By; ONYEKACHUKWU MELUWA, Warri
The Ijaw People’s Development Initiative (IPDI) has faulted the Nigerian military claims that it didn’t invade and burn down Letugbene community in Ekeremo Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The group insisted that it was the JTF that burnt down Letugbene community on February 17, 2020 and that about 15 persons abducted by the Nigerian military during the invasion, out if which seven were still with the Nigerian military at Beneside Flow Station in the state.
In a statement forwarded to AUTHENTIC NEWS DAILY on Thursday 20, January 2020, the rights group threatened to petition Nigerian Army to the International Criminal Court (ICC), adding that, about 10 women fishing settlements were also razed down by the military on February 17, 2020.
It would be recalled that the Nigerian military under the operational code name, Operation Delta Safe (ODS), had denied on national dailies on February 20, 2020 that it didn’t burnt Letugbene Community, a position perceived to be uncomfortable with the group and the community’s indigenes.
The group insisted, “The military lied, it burnt Letugbene community and other 10 poor women fishing settlements in the route where the military personnel were attached. It is not true that the settlements burnt down were militant camps. The military lied, the settlements were not militant camps but ancient small fishing settlements belonging to women of Letugbene community.
“If the burning was not carried out by the military, the military should tell the world who then invaded and burnt down over 15 houses in Letugbene community and that of the fishing settlements. We are adults and not kids that will frame stories against the hard earned reputation of Nigerian military. The entire Letugbene commmunity witness the invasion of the community with their gun boats, including the arrested of 15 innoncent villagers who could not escape at the point of the invasion.
“Though, 8 out of the 15 have been released from military cell in Tunu flow station and seven are still in the military custody in Tunu flow station. Another two that were whisked away by the military after been stabbed and brutalized are no where to be found till now. Several persons were wonded with stray bullets as it shoots sporadically to the air. Properties worths millions of naira were distroyed.
“Equally, an eye witness told us that fishes worth millions of naira were cartered away before the military burnt down the fishing settlements on that fateful day, and later claimed that the women fishing settlements were militant camps. Instead of the military to be remose and apologize about the ugly invasion that renders thousands of persons homless,it is coming to deny it. We are disappointed. Therefore, we want the military to urgently make public apology to the the people of Letugbene community and the poor women whose fishing settlements were distroyed.
“The military has equally said that the killing was done by unknown gunmen, but the question is that why do they burnt the community when it knows that the act was not carry out by the community. It is sad and disgusting on what the military takes people of the Ijaw enclave for. They protect their people and communities in the North, despite being used by the Boko Haram and herdsmen to commit crime.
“In as much as we do not support the criminal act of the seapirates, we wish to unequivocally state that it was wrong to have burnt down Letugbene community over a crime that was carried out by unknown gunmen.
“We have seen the high level of damage and suffering of Letugbene community and others in the area. It is not a news that the route of that area have been longed taken over by pirates. They have been crying out but relevant authorities and the military refused to do anything to chase them out. They suffer more pains in the hands of these pirates than what the military has suffered.
“Their wives were being raped. The pirates steal properties, money, boats and engines from the villagers. Travelers are at risk in the area. They are just been made to suffered double punishment. The military are callous. The military should come and help secure their lives and properties and not to burnt down such communities.
“We urge Federal and Bayelsa state Governments to visit the Letugbene community and provide relief efforts to the victims without further delay as the people are in deep agony and suffering. They are made homeless and living without food in neighbouring communities.
“We are calling on the chief of defence staff, the national assembly to investigate the burning of Letugbene community and bring to book every erring military officer in the invasion of Letugbene community.
“We will petition the international commmunity and possibly sue the military for war crime in no distance time for international sanction”.