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SOME Ijaw fishermen and women, who narrowly escaped death in Thursday’s bombing of their fishing camp at Okosugbene Creek, Burutu Local Government Area, Delta State, by troops of Operation Delta Safe, who allegedly mistook the settlement for militant camp, narrated their ordeal, yesterday.
The Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, and Ijaw People Development Initiative, IPDI, in separate statements, claimed that several women and children were killed and injured in detached attack and shooting by soldiers and navy, on Burutu waterways and Warri.
Speaking exclusively to Saturday Vanguard on phone, one of the fishermen, Mr. Peter Ebitimi, said: “We were bombed while we were still asleep, I am a fisherman, our village is made up of only fishermen and women, there is no militant camp near our village, I do not even know how I survived the heavy bombs.
His words: “The military bombed us out of frustration when they could not locate the alleged militants they were looking for. My sister, Paulina Maika, was seriously wounded on the head, several fisher men/women and children are still missing, and others injured were rushed to the hospital in Warri,” he added.
He stated: “Wisdom Ekeremo, a 5- year old, seriously wounded in the bombardment has also been admitted at the Central Hospital, Warri, and others at various hospitals, which I do not know the names now.”
Another angler, who was unhappy that the fishing settlement was described as a militant camp, said: “It is not true that our village is a militant camp, it is not true that there is a militant camp near our village. What happened was that some militants came in contact with military patrol gun boats in Burutu-Warri River, close to our village Junction.”
“The military shot at the militants and the militants responded with heavy fire, and the military was frustrated. The soldiers called for help to tackle the militants, but very unfortunately before the arrival of more gunboats and two fighter jets, the militants had already left.
“So when the military bomber jets came, they began to hover and bomb every mangrove tree and equally bombed our village. They bombed us from both land and air. The military missed their target and bombed us,” he said.
IYC condemns killings
IYC in a statement by its spokesperson, Mr. Eric Omare, said: “The military killing of innocent Ijaw villagers at Okosugbene, Gbekebor in Ogbolubiri Kingdom, Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State and the shooting of children at Desemor community, Ogbe-Ijoh Kingdom in Warri South West Local Governemnt Area of Delta State in the early and late hours respectively of Thursday, November 24, 2016 is senseless, the height of unprofessionalism and crime against humanity.”
“The IYC wonders how the Nigerian military would embark on aerial and land bombardment of innocent villagers at the small fishing camp of Okosugbene on very weak intelligent reports that militants were around the area. If the intention of the military is fish out militants; why the killing of old women and children?
“At the time of issuing this statement, Madam Atuku, an octogenarian is in a state of coma in a private hospital in Warri as a result of the effect of the bombings apart from several innocent people especially children that were killed and injured,” it said.
Navy goes wild in Warri
The council added: “As if the killings at Okosugbene in the early hours of Thursday, November 24, 2016 were not enough, the Nigerian Navy also went berserk in the evening of Thursday, November 24, 2016 in continuation of the spilling of the blood of innocent Ijaw people by shooting sporadically into Desemor community, Ogbe-Ijoh Kingdom, directly opposite Warri township and injured several people.”
“As at this morning (Friday, November 25, 2016), the following persons, who are mainly children sustained serious gunshot injuries and are in critical state at the Naval Clinic in Warri: 1. Master Andrew Okilo, Money Girl Okilo, Alice Ogbomi, Joseph Ogbomi, Mrs. Wisdom Ogbomi, Blessing Ogbomi, Perelade Ogbomi and Mrs. China-Ere David.
“The world would recall that just recently on January 29th and 30th , 2016 and throughout the night of May 30th to May 31st, 2016 respectively, same officers from the Nigerian Navy, Warri barracks shot into Naifor Island, also opposite the Warri township and seriously injured a couple (Mr and Mrs Tiemo). This couple is yet to recover fully from the injuries sustained and the military has abandoned them to their faith,” IYC added.
It asserted: “The IYC in the strongest term condemn these unprovoked attacks on Ijaw people and communities and call on all lovers of humanity to join in condemnation. The Ijaw has not done anything to warrant such a treatment from the military under President Buhari. These attacks are provocative and our people are being pushed to react.”
“If the Nigerian government cannot protect Ijaw people and communities, then we may be forced to protect ourselves against such attacks in the future. We call on the international community, especially the United Nations Human Rights Commission to prevail on the Buhari administration to protect the rights of the Ijaw people to life. Ijaws are being killed like animals on a daily basis in the Niger Delta region without justification. These unprovoked and extra-judicial killings must stop,” the group stated.
IPDI in a statement by the national president, Mr. Austin Ozobo, said: “The military personnel drafted to Niger Delta are not professional in their operations, they are on suicidal mission. The Okosugbene bombardment is a clear genocide. Bombing innocent villages because you miss your target is suicidal and a call for concern by well-meaning country men.”
It noted: “Same was done to Ayakoromo community in 2010, when they could not locate the late John Togo’s camp, they went and bombed innocent Ayakoromo town that is made up of more than 15,000 people. They killed hundreds of persons and undertook mass burial in the town.”
“Equally, Gbaramatu kingdom was razed down by overzealous Nigerian military in 2009 after bombing Camp 5. They caused heavy genocide and nobody questioned them for their atrocities.
The military personnel in Niger Delta are so callous and heartless. There is no justification to bomb innocent village, comprising children and more fishermen/women.
“Even if there are suspected militants in such communities where children and other lawful people are living, it is not fair to bomb innocent persons and criminals together. Such is not a known precedence in the world. We seriously condemn it. This amounts to witch-hunt and vendetta. We have done nothing wrong to warrant these barbaric and sting operations as Ijaw people,” the group asserted.
IPDI said: “We want United Nations to intervene, it should not see such unprovoked bombing as domestic issue, using bombs on innocent villages and children are not domestic matters, it calls for global concern, as it is a war crime because some of the equipment are meant for external aggression.”
“The lives of the people are in danger, the international community should intervene and save them from this cruel killings and bombing by the Nigerian government,” it added.