See Press Statement…
THE IJAW PEOPLE ASSEMBLY CONDEMNS IN STRONG TERMS THE WANTON DESTRUCTION OF AZAGBENE COMMUNITY OF EKEREMOR LGA OF BAYELSA STATE BY NIGERIAN MILITARY FORCES.
Whereas IPA does not support and/or condone any form of criminality, particularly the recent reported attack on men of the Nigerian Army resulting in the death of two soldiers, we wish to unequivocally and in strongest terms condemn the invasion and complete razing/burning down of Azagbene community by officers and men of the 16 Brigade of the Nigerian Army. No level of provocation justifies this brazenly, dastardly, cruel and dehumanizing attack carried out on July 23, 2019. It’s most horrendous to see an entire community flattened to a virgin land, resulting in internal displacement of the innocent, including pregnant women and children. It’s heart rending and defines the highest inhumanity to man seeing men, women and children rendered homeless, by the rampaging soldiers, crippling legitimate businesses, even as avoidable human losses, injuries, mental trauma, and dislocation have been rudely visited on the inhabitants who have now relocated to the mangroves for shelter. We are more appalled that an entire innocent civil population of a community would be sacked indignantly in the face of our benevolence to provide from the bowels of our land the flow of oil that sustains the nation’s economy. The wanton destruction is highly detestable.
The destruction of Azagbene, another Ijaw community is one case too many in the Ijaw nation. We can not accept this deliberate promotion of genocide in Ijaw land again despite the excuses.
In 1999, the Nigerian Army invaded the quiet town of Odi and massively wrecked unspeakable havoc on the people of Odi community. The people of Odi are yet to recover from the shock and debilitating devastation they suffered. In 2008, the same excuse of missing soldiers led the armed forces to attack Kurutie, Okerenkoko and other communities in Delta state, deploying both amphibious and aerial assaults, leading to innumerable death of women and children. The scars left behind in the aftermath of the massacre of Ayakoromo community in Delta state are still fresh. May we ask the leadership of the Nigerian Army and indeed the Federal Government of Nigeria, is it only in Ijaw land that officers and men of the Army have been murdered in deplorable circumstances? How many towns, communities and villages in parts of the country where soldiers are killed, have been completely razed down by the military? Are the Ijaws paying the price for feeding the Nigerian nation or is regular wanton destruction of our communities the prize for oil at our backyards? Only yesterday (23rd July), two Air force personnel were reportedly brutally murdered in Kaduna state; we are yet to hear of the Military mobilizing to destroy the communities where the hoodlums or criminals came from.
It is an insult to the sensibilities of the Ijaws for one Major Danjuma Jonah to deny the military involvement in the burning down of the Azagbene community. What a shame! It’s most unfortunate and shameful for a military spokesman to deny culpability in an evident burning down of an innocent community. We hereby reiterate that nothing justifies the Army to take the laws into their hands. Their action is at worst barbaric, insensitive and defies all known norms, standards and tactics of global crime prevention and investigation. Can sane minds believe this: “our men did not burn down houses in Azagbene community. We are only combing the community and neighbouring towns in search of one soldier that is missing as a result of the attack that led to the death of two soldiers” – a statement credited to Maj. Danjuma Jonah. Even in these days of hypersonic information and communication technology, can somebody commit to such fabulous fallacy?
While we join other well- meaning Nigerians to condemn the spate of attack on uniform personnel across the country, including the recent killings of officers in places such as Bornu, Kaduna and Abuja, we are yet to be apprised of any reprisal burning down of communities. It therefore stands to logic that the army in the Niger Delta, by extension Ijaw land, are there to protect oil facilities and not the people on whose land rigs and wellheads are located. We must put a finite stop to this callous and cruel attack on our communities. It is indefensible and erodes trust particularly given the air of insecurity pervading the Nigerian cloud for the Army to consciously trigger an escalation of crises.
Accordingly, the Ijaw People Assembly wishes to make the following demands:
1.That the Federal Government of Nigeria should as a matter of urgency, deploy the Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), working with local community leadership to deploy relief materials including medical services to Azagbene and other affected communities.
2. The Nigerian military with immediate effect should resettle pro tempore all internally displaced persons of the affected community.
3. The Nigerian government to set up a high-level commission of inquiry to unravel the circumstances leading to the wanton destruction and bring perpetrators to book. The report of such investigation should be made available to the public
4. The Nigeria military to rebuild the community, pay adequate compensation to the local population affected by the wanton destruction.
6. President Mohammadu Buhari to withdraw all military personnel from the Ijaw nation as there is no war situation in our land that warrants occupation of the army.
JOEL BISINA IBINABO. I
Public Communications Committee.
For and on behalf of the Ijaw People Assembly (IPA).
Issued July 24, 2019