On the night of Saturday, March 5, 2016, masked gunmen attacked and killed Mr. Franklin Obi, the Ward 4 Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, in Omoku, the headquarters of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area, also known as ONELGA, Rivers State, his wife, Iheoma, and 18-year-old son in his house.
The killers were said to have thereafter beheaded Obi. They also took away his head.
This was the latest attack to have taken place in Rivers State, which within the past one year, can be said to have turned into a killing field.
The list of casualties who were mowed down for no known reasons has grown from a scattered few to many. And as the list continues to swell, the two main political parties in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress, have been at each other’s throat on who should take responsibility.
In some cases, whole families consisting of fathers, mothers and children belonging to one family were killed as unknown gunmen wreaked havoc in ONELGA, Asari-Toru, Ahaoda East and Ogoniland areas of the state.
Apart from the killing spree, kidnapping for ransom has also become a commonplace in the state.
Though, the state could not be said to have been totally crime free at anytime, the slaughtering of human beings in the state took an awful dimension in 2014 as the country prepared for the general elections which later took place in 2015.
The killings got to a head on April 3, 2015 when an APC stalwart in ONELGA, Christopher Adube, his son and four others were murdered. His last child, who was shot in the back, had since been confined to the wheel chair.
In Ahoada East LGA, the killings worsened on January 21, 2016 when unknown gunmen stormed the Ula Upata community and mowed down 16 persons.
Two days after, three persons, including one Ebubedike Wabali, were killed in Isiokpo, Ikwerre LGA. Wabali was earlier kidnapped but his body was later found in a bush around the area.
In Ahoada East, more than 50 persons had been killed by gunmen suspected to be cult members. Ubeta, Ihubuluko, Oyigba and Ogoda communities have also had the bitter taste of gruesome killings in the area. Among members of these communities who lost their lives to gunmen were Chigba Apollos and Chiezule German, said to be members of the APC in the Ahoada East LGA. They were killed in the Ibarikpo axis of the area.
In April 2015 in Okrika, a man was killed in his car and taken away by his assailants, while another was shot by gunmen in his house. His body was discovered floating in the river several hours later.
Also, within the same period in Ebubu community, Eleme Local Government Area of the state, two persons lost their lives as two rival cult groups clashed.
These killings, according to an indigene of Eleme who simply gave his name as Charles, are carried out without any reason or provocation, adding that some of them were “simply politically motivated.”
According to Charles, the sight of men armed with guns and cutlasses sends only one message to residents: the assailants have come to waste lives.
It was also gathered that in April 2015, one Saturday Wakama, was shot dead and his corpse was taken away. Wakama, a popular member of the APC in Okrika, was said to be a member of the Ijaw Youth Council.
In February 2016, a former lawmaker representing ONELGA State Constituency in the State House of Assembly, Mr. Monday Eleanya, was killed along Ada George Road.
ONELGA appears to be the worst hit in the killing spree, even as indigenes of the area have tagged ugly development as ‘Point and Kill.’ It is a term used to describe a situation where gunmen would pick their targets, mark their houses, take a date and go for the hit. In most cases, they have never missed target.
Two months ago, no fewer than 15 people were killed in one fell swoop.
The traditional ruler of Ekpeyeland, Eze Robinson O. Robinson, expressed worry over the level of violence in the area, saying, “At the last count, over 56 persons have been murdered in cold blood by these criminals with over 40 kidnap cases. Ahoada metropolis is taking the lead. Our social life has been crippled.
“The security situation has become so bad that women avoid their farms for fear of being raped by these bandits. Our wives are being raped by these miscreants in the presence of their husbands. Our daughters are also abused by these criminals. In fact, our women only go to farms now in groups for fear of rapists and cult members who have invaded our bushes. I invite you all to join me in the battle against criminality; join me to protect lives and property of our people.”
The National Working Committee of the APC, said it was holding Governor Nyesom Wike responsible for the killing spree in the state.
The acting National Chairman of the party, Mr. Segun Oni, had told journalists in Abuja that utterances credited to the governor before the rerun election in Rivers had turned the state to a killing field.
“As the chief security officer of the state, we hold the governor responsible for what is happening in the state. He has to sit up. Rivers State has been turned into a killing field with the APC members being murdered on a daily basis. APC members in Rivers State are fast becoming endangered species”, Oni said. The APC described the security situation in Rivers State as an affront to the Federal Government’s power to protect lives and property within the state.
But the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Samuel Nwanosike, dismissed the claim that the PDP or the governor had a hand in the killings in the state. He pointed out that the APC should allow the police to do their job by investigating and finding out those behind the killings.
“The PDP does not believe in violence; It (PDP) is a party that believes in the power of the people and has relied on the people for votes. It will be wrong to attribute the killings in the state to the PDP. For an instance, the mother of Asari-Toru Caretaker Committee Chairman was recently kidnapped; does that mean that PDP members kidnapped the mother of one of their leaders? We are attributing the abduction of the mother of Soboma Jackrich to the APC. The APC in the state is doing this in order to destabilise him (Jackrich) and have their way during the rerun election. But it will not work,” Nwanosike said.
However, the State Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Chris Finebone, who expressed sadness over what he described as mass murder of his party members, recalled that the hoodlums and men of questionable character were chased out of the state by the immediate past governor of the state, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, during his (Amaechi) reign as governor. Finebone added that the bandits had all come back to the state to unleash mayhem. “This is why violence and killings have become the order of the day. Blame the PDP that brought them back; blame the current governor for associating with them,” he said.
But Wike had earlier dismissed the claim by the APC, maintaining that the killings in the state were cult-related. The governor stated that it was wrong for the APC in the state to claim that every person who was killed as a result of cult clash was their member, adding that the PDP was not responsible for the killings in the state.
A public affairs analyst, Mr. Ben Nwakolam, stated that politicians should be punished for the “mass murder” in the state, adding that the ugly development was affecting investment.
“When desperate politicians raise an army of thugs, purchase arms for them before and during elections, what you see is shooting, maiming and killings. The fact is that after giving these boys the guns, the politicians, who purchased them will not have the time and moral fibre to retrieve these guns from their boys. The consequence is the serial killing we are experiencing today. The guns have now become tools for kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery and terrorism.”
The Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Bar Association, Port Harcourt Branch, Mr. Angus Chukwuka, explained that as the protector of the rule of law, the NBA was saddened by the violation of the people’s right to life and property.
Chukwuka pointed out that the continued shedding of innocent blood was inimical to democratic development, urging stakeholders to sheathe their sword and embrace peace.
“As a body that protects the rule of law, we condemn in extreme terms the killings taking place in Rivers State. We condemn the violation of the rights of the people to life and (ownership of property). So far, we are not aware that one person has been mentioned by the police as being behind the killings in the state.
“From the utterances of politicians, the killings are directly related to politics. The two (major) political parties are giving reasons for people to believe that they are directly involved,” he said.