Amaechi Okonkwo, Port Harcourt.
Residents of Oyigbo local government area in Rivers State have complained of continued arrests, torture and even killings of people, mostly innocent persons in continued military crackdown targeted against members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
They complain that despite the lifting of the almost 14 days 24-hours curfew on the area the whole place is still tense with heavy military presence, arrests, tortures and even disappearance of people from their homes and business places.
Speaking to our Correspondent, 51-year old Felix who had been on temporary exile to Port Harcourt following the crackdown stated that there was still heavy military presence at Oyigbo.
He said that there were still sporadic shootings especially in the small hours of the day with the military arresting and taking people away with many of them yet to return to their families.
Felix who is on his second spell on exile away from his residence in Oyigbo said he was forced to leave for a second time, this time alone as men were still targets of arrest by the soldiers who on some nights move from house to house arresting men and taking them away to unknown destinations.
He regretted that most of the victims of these arrests were innocent people whose only offences are being Igbo and males adding that the military occupation of Oyigbo has also been reduced to personal vendatta as those having issues with people now easily tag them IPOB members and cause them to be arrested.
Another resident who refused to give his name for security reasons confirmed the report of fear and tension still pervading the atmosphere of the area adding that people are afraid to even hold loud conversations or jokes.
He stated that there was still heavy presence of security agencies who go around arresting and beating people at the flimsiest excuse.
He reported of a young man arrested from a car wash where he was working saying that another hooded young man came to the car wash in company of some soldiers and pointed at the young man who was immediately whisked away by the soldiers.
“It has been 3 days since the young man was arrested but no one has seen or heard about him since then. I’m afraid the whole issue is now reduced to an avenue of settling scores as those who had quarells now invite the soldiers to arrest their opponent by tagging them IPOB member”, he stated.
This much was also corroborated by the Paramount Ruler of Oyibo, Eze Mike Nwaji who has appealed to the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and the military authourities to caution soldiers deployed to Oyibo to avoid indiscriminate arrests while trying to restore order in the local government area.
He also complained that resident could no loner move freely for fear of being arrested by security men adding that some people were arrested and wrongfully labelled members of the proscribed IPOB.
He urged; “I called on the people of Oyibo please, be careful how you use the soldiers against your brothers. What people are doing now is to go and call soldiers and report that someone is IPOB, whereas he is not”.
“The soldiers will arrest that person, beat him and detain him and eventually that person is not IPOB. Even if he is, I overheard the governor saying that the activities of IPOB in Rivers State has been proscribed.
I didn’t hear the governor say search them from house to house. He said their activities, their meetings, their gatherings. So any person going around and telling people come and see IPOB, come and see IPOB, it’s doing a wrong thing. The main people who committed the offence have all run away”, he added.
The reaction of the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army was still being awaited as at the time of filing in the this story as text message sent to Army Public Relations Officer APRO of the Division, Maj. Charles Ekeocha was yet to be answered.