By Ikeddy Isiguzo
NOTHING in this piece suggests in any manner that attacks on security agents, under any circumstance, should be tolerated. The attacks have become part of a growing culture of abhorrence of the law. They need to be stopped, legally.
Everything in this piece condemns the lawlessness of security agents. They place themselves above the law. They act in accordance with the relics of the years they marched through Nigeria under military rule.
Oyigbo, a Rivers State settlement bordering Abia State, is the theatre of the latest display of the military’s might. People are justifying it. There is no reason for the Nigerian Army to unleash its powers on unarmed civilians.
Governor Nyesom Wike should have been fair, as his oath of office demanded, by condemning the alleged killing of his people by the army that was on a revenge mission. The circumstances are not adequate reasons for the army again to heave itself above the law.
Oyigbo youth have borne the brunt of the army’s attacks after persons believed to be members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, reportedly killed six soldiers and four policemen. The killing of the soldiers and policemen is condemnable, not just because they are security agents. It is illegal to take human lives, according to our laws.
Wike is a lawyer; above all, he is a politician. He mentions the number of soldiers and policemen killed in Oyigbo with precision. Does he care about if people, most of them innocent, have been killed in Oyigbo? Will we ever know?
His choice of politics over law ran through his broadcast that absolved him of the killing of people he swore to protect. “This terrorist organisation has made us spend money that we would have used for doing other projects. We have announced to rebuild the police stations, replace the burnt vehicles etc. This is causing huge cost on Rivers State Government, but people are not seeing that,” said Wike on African Independent Television, AIT, on Monday 2 November 2020.
Is being Governor more important to Wike than the lives of his people? Do the people of Oyigbo not count? How did Wike protect them?
He threw his weight behind the army as if there are no laws for punishing law breakers like the killers of the soldiers and policemen. His interests are glaring, just to protect himself. The police had arrested 21 people said to be IPOB, but the army said it was searching for its seized weapons.
“I will not as a Governor accept the killing of innocent people in this State, it is unacceptable!,” Wike said. Wike by innocent people must have meant only the soldiers and policemen.
Is it possible that everyone killed in Oyigbo is a member of IPOB or participated in the killing of the soldiers and policemen? Why was the mission to kill instead of arresting suspects?
Wike’s payment of N20 million to each family of the killed soldiers and policemen would bring some succour to the families. However, will he compensate families of innocent Oyigbo youth if soldiers kill them? Where is the fairness he swore to uphold as Governor?
“IPOB has used Oyigbo as a launching ground. The security agencies are aware of this. IPOB didn’t just start, they started changing the names of communities, and people expect me as a sitting Governor to be silent about it,” Wike said in the broadcast that centred more on IPOB than the Oyigbo killings.
Is he presuming everybody in Oyigbo is guilty? Is everyone in Oyigbo a member of IPOB?
As a lawyer does his profession approve self help which the army used in Oyigbo? Has his idea of securing Rivers State dovetailed to permitting self help, where security agents are offended?
Wike is making sacrifices we must not forget. “People say I should ignore all this because tomorrow I may need their vote. Which vote and for what? So, I should fold my hands and watch because tomorrow I may need their vote? What for?,” Wike asked. He staked his political future on the Oyigbo attack on whose side?
Unknown to many, Wike sees himself as a victim. “I know who is doing all this and plotting people to protest and cause mayhem here. It is the Minister of Transportation (Rotimi Amaechi). He is scared of my rising political profile. I’m a politician and I am used to all that. But I will not fold my hands and allow criminals destroy my State.” Is Amaechi supporting IPOB or Oyigbo youth? Wike did not say.
Oyigbo, an Asa town, formerly Obigbo, was a fierce battle ground during the Civil War as Nigerian troops tried to enter Biafra through it. The 1976 Justice Mamman Nasir Boundary Commission pulled the boundary between the Imo State and Rivers State back to the Imo River. Both sides of the Imo River, that is Ukwa West in present Abia State and Oyigbo in Rivers State contain many oil wells most of which went to Rivers State. “During colonial rule, Obigbo town and Komkom village, which are now in Rivers State, were parts of Asa County Council, with headquarters at Obehie-Asa,” historian Chief Don Ubani has recounted in several publications. “After the Nigerian/Biafran War, Oyigbo and Komkom were in Ukwa Division, with the headquarters still at Obehie-Asa. They were in Ukwa Division until 1976 when Mamman Nasir did his magic. The same fate befell Ndoki communities of Afam and Egberu. They were in Ndoki County Council long before Nigeria’s independence and in Ukwa Division until 1976. Omuma Local Government Area, on the same side of the Imo River with Ukwa West Local Government Area, which is in Abia State, was deliberately left in Rivers State,” Ghana News quoted Chief Ubani on 2 November 2013.
Oyigbo indigenes see themselves as not benefitting from the contributions oil wells on their lands make to the fortunes of Rivers State where they are treated as outsiders. Its youth restiveness existed before the arrival of IPOB.
With Wike alleging that Oyigbo youth and maybe IPOB were working for Amaechi, his former ally, what chances do Oyigbo youth stand of getting justice?
The shooting of unarmed peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos on 20 October 2020 is already the subject of an enquiry. The incident has been roundly condemned.
While there are differences between the incidents in Lekki and Oyigbo they both have the trademark of security agents’ disposition to act above civilian authorities.
Should the youth who killed soldiers and policemen in Oyigbo have been rewarded with freedom? No. The army and police have enough intelligence to have fished them out for prosecution. It is extreme lawlessness for them to have invaded homes and allegedly killing at will.
How many people would they have considered adequate compensation for their fallen colleagues? Where does the law weigh in to compensate victims of the current lawlessness?
Many of us are wont to justify the invasion in Oyigbo with similar reactions of the army in Zaki Biam, Benue State (on 22 October 2001, when Lt-General Victor Samuel Leonard Malu, a native, was Chief of Army Staff) and Odi, in Bayelsa State, on 20 November 1999. They still do not elevate self help to legitimate action.
When Governor Wike who does not command the army supports the killing in Oyigbo, justifies them, and accuses the community of conniving with his enemy to impede the hoisting of his political flag, he can no longer claim not to be a beneficiary of the crises.
Basic law and order inform that the killings in Oyigbo, whether of the soldiers and policemen or the innocent youth of Oyigbo cannot become legal – or even politically correct – because they were all illegal. Wike knows what to do. Has he decided to side with illegality for momentary political gain?
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