Rivers State is known as the Garden City of Nigeria. With the numerous oil companies and other investments, the state, especially its capital, Port Harcourt, is not only an industrial hub, but home to many.
Her rich cultural heritage, accompanied with the aquatic life adds to its admiration. Night life is not left out as the various night clubs and hotels that adorn the city host many patronisers, both within and from neighbouring states.
It is a known fact that there is a prestige that follows someone when he goes to the village and introduces his/herself as a resident of Port Harcourt. In fact, some persons, especially those in the security agencies and federal service and even youth corps members, lobby to be posted to the oil rich state largely because of the opportunities that abound therein.
Regrettably, Rivers State is now more or less a slaughter ground than a garden city as both political and cult killings have held sway.
There is hardly a day that passes without the incident of killing in one community or the other, some reported and others unreported. In fact, it could be said that not less than 50 persons have lost their lives within the last fortnight. Worse still is the gruesome way and manner in which some of the killings, which are only thought of in Nollywood movies during precolonial days, are carried out.
On Monday, March 21, this year, residents of Obibi community in Etche local government area of the state, woke up to discover about eight lifeless bodies of young men in a burrow pit at the outskirts of the community.
Obibi community have been under the control of a suspected cult group, Deygbam Cult group, since the year 2014, which made most residents to abandon their homes and seek refuge in other nearby communities.
A source, who spoke with Friday Magazine said they woke up Monday morning to discover that the bodies have been dumped in the pit. The source said: “We woke up on Monday morning and saw eight bodies littered between Agbalu community and Umukom community, all in Etche local government area. I mean dead bodies of eight young men.
“Nobody knows the source of their killing, but some people are saying it is the soldiers, who are combing the communities in search of cultists, that shot the young men and killed them. Some also believe that it is the men of SARS who shot them.
“Others are saying that it may be a reprisal attack from rival cult groups. You know, in that area, the Deygbam cult group has always been having their way in operating, killing people. As we speak now, nobody can claim that it is this people or that people that carried out the killings. But we know that this period, the Deygbam group has been causing havoc in those areas.”
Two days later, no fewer than three persons, including the Special Adviser to the Caretaker Committee Chairman of Asari-Toru local government area, a pastor of the Lord’s Chosen church, and an elderly man, who could not be immediately identified, were killed by unknown gunmen in Osuomini community of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government and Buguma community, Asari-Toru local government areas of the State, respectively.
A source in ASALGA told Friday Magazine, the Special Adviser, Godknows aka Babadiba, was shattered with bullets by his assailants, who stormed his residence. The body of the liquor seller turned SA was later found in front of his shop the next morning while the pastor was killed on his way to a night vigil.
Again, on Friday, March 22, unknown gunmen invaded Aminigboko community in Abua/Odual local government area of the state killing at least three persons.
According to the source in the area who spoke with Nigerian Pilot, the gunmen who invaded the community and shot sporadically, killing at least three persons, went ahead to burn houses, including that of the traditional ruler of Emughan, Chief Prince Obagana.
The source, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said the attack may not be unconnected to a clash between Icelanders and Greenlanders cult groups.
“In the early hours of Friday, heavy gunshots were heard in the community that made people to run for their dear lives. At the end of the day, three people were killed.
“They also went ahead to burn many houses in the community, including that of the paramount ruler of Emughan Clan. We suspect it is a battle of supremacy between the two rival cult groups in the area, Icelanders and Greenlanders”, the source said.
Also, on Tuesday, April 3, this year, six persons were killed after two cult groups, ‘Deygbam and Icelander’ in Rumuodogo community in Emohua local government Area of the state clashed. It was gathered that trouble started when the Deygbam cult group launched a reprisal attack on Icelanders to avenge the killing of two members of their group, who were allegedly killed by the rival group.
Meanwhile, one youth identified as Eberechi was murdered in his sleep on Sunday that same week in the same Rumuodogo community.
Also, on March 6, unknown gunmen attacked and killed the chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Ward in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government area, Mr Franklyn Obi, his wife, Ihuoma Obi and their 18-year old son, Bestman.
The surviving daughter of late Franklyn Obi narrated how she witnessed her own father’s murder, saying they watched from the room how the assassins beheaded her father.
She said: “Last night, I was inside when I heard my mum crying. We heard the sound of a gunshot. I opened the curtain of my room and I saw the men cutting off my father’s head.
“They (gunmen) then came to our room and ordered me and my brother to come out and as we were coming, my brother was moving slowly and they shot him. They then left with my father’s head.”
Furthermore, on March 7, there was horror in Buguma, headquarters of Asari-Toru local government area as a youth, Ofinijite Amachree, alias Kpom Kpom was killed and his body set ablaze in a clash between supporters of the two rival political parties, All Progressives Congress, APC and the People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
For many, the state is no longer a safe haven as no one knows who is next. Reacting to the development, the Executive Director of the Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, IHRHL, Mr Anyankwe Nsirim-Ovu, said those carrying out the various killings have violated the sacred rights as contained in international human rights documents for the protection of citizens and aliens.
Nsirim-Ovu, who reasoned that current killings can no longer be attributed to the political crisis, called on the state government to do everything within its powers to stop the trend.
“The situation in the state erroneously subsumed under electoral politics, or mere fights by political gladiators, for the soul of the state, can hold no longer. What is being experienced in the state is gross human rights violations, that must be given the urgent attention it deserves.
“And the state government must take absolute responsibility, because security of life and property is its fundamental reason of existence, rather than prevaricating or politicking on the issue of the fundamental rights to life of citizens.
“Citizens of voting age, who have an inalienable rights and freedoms to exercise their franchise in peace and safety, soldiers, police personnel, INEC adhoc staff have been killed in their numbers, ravaged, plundered and supplied with gruesome death sentences and destruction outside the due process of law, by the so-called ‘unknown gunmen, ’ since the April 11, 2015 to the latest legislative election rerun.
“These characters have violated the sacred rights as contained in international human rights documents for the protection of citizens and aliens alike. They have broken the most solemn moral sanctity that life must not be taken arbitrarily.
“In fact, they have committed every manner of crime, reducing Rivers state to some barbarous autonomous entity within a federation; that its citizens could be treated with reckless abandon to the most frightful desolation, without the law enforcement agents taking a forthright position. Justice demands the application of the rule of law to the letter.
“Necessity compels the federal government to exact it, or allow impunity and anarchy to reign supreme. Let the monsters who have decided to infest fear and lasting wounds, drenched a most peaceful and progressive part of the country with blood, be fetched and be made to face the law, be cast out for rehabilitation as the law permits, and become lessons for others who may wish to toe their blood thirst life style.”