By Emma Amaize & Sunday Chancel
BOMADI— NOTWITHSTANDING public outcry and Wednesday’s resolution of the House of Representatives, urging the Army to discontinue the siege to riverine communities in Bayelsa and Delta States over the killing, last Thursday, of a soldier by suspected militants at Ogbogbagbene community, Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State, soldiers continued with their around-the-clock siege to the communities, yesterday.
Residents of Bomadi, Tuomo, Ogbogbogbane and other communities are still being subjected to various forms of intimidation and harassment by soldiers attached to Operation Delta Safe, who forced them to raise their hands above their heads or face as they walk past the numerous check-points now in the towns.
The continued siege has also crippled food supplies to the communities, causing acute hunger in the affected areas.
Two human rights groups, Ijaw People Development Initiative, IPDI, and Foundation for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusaders, FOHURAC, yesterday, decried the nonstop siege and degradation of civilians by soldiers.
They raised alarm that the military was implementing a starvation policy of war against the beleaguered communities and called on acting President Yemi Osinbajo, to prevail on the Nigeria Army to stop these inhuman acts, adding: “Nigerians must not be subjected to any form of disability in their own country.”
FOHURAC in a statement by the national president, Mr. Alaowei Cleric, bemoaned: “That continued siege to the communities has also affected people and many are dying of starvation as their means of livelihood have been jeopardized by rampaging soldiers.
“Food supplies to the affected communities is still very minimal as movements are highly restricted in the riverine areas. If the military high command inspite of the series of public outcry still allows these gross abuses of human rights to continue unabated, then we may take legal steps to enforce the rights of bastardized riverine communities.
“Soldiers attached to Operation Delta Safe (ODS) in Bomadi, Tuomo and Ogbobagbene communities are still treating the inhabitants of Bomadi and other riverine communities in Bayelsa and Delta states as prisoners of war. Daily molestation of innocent and defenceless civilians, who merely go about their lawful businesses, is still very high.
“The soldiers who are supposed to be friends to the people they swore to protect have turned themselves as enemies to their hosts. People who walked on the streets are ordered to raise their hands as if they were conquered by the military at the warfront. Even commuters are not spared as they are ordered to alight from their vehicles and walk a given distance with their hands raised above their heads,” it added.
Acting spokesperson of IPDI, Mr. Mayor Ogobiri, whose group, led by the national president, Austin Ozob, visited Bomadi, Tuomo and Ogbogbogbane during the week, said: “Our visit revealed that the level of intimidation and abuse of the rights of innocent citizens are still high. Though the tension has subsided, the people are still subjected to serious intimidation by having to raise their hands whenever they pass through the military checkpoints in Bomadi community.
“We wish to seize this medium to call on the Federal Government, Chief of Defence Staff and the Chief of Army Staff to caution the military personnel in Bomadi, Tuomo, Ogbogbagbene and the waterways of other affected communities to stop intimidation and transfer of aggression to the innocent riverine dwellers because the culprits do not reside in the villages now suffering and the community where the dastardly act occurred.
“Our tour of the aforementioned communities uncovered the unfriendly operations of the military, acting in a manner as if soldiers are waging war against innocent Ijaw communities. Incidents like this which occurred in some parts of the country were swept under the carpet, but in the case of Niger Delta region, the military in their unusual operation will unleash terror on Ijaw communities.
“We are shocked at the level of destruction of properties of innocent market women at Bomadi and other affected communities, which call for condemnation by well- meaning Nigerians.”