42 persons were killed in gang wars in August in Rivers State, report says

The month of August saw a drastic rise in killings in Rivers State as against June and June, a report by a Civil Society Organization, We The People which tracks killings in the state says.

“In June and July, the Rivers state government initiated critical processes to curb insecurity in the state. The most significant of these efforts include the fact that the state government strengthened the ranks of the Nigerian Police Force with the formation of a specialised tactical unit called Operation Sting.

“The governor provided vehicles and other equipment to the Police. The government also became increasingly involved in direct efforts targeted at communities towards curbing the insecurity in the State. For instance, in response to the killings in Choba community of Obio Akpor local government area, the governor summoned a town hall meeting of all interest groups in the area and demanded an end to the killings. This action was taken just one day after civil society groups in Rivers state led by We the People embarked on a march demanding that the government and Police take action to end the insecurity in the state.

“The immediate result was a rapid reduction in incidents of atrocity in those two months. Unfortunately, the month of August witnessed an alarming rise in killings. The chronicle of deaths more than doubled in the period. In the 31 days of August 2019, We the People tracked and documented ten incidents that resulted in 45
deaths.

“The pattern of atrocity in August drives the conclusion that there is an ongoing gang ‘war’ among rival criminal groups in the state which has spiralled beyond control. This ‘war’ is principally characterised by reprisal killings and revenge missions that have left the people of Rivers state in fear and shock. It is also interesting to note that all law enforcement agencies seem at a loss on strategies to end the killings. It seems, unfortunately, that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes have acquired the intelligence and capacity to act despite the heavy presence of law
enforcement.

Incidents

On the 1 of August, Maureen Ewuru, a 23-year-old woman, was strangled to death in a hotel room at D/Line axis of Port Harcourt. Her lifeless body was discovered half-naked on the hotel bed, with a white pillow covered around her neck, believed to have been used by the killer to strangle her. After Maureen’s death’s, her killer absconded leaving some items – a cap and a black leather slipper.

The State Police Command identified the items as exhibits and
said they had been collected for further investigation. Maureen Ewuru was from Abia State and a mother of one.

On the 5 of August, suspected gang members numbering about five, shot and killed four persons in Bodo Community in Gokana Local Government Area. Sources report that while the incident is gang-related, some of the victims were non-gang members. Befe Bornu, a youth leader in the community and 24 year
old Tombari Thomas were victims of the attack.

In the evening of 13 August, unknown gunmen invaded Okwale Community in the Nyo-Khana District, Khana Local Government, shot ceaselessly, burnt down several properties including cars and houses, killing five persons in the process. Also destroyed in the attack was the residence of the caretaker Highness of the Community, Chief Monday Abueh and many others.

In the early hours of 14 August, while residents of Okwale Community were still mourning their losses, a similar incident greeted the people of Taabaa Community in the same Nyo-khana District of Khana Local Government Area.
Gunmen attacked the community, killed four persons, razed down the Palace of the traditional ruler, Chief M. S. K. Nule Jnr of Taabaa, a neighbouring community to Okwale. Mr Kingdom Nyaa, Mr Nboy Bani, Mr Kporkpor, and one other unidentified man were killed in the unfortunate incident. In the same string of attack, the home of the President of Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Legborsi Pyagbara, was torched in Nyokuru
Community.

In the early hours of 15 August, unknown gunmen shot and killed Mr Ikechukwu Emmanuel, the former acting President of Choba Youth Association in his family compound in Rumuchakara, Choba, in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area. The 43-year old Ikechukwu, also known as Iyke, was shot and killed right in the presence of his family members. The move for his killing is not clear. However, sources said his membership of a local vigilante group might have
triggered the attack. In recent months, Choba Community has been plagued with armed attacks and scores have been killed. These incidents have drawn the attention and intervention of the Rivers state government since July.

On the 15 of August, a young lady identified as Jennifer Nkwocha was strangled to death in a hotel room along Woji Road, G.R.A. Port Harcourt. The victim who is believed to be in her 20s was discovered lying lifeless in the hotel room with a
piece of cloth around her neck. The killer had already fled the scene before she was found. Jennifer Nkwocha was a native of Umuekenyike, Obirikom in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State. In recent months, there have been other killings in and around the state with similar modus operandi, fuelling rumours that it may be the work of a serial killer.

On the 18 of August, suspected gun-wielding gang members numbering over fifteen attacked Opuoko and Luumene Bangha Communities in Khana Local Government Area. They killed eighteen persons, burnt down several properties, including the home of Khana Local Government Chairman, Lateh Loolo in Opuoko,
and parts of the Palace of the Gbenemene/Kasimene of Bangha II, H.R.M King Suanu Baridam in Luumene Bangha.
Sources said sixteen persons were killed in Opouku, while two others were killed by the erratic shooting gunmen at Bangha.
The names of the victims of Bangha were given as Mr Monday Iko and one Mr Nwisaanee, son of Chief Zorbari Nwisaanee.

In the early hours of Monday, 19 August, gunmen wielding sophisticated assault rifles including AK47 invaded Azuogu Community in Oyigbo Local Government Area killing five persons. Among the victims was Mr Edward Okechukwu, the Vice
Chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Ward 5, Oyigbo Local Government Area.

Sources say the well-armed gunmen also injured many in other neighbouring communities. They destroyed properties and took
valuables worth millions of naira from the communities. Mr Edward Okechukwu was also the son of the paramount ruler of Azuogu Ndoki Community.

On the 21 of August, the decomposing corpse of a woman believed to be in her 30s was dumped along Aggrey Road, in the Old Township axis of Port Harcourt.

Residents suspect she was a commercial sex worker that had been missing for days. Her killers dumped her already decomposing body (likely marinated in acid judging from the manner her skin was peeling off) in the early st hours of 21 August, wrapped in black nylon. It is not clear how she was killed, but two previous incidents involving women in the State in August raises the noon of strangulation. The victim was said to have come from Benue
State and had two children.

On the 22 of August, suspected gang members invaded Kereken-Boue Community of Khana Local Government Area and killed five persons, burning properties. The men arrived the community shooting into the air before going for
their targets. All five victims of the incident were said to be men in their 20s and 30s.

Source