- Community launch media campaign against Army, demand withdrawal of soldiers
- Cross River State government demand that the community produce the youths who shot Army Colonel, 6 soldiers
The Nigerian Army raid on two communities in two Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Cross River State has come under severe criticism.
The recurring communal crisis has claimed scores of lives, wounded and displaced many, with properties destroyed.
Last weekend, some people were killed in Nko town after soldiers allegedly opened fire on residents.
The troops were drafted from Edor Barracks in Ikom to curtail the conflict between the people of Nko (Yakurr LGA) and Onyadama (Abi LGA) over a land dispute.
On Saturday, Nko youths went on rampage, maintaining that the Army has not been neutral in their face-off with Onyadama.
After mobilization, they confronted and shot six soldiers and a Colonel who led the team. The latter and his contingent are receiving treatment.
The military authority got furious over the attack and ordered a major operation to fish out the culprits.
On Sunday, troops stormed the community in vehicles after dawn and launched an offensive. It is unclear if there was an exchange of fire.
Circulating figures suggest at least five deaths; some people, including women, the elderly and children, are missing.
The military now faces a backlash. Okoi Obono-Obla, a former Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, has called on the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya, to call his men to order.
Obono-Obla accused soldiers deployed of engaging in retaliation against innocent residents in an extreme manner.
“The reprisal attack against Nko community leaves a sour taste in the mouth. These reprisal attacks by law enforcement agencies on innocent villagers are wicked.”
He demanded that the perpetrators of the “senseless and mindless violence” be arrested and brought to justice immediately.
On Tuesday, a Twitter user (Soyi Hadassah) wrote: “Dear Nigerians, They’re still shooting sporadically in my village (Nko, Yakurr area).
“It’s enough that they burnt our house with my father in it and my poor mother is still in the bush hiding for her life.
“We can’t even travel, which makes it more horrible. Help me, help my father, Help the homeless and poor people in Nko.”
A reply by @Christiine_U reads: “A family friend just told me about this. Her mum is stuck at home and she can’t walk, the people taking care of her and feeding her have fled to the bush leaving her to her faith.
“The woman is scared and hungry alone at home. My friend is scared here in Lagos. Send help to Uko.”
In another reaction, @thatgirlsteh wrote: “My colleague had to leave work early cuz she got a call that they burnt her family house and her mom’s shop, and that her dad is missing.”
Also, @EduEle5 tweeted: “Nigeria has happened to one of our own again. These soldiers burnt the home of @Soyi_Hadassah with her father inside.
“I was on the phone with mum today when she was telling me about the refugees that are looking for where to lay their heads in our town.
“The soldiers staged a raid, razing down buildings and firing live bullets at villagers, alleging that their personnel was killed by Nko youths.
“After the raiding by the army last night, normalcy returned but suddenly between 6 a.m. this today, they appeared again and started shooting everything on sight.
“Soldiers sent to keep peace within these two communities are the same people killing and rendering people homeless by burning houses, shops etc. Why?”
Army Director of Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu did not take calls to his line on Wednesday.
However, the yet-to-be named wounded Colonel is still under care, battling for his life.
The officer was flown by helicopter to Abakaliki, the Ebonyi capital for medical attention, DAILY POST correspondent learnt.
Retired service personnel from the restive community have condemned the targeting of the soldiers.
“The Colonel is in a critical condition in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Abakaliki.
“Six other soldiers were shot. Other senior retired military officers in the area have blamed the people for daring the soldiers.
“They shot and mocked them by parading half-naked and shaking their bum. That’s why the soldiers responded and invaded the community”, one said.
Another source disclosed that troops conducting house to house searches “discovered and retrieved arms”.
The palace of the village head of Nko, Obol Ofem Ayomobi was raided and set ablaze allegedly by soldiers, who said arms were stored there.
The Obol Lopon of Ugep, HRM Obol Ofem Ubana confirmed the presence of the soldiers but said his home wasn’t searched.
“It is not true that soldiers invaded my palace and uncovered arms”, the paramount ruler of Yakurr LGA explained.
“As a result of the violence, there is a huge population of refugees from Nko in my palace in Ugep who arrived for safety”, he added.
Meanwhile, the Cross River government has ordered the Nko community to produce the shooters of the soldiers.
Governor Ben Ayade spokesman, Linus Obogo issued a statement on Tuesday after a state security council meeting attended by service chiefs.
The government directed the Army to sustain its operation in Nko until those behind the firing of the military personnel are apprehended.
Also, an order was issued for dethronement of the Obol Etim Ayomobi (Yakurr) and the Clan Head of Oyadama, Ovarr Vincent Erena (Obubra LGA).
First published in DAILY POST