By Godwin Utuedoye,
… As another pipeline is vandalized in Ughelli South
Residents of Okpare-Olomu, Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State have called on the state government and the Nigerian Army authority to stop soldiers attached to the 222 Battalion, Agbarha-Otor from the inccessant harassment and molestation of residents in the community even as they count their losses.
The call came following the invasion of the Okpare market on Saturday, April 14, 2018 by soldiers whom source say were in search of alleged suspected pipeline vandals.
According to our source, the soldiers stormed the community with two Hilux van possibly to effect the arrest of an alleged pipeline vandal whom community source say was being fingered in an alleged attack on a pipeline along the Iwhrekan stretch in the area.
The soldiers who storm the community during the Okpare market day, invaded the market and a drinking pub said to be owned by the suspect.
According to the source, the incident resulted to the beating of anyone on sight and allege destruction of properties belonging to the suspected vandal as market women that shaded their wares close to the bar were not spared.
The drinking bar stormed by the soldiers
A community source who witnessed the incident told ADVOCATE ONLINE that it was a black Saturday for the community as market women ran in different direction with some abandoning their children and products for fear of been pounced upon by the fierce looking soldiers whom they alleged flogged the unlucky ones mercilessly.
Declaration of curfew by soldiers illegal
Meanwhile, reaction has continued to trail the actions of the soldiers who again stormed the community on Sunday, April 15, between 8:00pm forcing residents to go indoors and forcefully putting off their generators, electric bulbs as well as flogging those seen in the street, telling them army has imposed curfew in the community.
A youth from the community and environmental activist, Comrade Freeman Aghoshe who spoke to ADVOCATE condemned the actions of the soldiers, noting that a curfew cannot be enforced in that manner. He called on the authority of the Nigeria Army to follow due process and to avoid torturing innocent residents who as citizens have the right to freedom of movement. In his words; “everybody cannot be oil pipeline vandal in a community” so the soldiers should use their discretion just as claim his little son was flogged and beaten by the soldiers.
Reasons for army invasion
Further investigations by ADVOCATE ONLINE however reveals that trouble started when a group of youths from Otor-Edo community rejected crude oil believed to have been siphoned from a vandalized pipeline smuggled into the community to be refined illegally in their community which has been a flashpoint for illegal oil activities for some months.
Vehicles apprehended with illegal
refined diesel burnt by army
According to a source who spoke under strict anonymity disclosed that a new pipeline was vandalized by a group of boys somewhere along the Otor-Edo-Iwhrekan line, being frequently accused, the Otor-Edo community youths rejected the crude to be illegally refined in their community.
Angered by their decision, it was gathered that those involed, went to stop Otor-Edo women from coming to their market, a decision that infuriated Otor-Edo youths to call the attention of the army. But a source at Otor-Edo who also does not want his name in print told our Correspondent that it is not sure if the accused was among the vandals but he was pointed to the soldiers as a result of comments he made when women and traders from Otor-Edo community where being chased by some boys from Okpare-Community in coming to their market.
Meanwhile, as at the time of filing this report at about 1:15pm Monday, April 16, 2018, soldiers where still parading the streets of Okpare-Olomu community. But an army source told our reporter that the soldiers are after a particular suspect but not everyone in the community. The contact assured that the military will handle the issue with professionalism, but a community source is alleging that the soldiers are attacking everyone on sight and forcing shop owners to close their stores. The source said tension is gathering momentum as residents are afraid of coming out. Continuing the source noted that there is no pipeline burst in Okpare Community but wonder why the influx of military personnel.
Efforts to reach the 16 Brigade, Nigerian Army Yenegoa which is the headquarters of Operation Delta Safe to confirm the community claims proved abortive as the mobile line of the spoke person in possession of our reporter was not reachable.
It could be recalled that ADVOCATE ONLINE had earlier reported the impending dangers in the area if urgent steps is not taken by both the NPDC and security agents as both aquatic and natural vegetation including the ecosystem is being affected by the activities of illegal oil bunkerers.