Several families in Abonnema in Akuku Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State started fleeing their homes on Sunday over fear that the Nigerian Army could attack their town after gunmen killed two soldiers on Saturday night.
Multiple sources among the locals confirmed the disturbing development to newsmen, a week after several persons were killed by soldiers retaliating the killing of a colleague by armed hoodlums in Abonnema, Akuku Toru LGA of Rivers State.
“That is true,” said Omoni Nnamdi, spokesperson for the police in Rivers State. “Everybody is aware of that (that residents were fleeing following the killing of soldiers).”
Nnamdi, however, said it was an army “business” and explained the police could not make an official statement before the army.
This paper understands the police in Rivers are wary of speaking on the matter as the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army based in Port Harcourt is yet to react.
Gunmen, reportedly wearing army camouflage according to security sources, attacked a military checkpoint called Samson Jack Checkpoint along Obonoma-Abonnema Road Saturday night.
In the wake of the attack, two soldiers were left dead and the gunmen allegedly made away with army rifles. Other soldiers fled and sustained injuries as they were hit by surprise.
The deadly attack on the soldiers compelled families to leave their homes for safety somewhere else on Sunday morning.
The Saturday attack came just a week after the bloody election day incident involving hoodlums and soldiers in the town.
The army confirmed they killed six persons whom they called hoodlums as a reprisal carried out after a soldier was killed in an ambush.
But residents said more than six persons were killed.
Therefore, when two soldiers were again killed by gunmen, fear of reprisal by the army engulfed the land, forcing a mass exit Sunday morning.
We could not get the army to speak on this report. The spokesperson for the army formation in Port Harcourt, Aminu Iliyasu, did not answer calls. He also did not reply to a text seeking his comment.
The election day violence forced the to declare no voting exercise in Akuku Toru LGA. Five other LGAs also were not included in the final results from Rivers State in last Saturday’s presidential election due to violence.
Before the elections, tension had peaked between the army formation in Port Harcourt and the Rivers State Government.
But since after the elections, the atmosphere in Rivers has remained tense and both the army and the government continue to trade accusations.
As the army comes under heavy allegations of interference with the elections, it accuses Governor Nyesom Wike of masterminding violence and compromising security agencies.
The army paraded two Rivers officials, Reason Onya and Lokpobiri Wanaka, last Tuesday, as suspects linked to Wike as well as electoral violence and malpractices in the state.
On Sunday evening, a coalition of 15 political parties led by Warigbani Zebulum of APDA commended the army “for coming to the rescue of defenceless Rivers people especially those in Abonnema held hostage by hoodlums and thugs loyal to PDP.”
The coalition also denied involvement in the reported endorsement of Wike for a second term by 58 parties two days ago.
Rivers APC candidates will not participate in the governorship and state legislative elections next Saturday based on a Supreme Court ruling. This could make it easy for Wike and other PDP candidates as APC is the main opposition party in the state.