My twin brother lost everything while striving to save soldiers in Oyigbo’
By Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt
Ononiwu Samson, a 42-year-old resident of Oyigbo, Rivers State, is yet to overcome the horror of what transpired in the city during the time a peaceful #Endsars protests was unfortunately hijacked.
A deep cut on his head, which almost broke his skull, has left an everlasting mark of the bloodletting that occurred in his neighborhood at Oyigbo on October 21.
There was relative peace on that fateful day until 3 pm when the #EndSARS protest was suddenly hijacked in the area by unscrupulous elements later identified by security agencies as members of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).
Samson incurred the anger of the proscribed group when he attempted to save some soldiers, who ran into his home.
The soldiers were being chased by the suspected IPOB members, who reportedly took arms against all agents of the state including soldiers and policemen.
They slaughtered and burnt six soldiers and four policemen including a senior police officer. They burnt over 50 security vehicles; razed the police area command in Oyigbo and two other police stations.
But Samson was indoors at No. 15 Charles Ibe Street when some helpless soldiers, jumped the fence of their compound and made their way through the back door to his room. The soldiers’ eyes were red and they sweated profusely in their uniform. They were desperately in need of protection.
A landlord from the area, who narrated what happened said the soldiers were brave as they tried to save their lives.
“It was a horrible day for those soldiers. The hoodlums confronted them at a place we call Roundabout. They engaged them in a gun battle. But there was something mystical about those IPOB people.
“They were swooping on the soldiers, who tried to shoot to protect themselves. But the bullets could not penetrate them. Those boys were prepared for a battle. The people in front of them tied red pieces of cloth around their foreheads.
“One of them carried a jar containing unknown mixtures and they were waving cutlasses and advancing towards the soldiers. The soldiers exhausted their bullets and then fled with their empty guns. They pursued them. In fact, they turned Oyigbo to a war zone that day.”
Onyema, the twin brother to Samson said two of the soldiers ran into his brother’s room. “My brother was in the room with a friend when the soldiers ran into the place. My brother received them and asked them to pull their uniform. He gave them his shirts to wear and appealed to them to calm down. In fact, he assured them that nothing would happen to them. His friend left and my brother bolted the door firmly.”
Onyema said about four soldiers ran into the building. He said one of them was a female, who took refuge in another apartment. He said the women in the apartment received her and gave her a dress to change her uniform. He said another soldier climbed the ceiling and hid himself and his gun.
But he said: “The two soldiers remained in my brother’s room, which he also used as a workshop. He is a cobbler and he produced shoes and sandals in that shop. Not quite long, the unexpected happened. Those hoodlums started encircling the building. Is like they heard something I can’t explain that told them, the soldiers were in that house. They refused to go away and from inside the room my brother could hear them saying the soldiers were in his room”.
Onyema said the hoodlums used axe and other equipment to pull down the door. “In the process, they used the axe to give my brother a deep cut on his head. They wanted to cut off his head but one of them said he was not the soldier. In the process, he ran away. But those soldiers were not lucky enough. They brought them out, kill them and took away their rifles”.
He, however, said the hoodlums did not stop there. “They came back, brought out all the property of my brother including his occupational tools and burnt them. They did not spare anything because they referred to my twin brother as a saboteur.
“My brother has been in shock since that time. He cried bitterly at the killing of those soldiers. My brother grew up in the north and it didn’t take him time to bind with the soldiers because they were from the north. It is painful that he lost everything he had worked for all his life but more painful that those soldiers he tried to save were later killed by the hoodlums. The anger of those hoodlums is that my brother received their perceived enemies and tried to save them.”
Onyema said the soldier that hid in the ceiling, later came down when troops stormed the area to retrieve the bodies of their slain colleagues. “The next day, we learnt that the soldier returned to the building with other troops. He climbed the ceiling and retrieved his gun, but they later set the building ablaze,” he said.
Asked why they set the house ablaze, he said: “I don’t know. Maybe the soldiers were not happy that the people who lived in the compound failed to protect my brother’s properties when those hoodlums were burning everything.”
On the whereabouts of his twin brother, he said Samson was hiding in an undisclosed location out of fear that those people could return to attack him.
“He first carried his wound untreated and hid himself somewhere. He called me and I went there to take him to a friend’s hospital where he was treated. He had to leave for a safer place.”
Sources further said that apart from killing the security agents, the suspected IPOB members started attacking the northerners that lived in the area.
But to restore the peace in the area and stop inter-tribal conflict, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike declared war against IPOB members and imposed a 24-hour curfew, which he later relaxed following a meeting of the state’s security council.
The governor, who insisted that his administration would not allow the operation of the proscribed IPOB in any part of the state also doled out N20million to each family of the slain security operatives.
Following the curfew, the army started a military operation to smoke out killers of their men and to retrieve about 50 AK47 rifles reportedly stolen by the hoodlums.
However, there have been reports of human rights violations in Oyigbo following the military operation. But the Army insisted that it was operating within its rules of engagement.