By Jimitota Onoyume
Apart from its designation as “oil-rich,” recent reports indicate that Rivers State in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region may have also acquired an inglorious tag of Rivers of blood as unknown persons have turned parts of the state to killing fields, snuffing out lives of unsuspecting residents and employing an eccentric style of beheading their victims.
On February 12, about 17 persons were reported killed at Omoku, headquarters of Ogba Egbema Ndoni local government area. The attackers disappeared with some of the severed heads of the deceased.
This incident came on the heels of the murder in Port Harcourt of a former member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Mr Monday Eleanya, who represented the Omoku constituency. Some of the residents interviewed estimate that no fewer than 30 persons from the local government have so far lost their lives under similar circumstances.
The figure may include last Saturday’s brutal murder in Omoku of a man, his wife and their 18 years old son. The late Mr. Franklin Obi and his family had retired indoors that fateful evening when the gunmen, also wielding axes and other dangerous weapons, struck at their residence at about 10 pm.
“I peeped from the curtain in our room and I saw the killers cutting my father’s neck,” 16 years old Victory who survived the attack later told the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr Musa Kimo. She sobbed as she further narrated that the killers took away her father’s decapitated head. According to Victory, “my mum was in the parlour shouting for help when the killers went to her and shot her dead. Later they came to us the children, ordering us outside. They shot my elder brother, Bestman, as he was going. They shot him twice. I managed to escape from them and started banging on the doors of neighbours for help but nobody came out. My brother was still talking after the killers left. The Police that came later rushed him to the hospital and it was there he gave up the ghost.” Victory believes that if neighbours had responded to her cry for help, her brother could have been saved because he would have made it early enough to the hospital.
We made frantic efforts to locate the place
The police boss who was almost moved to tears as Victory narrated account of what happened said nobody contacted the Police in Omoku while the assailants operated. According to him, it was after the brutal murder that some persons told him they took note of three masked youths on the street earlier. “I am sure the killing would have been averted if those who saw the strange faces had alerted the police,” he said, adding that, “my men would have apprehended the boys and foiled their mission.” He said that he alerted his men in Omoku of what was happening and when they got there they found the elder brother of the girl, Bestman, still breathing and rushed him to the hospital. “Honestly if they had called my men, the killers would not have escaped. I am sure they operated for at least 20 minutes. There is a police station in Omoku. That night, the DPO in Omoku had to frantically engage somebody in Port Harcourt to locate the house. The house is in an obscure place. It took a Hilux to get to the place,” Kimo said. The Police Commissioner who spoke at the palace of the Omoku pleaded with the community to synergise with the police to fight crime to a standstill in the area. According to him, “I plead with you to abide in us as we abide with you. Have vigilante around you. It is your right to have the phone number of the DPO. I plead with you. Enough is enough. We can only succeed if we work together.”
Monarch says killings bizarre
The Eze Oba of Ogba land, Dr. Chukumela Nnam Obi II, lamented the killing in his Kingdom, describing them as strange. He pleaded with security operatives to do more to secure lives, promising the cooperation of his people with them.
Although it is not clear why the assailants behead their victims but some Omoku residents describe it as the trade mark of a cult group. “They take the head back to their base as the whole essence is to further humiliate their victims in death,” one resident said. Another resident who also pleaded anonymity said the issue was beyond politics even though some of those killed were members of various political parties. According to her, “I don’t think the killings are all about politics. If it is so, why is the killing more in Omoku. Is the general election holding only in Omoku? Wike is from Obio Akpor, Dakuku Peterside is from Opobo. Why are there no much killings in their areas, after all they are the faces of the two leading political parties in the state.”
The oil connection
Another source at Omoku said the local government is home to two major oil companies noting that fight over contracts and packages to host communities from the companies may have given rise to various armed groups all battling for territorial control. Moreover, the source further alleged that politicians in the area recruit cultists and armed them with sophisticated weapons to intimidate, maim and kill opponents during elections. The source said that, “politicians are part of the problem. They don’t want to lose elections in their areas, so, they arm boys with guns to snatch ballot boxes and rig elections. These cult groups remain firmly on ground after general elections, terrorising communities with the arms they got from their political masters. The oil companies also do not properly manage the jobs given to the youths. This is part of the problem. There is packaged money running into millions from the companies to the communities but sometimes those in charge of the money don’t spread it out well. So it is part of the problem you see. Sometimes too, leaders of the communities sell to outsiders, job slots meant for the communities. These are part of the provocations.”
Why killings may persist
Some non-indigenes resident in Omoku fear that the killings may continue as one of them said that, “we hear people say that they can’t kill my brother, behead him and expect us to be calm. We must revenge.
This is what you hear on the streets every day. Indeed, Saturday Vanguard gathered that some of the killings have been largely reprisal attacks by those whose loved ones were killed in the past.
“This evil is likely to continue. This is not our home so we want to move out.” some other non-indigenes feared.”
However, as part of measures to check the recurrent incidents of killings, Governor Nyesom Wike has since held a meeting with various stakeholders during which he expressed worries with the security challenge in the area. Wike barred commercial motorcycle operators from engaging in the trade from 5 pm to 8 am in the local government and three other areas. He also held a meeting with stake holders in four local government areas in Omoku on how to tackle the security challenge.