Some armed soldiers
Samuel Nkemakolem and Patrick Odey
Troops of the 16 Brigade of the Nigerian Army on Tuesday allegedly invaded the Azagbene community in the Ekermor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State and burnt down houses after chasing away residents.
The rampaging soldiers were said to be in search of suspected militants who allegedly killed two of their colleagues guarding a crude oil facility in the area.
According to a community source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the armed suspected militants had come in a speedboat on Monday night and open fire on the unsuspecting soldiers.
While two of the soldiers died in the surprise attack, one of their colleagues was missing while their rifles were carted away.
He said the attack on the soldiers might have provoked their colleagues as stern looking troops on Tuesday morning invaded the community, burnt houses while the villagers scampered into the bush for safety.
“When the soldiers entered our community, they directed us to leave because they were going to burn everything to the ground and that anybody that failed to comply with the directive would be killed.
“Before some of us left the community, I saw the building of our paramount ruler on fire. Even my family house had been burnt to the ground. As I speak with you, we are suffering for a crime we didn’t commit.”
When contacted, the spokesman for the 16 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Maj. Danjuma Jonah, confirmed the death of two of its personnel but denied burning down houses in the community.
He said, “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 other soldiers. We are carrying out the search for the missing soldier in conjunction with the leaders of the community.
“So, that is what is going on now. I cannot give you the details of the operation until it’s over.”
In a related development, residents of Inen community in Oruk Anam Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State have fled their homes over alleged planned reprisal by soldiers.
The soldiers, it was learnt, were planning to attack the community over the killing of two of their colleagues and the abduction of an expatriate worker which occurred last week at a construction site in the LGA by unknown gunmen.
But the leaders of the community have denied allegations that their people were behind the killing of the two soldiers and the abduction of the expatriate worker.
The Head in Council of Inen Clan, Johnson Obosi, who spoke at a media conference held at the Oruk Anam Local Government Council, said those behind the act would not go unpunished.
Obosi added that as a border community linking it with other local government areas and Rivers State, the perpetrators were able to enter the community to commit the crimes.
He appealed to the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, and the State Commissioner of Police, Zaki Ahmed, to reactivate the abandoned police post in the community by providing it with the necessary manpower and logistics to provide protective cover for the area and its environs.
Obosi said, “This sad news shocked our community and clan in general because, for a long time, we have not had sporadic gun shots of such magnitude.
“This episode which occurred in a commando style was not only mindboggling but devastating, causing panic and tension in our community.
“As we speak, some villagers have fled their places of abode to neighbouring communities for fear of the unknown.
“The Clan-in-Council, leaders of thought and the entire Inen community, condemn and disassociate ourselves from this unfortunate incident and we will be willing to lend support to the authority to ensure freedom for the expatriate.”
The youth President, Mr John Adaedem, who also condemned the attack, exonerated the youths of the area of the crimes and assured the military that they would cooperate with the relevant security agencies to track down the kidnappers.