By Jimitota Onoyume
PORT HARCOURT—Ogoni women wailed, yesterday, before the House of Representatives Committee on Army, during its visit to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, as witnesses gave testimonies of how their relatives were allegedly killed by soldiers who invaded Yeghe and Bori communities in search of an ex-militant leader, Solomon Ndigbara, in February.
Paramount ruler of Yeghe community, His Royal Highness, Israel Barinada, told the committee that there was no justifiable reason for the Army storming the community as the place was peaceful.
He alleged that the military invasion resulted in the death of over 15 persons in his community and Bori, headquarters of Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State.
He enjoined the House Committee to prevail on the Nigerian Army to vacate the community, stressing that the presence of the soldiers had made indigenes and residents to desert the area for fear of being arrested or harassed.
“Please, I beg this committee to ask the Army people to go back to their barracks. My community is not barracks. If we need protection, we will call the Police,” he said.
He assured that there will be peace in the community without military presence.
“The Army is terrorizing the people when there is no war. The Army should not have come and be shooting as if there was problem. Soldiers are going in and out of my community terrorizing the people.
“I want to assure you that if they leave my community today and Solomon comes in, there will still be peace. Solomon supported the police to rescue a kidnapped victim. He is a responsible man,” he said.
Women decked in black from Yeghe, Bori and Tai councils, mid way into the monarch’s presentation, started wailing as Chairman of the Committee, Rima Kwewum, called for testimonies from those whose relatives were allegedly killed.
The women rolled on the floor, screaming for justice over the alleged killings.
Another resident, Mr Thomas Nwanfor said the soldiers allegedly killed two of his younger brothers at the market in Bori.
Some others who testified were Gladys, Penu Barile and Leme Akwe, who all alleged that their relatives were shot and killed by the soldiers. Some also said the soldiers killed their husbands and children.
Earlier, South-South Chairman of the Civil Liberties Organisations, CLO, Mr Karl Uchegbu, who filed the petitions on behalf of the various victims of the invasion to the National Assembly, told the committee that the army also allegedly forcefully took over 46 acres of land belonging Agbagbo family in Ogbunabali community, Port Harcourt Local Government Area of the state, adding that the family members had been told not to come close to the area.
Chairman of the House Committee, Kwewum, in his opening remark said that the committee was on a fact finding mission to the state, stressing that they were not in the state to blame anyone.