•Women lament dehumanising ordeal in hands of soldiers
•Lawmaker, rights activist, monarch threaten action
•Unit Commander defends action of soldiers
By Perez Brisibe
EKU—FOLLOWING the alleged brutalization of some octogenarians and other women from Ovre-Eku community by soldiers from 4th Brigade Benin City led by one Lt. Oworobo, Madam Alice Omadefe, (87) has been declared missing by the community.
The community women had last week trooped out on a peaceful protest to a site allegedly acquired by Presco Oil Company, which according to them, was in dispute between Edo and Delta States to get first-hand information from representatives of the firm, who sold the portion of land that is before the National Boundary Commission.
Rather than being addressed by representatives of the company, the women were manhandled and beaten by soldiers under the instruction of the Unit Commander, Lt. E.D Oworobo.
Soldiers on rampage
It was a pathetic sight as this reporter, who was monitoring the protest took to his heels alongside the protesters when soldiers chased the women most of whom are in their eighties into the adjoining bushes around the site, wiping them with tree stems while others kicked the women as they tried to run away from the scene.
In the ensuing confusion, some of the protesting women sustained injuries and were rushed to the hospital while others fled into the bush.
Among those who fled to the bush to escape the fury of the soldiers was Madam Alice Omadefe, whose whereabouts are now a source concern for her family and the community.
According to one of the children of the missing woman, Ochuko, his mother accompanied other women on the protest march to the disputed site and had not been seen since then.
He said: “As soon as I heard what happened, I rushed to her house but was told she has not returned and she is not among those currently receiving medical attention at the hospital.”
Traumatized women recount experience
Recounting their torment at the hospital bed in the Eku Baptist Hospital, they accused the soldiers of attacking them despite the fact that they were harmless and had only carried a coffin droped in red and black clothing during their protest to express their displeasure.
The trio of Eguriase Ogheneochuko, Roseline Sunday and Mabel Umukoro, noted with regret that a scar on the head and a sprained ankle with cane marks were the souvenirs they brought back home from the encounter with the soldiers.
Unit Commander defends soldiers action
When contacted on the action of the soldiers, the Unit Commander, Lt. Oworobo, fired back thus; “So because you are a journalist, you want me to report to you or what? You are an idiot, you are a madman.”
Lawmaker threatens action against Edo State
On his part, the member representing Ethiope East in the Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. Evance Ivwurie has threatened to take action against the Edo State government and PRESCO Oil Company Plc if they continue using soldiers to attack innocent residents of the community.
Ivwurie during a fact finding visit to the community, condemned the actions of the soldiers, as according to him, “Delta State is prepared to take drastic actions to stem the illicit activities of the concerned troublemakers.
“The action of these individuals is as a result of the oil wells discovered in the community. The annexation approach coupled with the invasion, take over and conquest action of the soldiers attached to PRESCO is supported by the Edo State government.
“We are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief of Army Staff to as a matter of urgency, fish out the soldiers led by one Lt. E.D. Oworobo who invaded Ovre Eku, beat up, flogged and injured our harmless mothers and grandmothers.”
Rights Activist threatens legal action against Army
Reacting to the incident, human rights activist and Executive Director, Centre for the Vulnerable and Underprivileged, CENTREP, Mr. Oghenjabor Ikimi, promised to enforce the fundamental human rights of the women and their freedom to embark on peaceful protest.
Monarch warns of looming communal clash
Meanwhile, the Ovie of Agbon Kingdom, Ukori I, has vowed to pursue the matter to its logical conclusion with an appeal to the Federal Government and the National Boundary Commission, NBC to speed up the demarcation.