The people of Okoma Community in Ahoada East Local Government Area of Rivers State, have fled their homes following the invasion of the community by men of the Nigerian Army, over bunkering activities in the area.
Our correspondent visited the Community and observed that several houses were burnt down and some other properties destroyed which yet an unknown number of persons killed by the soldiers who raided the community with over four patrol vans.
The Paramount Ruler of Okoma Community, Chief Felix Ogubie whose house was also burnt down, lamented that before now, the soldiers have maintained a good relationship with the bunkers for years, even after the community had laid several complaints at Shell Petroleum Development Company operating in the area on the illegal oil activities.
Chief Ogubie also demanded that the Shell Petroleum Development Company leave Okoma Community while calling on the Nigerian Army to also leave the hitherto peaceful community and rather chase after those involved in bunkering activities.
“We were in our homes when soldiers came and destroyed our houses, these bunkering activities started a long time ago, sometime in the year 2018. The Military in question has always had a good relationship with the bunkerers, we see the Army Officers drink together with them each time they come into the community to make arrest or chase the bunkerers.
“We have been making lots of complain to SPDC over these illegal activities yet nothing was done about it. It came as a shock to us for the Military to invade our community and destroy our properties.
“They have burnt my house and several other houses. Why would the military leave those who are involved in the crime and terrorize innocent people, a lot of our people have lost their lives as a result of Army invasions.
“This is not the first time we are running away from our community for fear of Army attack. We are calling on the Nigerian Army to leave Okoma people alone and go after those committing the crime.
“We do not have the power to chase these bunkerers away, whenever we report the activities of the bunkerers to security agencies, the bunkers will come after the person. The bunkery is not done inside the community but far away inside the bush.
“We the Okoma people want SPDC out of our community, we are no longer comfortable having them operate in our land. We want them to remove their pipeline from our land so we can be saved, our lives are under threat.
“Since 1973 Shell constructed this pipeline in Okoma, we have not benefited anything from them, so, we want them out of our community”
Some of the few people who did not have anywhere to go to appealed to the state government to come to their aid, as they no longer sleep in their homes peacefully for fear of attacks by the military.
They stressed further that they do not have arms and ammunition to chase after the bunkerers who are well equipped with arms, as the law does not permit them to carry illegal firearms.
Some of them lamented that the people involved in the bunkering business are not from the community of Rivers State, but from other states across all the region.
They however lamented that since the army invasion, they have not had good sleep or food, as the bush has been their place of shelter.