Killing of soldiers: Protest in Rivers as death toll rises to 30
…Uneasy calm in Abonnema; villagers recover more corpses
…Want soldiers withdrawn from Saturday’s governorship, state assembly polls
ABONNEMA – TENSION has gripped the people of Abonnema Town, Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, Rivers State, where soldiers and youths had a bloody clash on the day of the Presidential and National Assembly elections, following the recovery of more dead bodies of villagers, shooting up the death toll from 10 to more than 30.
Placard-carrying mothers besiege monarch’s palace
Thousands of placard-carrying women drawn from various communities in the local government area, marched to the palace of the Amanyanabo of Abonnema, His Royal Majesty, King Disrael Gbobo Bob-Manuel, last week, to protest the unsettling development.
The irate mothers demanded that the soldiers be recalled from the area in Saturday’s Governorship and House of Assembly elections, saying the aspiration of any politician is not worth the lives of their children.
The women, who wore black attires had inscriptions such as: Abonnema not Battle Ground, AKULGANS desire Peace, Vote not Kill, York City Says No to violence, Army don’t Kill our Sons, Let’s stop spilling blood, among others on their placards.
Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Tonye Briggs Oneyinde, who led the Save Our Soul, SOS, rally, confirmed at Abonnema weekend that over 30 youths died in the clash, assumedly fuelled by the killing of a Lieutenant of the Nigerian Army.
Present demands to monarch
Requesting the monarch to advise the military not to deploy men in Abonnema during Saturday’s polls, she said dead bodies were still being recovered as at Friday, last week, stressing that people of the area were scared and in pains over the losses.
She told the monarch: “Your children are here to plead with you to tell the Army not to come here again. We have lost over 30 people in the election. We are here to beg you to talk to our sons who are enjoying the federal might to use it for our good and development.
“Today, many people have become childless because of the election. We do not need killings and we do not need military in our land again for the election.
“We are pained as mothers; we have not seen this kind of situation before. We want justice for our children who lost their lives in the incident. We are living in total fear,” she said.
Living in fear
A women leader, Dr (Mrs.) Nimi Tom Manuel, who corroborated the claim that residents were living in fear, said: “What we experienced in the elections is horrific, mothers lost their children and wives lost their husbands. We do not want Army in this community again for election.”
“We are peaceful people and that is why we won an award as the most peaceful community in this state. There is apprehension and that is the reason we are out today. We want peace to be returned in this place because we deserve it,” she added.
What we are facing not normal —Abonnema monarch
Meanwhile, the Amanyanabo of Abonnema, His Royal Majesty, King Disrael Gbobo Bob-Manuel, asserted: “I want to ask you and all indigenes of Abonnema and Kalabari Kingdoms to be strong because what we are facing is not ordinary.
“Even during the Nigerian civil war, we were here and we did not see this kind of thing. Be strong and by the grace of God, we will overcome.
“This is a disaster and it is something that the United Nations should look into. We saw it coming and we held a meeting at Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, and told our children that in the elections, we do not want political thuggery.
“We brought a document, but some of them refused to sign it, claiming that they do not have the right of their party to do so.
“We warned them when we got hint that thugs are already coming in and we told them that we don’t need military or hoodlums. However, some of them refused to hear,” he said.
If elections mean killings, we do not need it again
Bob-Manuel wondered why people would kill because of election, lamenting that if election means killings, people of the area do not need it again.
“What votes are they looking for in Abonnema that they will destroy Abonnema? If this is what they want to do, then we will not allow any elections here again.
“We (the Council of Traditional Rulers) are meeting today and we are going to reach a resolution. We will tell them (our politicians) that apart from the armed men that the INEC, Independent National Electoral Commission, will bring here, we do not want any Army man because if they do, we will blame any death here on such persons,” the monarch declared.