A team of soldiers of the Nigerian Army invaded invaded Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of Gbaramatu kingdom in the early hours of Saturday, May 28, 2016.
The soldiers arrived at about 2.15 am in gunboats and began to beat up residents – men, women, children, and the elderly. According to Vanguard, the community was still under siege by the soldiers at about 8.00 am.
An email to The Trent from Comrade Zinami Iwariso, the national publicity secretary of the Niger Delta Youth Forum, reveals that the soldiers were in hunt of members of the Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group that has been on a campaign to ground the Nigerian economy.
“Reliable information got to us that the Nigerian military invaded Gbaramatu kingdom in search of members of the Niger Delta Avengers,” Iwariso said. “But, having not seen any of the members of the militant group, the Nigerian Military resorted to harassment, intimidation and brutality of innocent and free citizens of the community.”
Reports say that an octogenarian community leader, Chief Atiti Mala, was beaten with the butt of a gun by the rampaging soldiers.
“They were asking the helpless villagers to produce former militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, and members of the Niger Delta Avengers,” a youth leader told journalists.
An Ijaw leader, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, who confirmed the attack on Oporoza, said: “Information available to me is that the military invaded Oporoza again in the early hours of today. As I am speaking to you, they are still there molesting people.
“They have arrested many persons and villagers have fled into the bush, this is wrong, they are going to worsen issues with what they are doing. I posted on Facebook that they invaded Oporoza and a military called me to tell me that they would deal with me.
“We are not safe, we have said it over and over that Gbaramatu people are not synonymous with Niger Delta Avengers, they should leave my people along.
“If they want to kill me, let them go ahead, but I will continue to say the truth, why are they harassing my people, they should harass the militants whose activities we condemn,” he added.
The National Youth Forum condemned the attack in a statement on Saturday. “We unequivocally state here that the ugly method employed by the military is against the ethics and rules of engagement of military operations,” the statement signed by Comrade Zinami Iwariso said.
“We further state that the acts of the Nigerian military is against the 1999 Constitution and African Charter on People’s and Human Rights, that guarantees inalienable rights to all persons.
“In view of the above, we call on the military to stop forthwith from all acts of human right abuse in Gbaramatu Kingdom and indeed within and around the Niger Delta Region or we will petition them for war crimes against humanity .
“Furthermore, the military is reminded that we are in a democratic government and everything must be done within the ambit of the law .
“Finally , we call on President Buhari who is the commander-in-chief of the arm forces to call the military to order.
“Also we wish to remind Mr. President that when the leaders of Boko Haram (Shekau and Kabiru Sokoto) were been hunted by previous administration, they never resorted to harassing and assaulting members of their communities.
“On this note we urge that precedent be followed,” the statement ended.