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SAN Condemns Unprovoked Military Invasion of Igbomotoru Communities in Bayelsa . Urges FG, Human Rights Communities to Intervene Immediately

By Our Correspondent

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Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Prof Festus Emiri.

 A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Prof Festus Emiri has condemned the unprovoked Military invasion of Igbomotoru Communities in Southern Ijaw local government area of Bàyelsa state, and called on the state and federal government as well as the human rights communities to immediately intervene to save them from the perpetual ruthlessness and dehumanization by the militias.

 Prof Emiri who made the condemnation during a press conference in Yenagoa on Saturday, described the action of the soldiers as unconstitutional and uncalled for, stressing that soldiers have no powers in any event whatsoever to invade any community.

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The leaders and bonafide representatives of Igbomotoru 1 and 2 communities in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State at a Press Conference in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state capital on Saturday, July 23, 2022.

 He alleged that no fewer than seven people had been killed and several others arrested in Igbomotoru since the soldiers stormed the communities on June 22, 2022.

The Professor of law, debunked insinuation of oil bunkering camps in the area, and described the military invasion as a part of divide-and-rule tactics deployed by the oil firm and its ally to keep the communities disunited, stressing that there was no problem in Igbomotoru to warrant the presence of soldiers.

He pointed out that the Constitution of Nigeria clearly stated on Section 22, 217and 2018 that Soldiers are only deployed and employed to protect the territorial integrity of the country.

Emiri, the Professor of Law alleged that the armed soldiers were acting on the instructions of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) in collaboration with a pipeline surveillance company, Darlon Security Nigeria Limited.

Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC)

 He said, “There is no problem in the community, and in any case, soldiers have no powers whatsoever to invade any community. “If they perceive there is any problem in the community, what they should do is to seek police help and the police have the powers under our law to prosecute. But what they are doing is to frighten the people and once the people are frightened they cannot come together to present a common front against Agip used as a surrogate by Darlon Security Limited.

“At least, seven persons have been killed. How many more they want to kill we don’t know. Several persons have been arrested, people can’t go to their farms, people are just in prison but the constitution guarantees their right to life, property and movement. These cannot be abridged without any court of law convicting a people. There is nothing like community guilt. The law does not provide that a community can be guilty. An individual can be guilty, not a community,” he affirmed.

  Explaining the way and manner the Multinational Oil Companies adopted to dodge their responsibilities to develop their host communities, Prof Emiri said  “There is divide and rule. What the Multinational Oil Companies do is to look for someone in the community who can oppress the community and use him as a tool to milk the community. So, what they have here in the community is that the NAOC is uncomfortable with what is happening here in the community; in the sense that the people are asking for development. And Agip want what we called ‘Tokenism’ (Just give a few things to few persons), and those fellows will say we represent the community. So, they are not happy that the community has come together.

 ‘So, what they have done is to use their security operatives. Of course, they have oil pipeline contractors. So, all they have done is to use DARLON to invade the community.

And the truth is under the pretext that there is a problem in the community while there is no problem.

     And of course, the community will ask for proper compensation in all the billions that have been lost. In fact, can't ask for compensation because lives have been lost. People have been killed, you can't have quantified the life of a person. And that is where we are. And this thing must stop,” he stated.

Also speaking, the solicitors to Igbomotoru communities, Barrister Stanley Damabide had said that the community in a law abiding manner wrote to various organs of government, the federal and state governments, but lamented that no action was taken to end the ongoing siege and dehumanisation in Igbomotoru Communities.

"I think   these are part of the challenges we are facing as a nation. The slow way of reacting to obviously   sensitive issues was worst play out to the letters we wrote. Not until yesterday (22nd July, 2022) we got a call from the state government for a meeting that is schedule for Friday (29th July, 2022).

But even after we got that call these terrible dehumanizing acts are still being perpetrate and nothing being done. It is sad’.

‘And that is why if you look at the focus of His Royal Highness, it is not just to notify Government again because we think we have done enough.

‘We are asking the international Communities get involved in this because so far this morning, we got report that these dehumanizing acts are still being perpetrate.

Even if the military will act they have a standard code of conduct. There are well established international best practices to regulate the actions and the activities of the military. It is not being respected in Igbomotoru communities. That is why the world is called into all these," he averred.

The Community Solicitor maintained that a letter dated July 6, 2022 was written to the state government and copied to security agencies in the country, which they earnestly appealed for immediate intervention and control of the criminal excesses of the military personnel currently stationed in Igbomotoru Communities in Southern Ijaw local government area of Bayelsa state.

 According to him, it is worthy to note that their appeal is not a smear campaign, but a responsive call by persons who want the ongoing tragic situation in the communities come to an end.

He alleged that the armed military men in six gun boats and five speed boats, along with them armed young men that are believed to be working with DARLON Nig. Ltd.

"They started shooting sporadically into the community, wounding and causing grievous harm to many, burning down buildings and charting away cash from the buildings that were being burnt down and generally causing panic and pandemonium with devastating chaos and attendant consequences," he said.

 He said what the community want the government to do now is to stop the nefarious activities of the armed soldiers, remove them and their gun house boat from the communities to enable them to live their normal life.

 In his address on behalf of the Chiefs and the people of Igbomotoru 1 and 2 Communities, the acting Paramount Ruler of Igbomotoru 1, His Royal Highness Goodluck Simon Alagodei had said that the two communities are Landlords to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company since 1972.

He lamented that since the company began operation the Communities were neglected.

He stated emphatically that what the company is after is to make profit, cause confusion, intimidate the law abiding citizens with his cohorts devoid of consideration of peaceful coexistence of the people.

The community also want Agip to give an indigene of Igbomotoru communities contract of surveillance or protection of Pipeline and other NAOC facilities in their land and not non indigene.

He said, “With deep pains in our hearts and from a state of new-complete helplessness, we the leaders and bonafide representatives of Igbomotoru 1 and 2 communities in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, hereby call on the Bayelsa State Government, Federal Government of Nigeria and the international community to, with earnestness, urgently intervene and bring under control the ongoing siege and persistent dehumanisation in our Igbomotoru 1 and 2 communities being perpetrated by armed military personnel and their cohorts, believably acting on the directives and instructions of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company Ltd and DARLON Security Nigeria Ltd.

“While we do not have any quarrels with military personnel providing security in any part of Nigeria, including our Igbomotoru 1 and 2 communities, it is not in dispute that they are expected to keep to their standard code of conduct and maintain international best practices. It cannot be a medium siege mentality and subject our people to dehumanisation.

“As at date, our poor and hapless women are beaten and harassed re-currently by these armed military personnel. Living and doing business in our communities is now virtually impossible,” the royal father said.

 May be an image of 5 people and text that says "Video and pictorial evidence of dehumanising acts of the military in Igbomotoru 1 and 2 communities."

The traditional ruler, therefore, urged the governments and the international community to prevail on the allegedly sponsored soldiers to vacate their lands and stop causing pains and griefs on them.

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