JTF), on the Niger-Delta when soldiers invaded the town in search of Togo, last December.
The scars of the destruction were all there in Ayakoromor, Wednesday, January 26, when the Inter-ministerial Committee on the Rehabilitation and Resettlement of Ayakoromor community, headed by the Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Oma Djebah, visited the town.
Other members of the team included the Commissioner for Education, Chief Tony Nwaka; Chairman, Delta State Oil Areas Producing Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Mr. Reginald Bayoko; Secretary of the commission, Mr. Patrick Origho and the Deputy Chairman, Delta Waterways Security Committee (DWSC), Chief Boro Opudu.
On the day the team visited, an old woman was killed by the leftover of one of the destroyed buildings. Her skull was crushed by bricks and the corpse was laid in a nearby compound, awaiting burial.
However, the hostility between the natives and the soldiers, who had occupied the town since the invasion, has disappeared, as Sunday Vanguard saw the natives laughing and speaking with the troops. But the people were still raising their hands above their shoulders when coming to the waterfront or passing military checkpoints between Okwagbe and Ayakoromor.
Togo’s camp, on the outskirts of Ayakoromor is, from the look of things, permanently occupied by soldiers and, while the team was escorted to Ayakoromor by soldiers, we were warned while passing the former Togo’s camp, on our way back, to slow down our speedboats at the camp, so as not to face fire from soldiers guarding the place.
Reconstruction work on some damaged buildings were going on, that Wednesday, and, from the briefings given to Djebah, it was obvious that JTF was carrying out the project on the orders of the Federal Government. The military officer, who briefed Djebah, said indigenes of the community were being recruited to carry out some of the jobs for money, as a form of empowerment. Sunday Vanguard also sighted a shipload of cement being delivered to the community by soldiers at 4 p.m. on January 26.
But the number of houses being constructed by soldiers may not be enough compared to the level of destruction that was visited on the community. Quite a number of Ayakoromor people are still homeless. The number of deaths could not be confirmed, a development that has remained a subject of controversy between the military task force and the community.
It was in all probability to wipe the tears of Ayakoromor people that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan went to the community unannounced penultimate Saturday on a fact-finding visit. He was not in office because his election was nullified by the court when soldiers struck at Ayakoromor and he only resumed office after he emerged victorious again in the January 6 re-run.
Djebah, who had a session with the leaders and people of the community during the team’s visit, said Uduaghan summoned a meeting with the community leaders in Asaba where some decisions on the way forward were reached. A committee was set up on the rehabilitation and resettlement of the community. Earlier, concerned Ayakoromor women and children had protested their plight at Government House, Asaba.
Ayakoromor people were exceptionally receptive to the Djebah team as they rolled out drinks and kolanuts to entertain the delegation. Djebah said the main purpose of the visit was for the committee to inspect the sites chosen by the community for the construction of housing units for the people because of the state government’s resolve to provide immediate accommodation for the displaced persons.
It was accolades for Uduaghan as Djebah reeled out his message to them. Besides the housing units, he said the governor had directed that a mobile clinic be put in place in the community to attend to the health needs of the people free.
The governor has also directed that the burnt transformer and electricity poles be replaced for the people to enjoy electricity; new fishing boats and nets to be provided for the people; committee of community leaders to be set up to disburse money donated by government to assist the people to re-start their businesses; and a borehole to be sunk in the community for the people to have potable water to drink. Before now, it is already in the news that the state government had promised to release N50 million to the Ayakoromor people.
Chairman of the community, Mr. Garuba Oburubu, told the delegation that the governor came to visit them, four days earlier, and they were happy with the love he displayed and would give the government all necessary support.
Sunday Vanguard observed that voter registration commenced in the community only after Uduaghan visited Ayakoromor, penultimate Saturday, and ordered that the exercise be conducted in the community and not any place outside it. The people said they were happy with the governor’s decision.
An indigene, Mr. Ebikaike Emgbofua, who also spoke to Sunday Vanguard, said what happened to the people during the JTF invasion was better imagined than said, but, whatever be the case, the people were trying to let bygone be bygone.