• Saturday, July 13, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

One month after mass death, oil disaster-prone community in Rivers in flames

NNPC busts oil bunkering in Bayelsa

Fire and tension are back in a community in Rivers State where about 100 persons died a month ago during fire outbreak at an oil bunkering site.

This time, the Rumuekpe community in Emohua LGA is in the news again on account of alleged invasion of soldiers settings houses ablaze as part of operations to recover guns forcefully collected by youths of the area.

Two versions of the invasion have emerged, One by an NGO which said no soldier was killed but another source from the community said soldiers were shot.

Giving details in what it termed breaking news, Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC-Nigeria) said it received incident alerts through its community-based “One Million Youth Volunteers Network of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters in the Niger Delta” that soldiers were Sunday, April 16, holding Rumuekpe community and its people hostage over alleged missing guns.

They quoted reports that the soldiers the previous day allegedly burnt down two houses in the community belonging to a family and youth suspected to be involved in the incident.

Fears were rife that more houses would be attacked.

Their sources said the incident which led to the army invasion started over the weekend at an illegal artisanal refinery site between Rumuekpe and Ndele Community boundaries.

The sources said some soldiers came with both motorcycles and vans to the site, and allegedly made demands of the oil bunnkerers, which sparked a row, leading to overpowering some soldiers and collecting their guns.

Soldiers were said to have reinforced and stormed the town, leading to fires. Community members are said to have fled to the bushes seeking escape to other town.

YEAC said its sources in the community confirmed the incident to the Executive Director of Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC-Nigeria), Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface.

They wondered why the soldiers would come to Rumuekpe community to burn houses, arrest people and hold the community hostage over an incident that happened at artisanal refinery site in nearby Ndele community.

The source further said: “We are yet to recover from the last incident of explosion in Rumuekpe community that killed over 100 people and they reported just less than 20. It was the army that set that fire on the pit where people were scooping crude oil because they refused to settle them. This is the situation in our community today and we want the army to leave us alone and go to Ndele where their men were beaten and where they have their ports to look for their guns. Army men have big ports that they use to refine crude oil in Ndele.”

Read also: Rivers supplementary election peaceful amidst low voter turnout

YEAC-Nigeria reintegrated its call on youths in Rumuekpe, Ndele and other communities in Rivers State and the Niger Delta to stop pipeline vandalism, crude oil theft and artisanal refining that would bring them into trouble and in confrontation with security operative like this scenario developing and playing out again in Rumuekpe community that is yet to recover from the incident of recent explosion on March 3, 2023.

YEAC called on the Police and Rivers State and Federal Government should immediately intervene in the ongoing ugly incident in Rumuekpe and surrounding communities before it gets out of hand and results in further burning of houses and loss of lives as a 6-month pregnant woman chased for arrest is said to have fallen many times in the bush and bleeding with medical attention.

When contacted, the monarch of the community, Damian Ejiowhor, confirmed the tension but other sources said vigilante men shot soldiers.

At the time of filing this report, the Army in 6 Division in PH have not responded to messages sent to them by newsmen.