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The Ijaw Youth Council has called on the Federal Government to dismantle the military occupation of the Ijaw nation and the Niger Delta and stop laying siege on communities in the area.
It condemned what it described as the indiscriminate military invasions and genocide in Ijaw and Niger Delta communities perpetrated by federal troops under the guise of searching for suspected oil thieves and militants.
According to the council, the killing and maiming of people and the burning down of communities by the Nigerian military at the slightest provocation by criminal elements were a huge threat to the peace and stability of the region.
A spokesman for the IYC, Ebilade Ekerefe, who stated this during a world press conference in Ijaw House, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, at the weekend, urged the Federal Government to demobilise troops from Ijaw communities and the Niger Delta without delay.
He said, “We have watched with restraint the murderous destruction of communities, the killings and maiming of innocent and harmless children, men and women, including the elderly, under the pretence of going after unrepentant militants and oil thieves.
“We want to place it on record that Nigeria’s colonising Joint Task Force has, in the past fifteen years, decimated our defenceless populations in more than eighty Ijaw villages, towns, and cities.
“The communities that have fallen victims in the past include Gbaramatu in Delta State, Odi, Odioma, Gbaran, Ogboinbiri, Kaiama, Ndoro, Liama, Okpoama, Obioku, Yenagoa, Amarata, Ekeki, Opolo, Agudama, Epebu, Oluasiri, Okolobiri, Mbiama, Azuzuama, Ologoama Oboro, Ogodobiri, Peretorugbene, Warri Corner, Okerenkoko, Torugbene, Ogulagha, Odimodi, Okigbene, Olugbobiri, Olugboboro, Ikebiri, Nembe Town, Ferebaghagbene, Okokodiagbene, Oproza, Ogbe-Ijo, Burutu, Ekeremor Zion, Sagbama, Aven, Patani, Amabulu, Peremabiri, Obuama, Agge, FishTown, Koluama, Okrika, Bonny, Ataba, Omelema, Degema, Kula, Soku Elem-Sangama, Opobo, Abula, Amadi-ama, Buguma and most recently, Letugbene, Azagbene, Bilabiri, Igbomotoru Bille, Touma and Odouda.
“These are just some of the Ijaw communities that the Nigerian state has razed in recent history for unjustifiable reasons. The relentless genocidal military campaign against our people will continue to remain a dark shadow in our heart.”
Ekerefe argued that while Niger Delta communities were frequently raided, a similar military onslaught had not been carried out in any community in the northern parts of the country ravaged by terrorists, insurgents, and bandits.
He said the military would not be faulted if troops “went after criminal pirates and kidnappers disturbing the waterways in their camps,” but armed soldiers had been rather engaged in unjustifiable transfers of aggression on defenceless Ijaw communities.
The Ijaw youth leader further said, “Even in the North East and the North West, where terrorists and bandits operate at will, we’ve not heard of the military ransacking communities under the guise of looking for terrorists. They are professionals and stick to the rules of engagement.
“But here in the Niger Delta, the rules are not followed. Is it because we are Ijaw people? They forcefully took our God-given oil wealth, destroyed our environment, and used the proceeds of our oil to kill us with impunity. We consider this an ethnic cleansing, and it is unacceptable.
“There have been numerous instances whereby the occupation forces of the oppressive Nigerian state have indiscriminately and recklessly killed Ijaw youths travelling in boats in our waterways in the course of their normal and daily socio-economic activities.
“Whenever such heinous human rights abuses are perpetrated against our people, the Nigerian military and government dishonourably and deceptively defend and justify their crimes against humanity by falsely claiming that the slain Ijaws were militants.”
He, however, added that the IYC was collating evidence and would take appropriate legal action against the military “to put an end to these crimes against humanity.”