By Egufe Yafugborhi and Davies Iheamnachor
•Cultists defy Wike, police; kill rivals, display heads in public square
•‘How kidnappers of NEMA officials struck’
Human heads are displayed by suspected cultists at community square as gory killings continue in Rivers State, notwithstanding the stern warning by Governor Nyesom Wike to deal ruthless with anyone caught in the act.
Violent gangs, which resumed spate of killings, terrorising residents in flash-points across Rivers State post-2019 elections, have apparently not been deterred by warnings from Governor Nyesom Wike and the state Police Command to deal ruthlessly with anyone caught in the growing criminality.
Determined to kill, maim and kidnap for ransom, four persons in their early 20s, were, on Tuesday, said to have been beheaded in Rumuji, Emohua Local Government Area, LGA, as two rival cult groups, Deygbam and Icelanders, allegedly clashed in unending supremacy war in the locality.
The development ruptured fragile peace enjoyed by residents of the area.
Many, who are terrified, are said to be moving out of Rumuji.
A source, who related the development to Sunday Vanguard, noted that the killers invaded the community under heavy gunfire, visiting homes and killing their victims.
The source, who couldn’t say who were the aggressors and the targets among the cult groups in the area, explained that the killers displayed the heads of their four victims for public view at the town square.
Kidnappers as much busy
While shocked residents shivered over the gory killing of the Rumuji 4, armed kidnappers, same Tuesday, abducted four officials of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, around Oduoha Junction, Emohua LGA.
Those abducted include a woman and three men, according to a source who further narrated, “One of the NEMA staff members, who was shot in the leg, escaped being kidnapped alongside his colleagues as he feigned death. He has been admitted at an undisclosed health centre for medical attention.
“The abducted officials had been travelling in a van that was not in good condition and even broke down several times on their way. A private car of one of the officials came to their rescue to continue the journey before the incident.”
Zonal Coordinator, NEMA in Port Harcourt, Walson Branden, who described the situation as disheartening, confirmed that the unfortunate NEMA officials were returning to Port Harcourt from a trip to Abua Odual LGA. Their mission was to do the enumeration of farmers affected by recent flooding or conflicts for the purpose of rehabilitating them through the National Emergency Agricultural Intervention Fund under the National Food Security Program of the Federal Government spanning 18 states.
Branden said, “We were in touch, communicating with them up to a point. We suddenly couldn’t get through to them. We had to go to the police to report but, at this point, we are stuck on what actually happened. They were five in number. The fifth victim is with us, assisting in our interaction with the police in terms of information that could aid the rescue of the four others.”
Two days after, specifically Thursday evening, armed men blocked Emohua axis of the East/West Road in separate robbery and kidnap operations.
A bus belonging to a mass transit company was allegedly attacked by gunmen on a road now nicknamed ‘Sambisa Forest’ in one of the incidents.
The bus was said to have been riddled with bullets while the driver, identified as Jonah Sokolo, was shot dead following his alleged refusal to open the vehicle’s doors for the bandits’ access after they had blocked the bus on the road.
It was unconfirmed at press time if any of the bus occupants was kidnapped.
In the other incident, some gunmen reportedly attacked travellers around Rumuodogo Junction and kidnapped some passengers. The bandits, in the second incident, reportedly picked about five persons from a van they had attacked and forced into the bush at gunpoint.
In Iriebe community, Obio/Akpor LGA, violence, said to have been provoked by non-natives, left three persons dead. It was gathered that the killing happened following a clash between some Hausa and Akwa Ibom residents in the area.
Chief Clington Worinwu, a brother of the paramount ruler of the community, was said to be among the victims in that episode, resulting in the area being deserted with businesses and other activities grounded.
The paramount ruler of Iriebe, Eze Jeremiah Worinwu, narrated that the crisis, which started on Wednesday, compelled heavy police deployment to the area to contain the situation.
The monarch further narrated that the police had raided a popular scrap market dominated by non-natives following information that they attacked other non-native residents.
Eze Worinwu stated that the police visited the scrap market and found some dangerous weapons, adding that at the discovery of the alleged illegal arms, the suspects sparked another crisis, this time an attack on the policemen which left two of them (police) wounded.
Also speaking, David Eleto, Youth President of Iriebe community, disclosed that the now volatile scrap market sprang from a state government abandoned housing project, which, according to him, currently provides cover for criminality by some non-natives against fellow residents.
Eleto called on government to look into the abandoned property turned into scrap market and complete it as originally intended.
The Youth Leader complained about how people had been attacked at gun point at the uncompleted building.
Police: No reaction yet
Phone calls and text messages sent to DSP Nnamdi Omoni, Rivers State Police Command Public Relations Officer, on the incidents were greeted with appeal to wait for a clear position that never came at the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile, a security expert, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, “It is disheartening that the police, for justifications I can’t find, are hardly making efforts to be proactive. They are just being reactive.
“They (police) wait for killings that could well have been exposed and averted to happen. It is only after the deed is done, people maimed and killed that Rivers police would tell you they have mobilized heavily to the flash-point, and probably arrest mostly innocent suspects, when the killers have already struck and left the scene of crime.
“It is time the police got proactive in sensing danger and preventing same thorough intelligence before it manifests. And they need to stop ascribing every killing that occurs in Rivers to cult crisis. “Assuming without conceding to the harping on this usual suspect, are killer cultists invisible? Why aren’t they being apprehended and tried to deter others?”