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Prominent indigenes, IYC lament siege to Ondo community

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Fidelis Soriwei

and Peter Dada

The embattled indigenes of Ajapa, in the Ese-Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State, have cried out to Nigerians and the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to free them from the siege on the community.

Some soldiers were deployed in the community to fish out a criminal, Ossy Ibori, and members of his gang, who were suspected to have carried out killings, kidnappings and other crimes in Lagos and Ogun states.

Ibori and 15 other suspected criminals were eventually gunned down by the military, while a captain and three other soldiers died during the operation.

It was learnt that the soldiers later burnt down several houses in the community which made residents to flee into a bush and had been trapped since the day of the operation.

A prominent lawyer from Ese-Odo, Chief Karina Tunyan, a retired Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ebitibituwa Tonye; and the Ijaw Youths Council said the residents had no access to food and medical attention.

Tunyan urged Osibanjo to order the military to lift the blockade of the community river to avert a major crisis in the area.

In the petition signed on behalf of the Iginabou of Ajapa, Chief Titus Ekiki, dated May 10, 2017, Tunyan alleged that the military burnt down many houses in the community and chased away the indigenes into the bush.

He stressed that thousands of people who sought refuge in the bush were starving and could die of hunger if they were not allowed to come into their community.

“This is to urgently bring to your notice that there is ongoing genocide, murder, blockade, arson, and grave humanitarian crisis in Ajapa, Ese-Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State caused by the military.

“What the soldiers have done is illegal, unconstitutional and unjust. Please sir, we humbly request your good offices to call the military to cease the operation against the innocent and law abiding citizens of Ajapa,” the letter read in part.

The retired Commissioner of Police and the President of the IYC, Mr. Eric Omare, said in two different telephone interviews that women and children from the besieged town were trapped in the creeks of Ajapa following the invasion of the soldiers.

Tonye, a former Police Commissioner in Enugu, Kebbi and Bayelsa states, said majority of the people trapped in the bush were in urgent need of food and medication.

He lamented that the Ondo State Government had not taken steps to alleviate the suffering of the people caught in the crossfire.

He said a meeting between the leaders of the community and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo, and the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, had not brought the expected respite.

He said, “The residents are in the bush. The government has not taken this issue seriously. This is the 10th day since this invasion happened. The government has not done anything.”

Also, the President of the Ijaw Youth Council, Omare, urged the government to intervene to avert a major humanitarian issue in the area.

He said there should be guided media tour of the area with the military, representatives of the state, the Federal Government representatives and human rights bodies to ascertain the true situation of things.

However, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Segun Ajiboye, said the government was taking some steps to ensure that peace returned to the community.

He said the Deputy Governor of the state, Ajayi, and some top government functionaries had visited the community and had meetings with the military authorities.

Ajiboye said, “To say that the state government is not doing anything on the matter is not true. On Sunday, the deputy governor and the special adviser on security matters were at the community where they met with the commander of the 19 Battalion, Okitipupa, on how to resolve the crisis.”

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