Gift BARIKWA / Edith CHUKU
The dreadful killing of over 54 natives and residents of Nyemoni Abonnema, in Akuku Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, on February 23, 2019, has remained indelible to the Riverine communities of the state.
According to reports, the massacre was as a result of the violence that characterized the 2019 election in the state. While some died of bullet and machete wounds, others died of heart attack and there were those whose corpses were purportedly discovered in the creeks.
TNN gathered that some corpses surfaced days after the killings happened. Still pained by the unfortunate death of youths and children residing in the clan, youths drawn from various riverine communities, held a sensitization campaign in commemoration of the victims of that unholy incident.
The campaign which was tagged, “Nyemoni Unite, We Are All One… Say NO to electoral violence and thuggery, crime, bad leadership…” was organized by the Movement for the Survival of Izon Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta, MOSIEND, in a bid to seek an end to electoral violence, as well as sensitize residents, and Kalabari people at large on the need to unite and shun political thuggery, cultism, kidnapping, illegal bunkering among other vices.
Natives, leaders and members of other organizations including, Chairman of Civil Liberties Organization, CLO, Rivers State Branch, Clifford Christopher Solomon, a member of the Briggs family, Atiemie Batubo, Obuama Clan chairman of MOSEIND, Young-Harry Deinso, Chief Security Officer to the president, MOSEIND, George Okitikpi, Clev Briggs, Osaki Felix, including representatives of MOSIEND, National, Alhaji Abubakar Agbarasitamunopiri Amaigo Brown assembled at the Abel Gate Briggs compound for the event, after a peaceful walk.
The youths displayed placards with inscriptions such as “politicians initiates violence but it is the poor that dies” “your power is in your vote not your blood” “no amount of money can buy back your life” “please be wise, nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any human…” “give peace a chance today by saying no to electoral violence and thuggery.”
The Nyemoni Clan Chairman of MOSIEND, Emmanuel Selem Romeo, during an interview with TNN explained that, “actually our purpose of being here is to commiserate with the family of the 54 persons that lost their lives during the cause of the previous election. Also, to use this medium as an opportunity to advise and appeal to the people of Abonnema to desist from electoral violence, crime and anything that would make us lose our brothers and sisters, we don’t want that to happen again, we don’t want this gruesome act to happen again, that’s my highest motivation.”
Selem blamed youths involvement in political thuggery on hunger and poverty, stressing that “politicians use that as a medium to explore the youth that are hungry, they will not give you money to establish a business firm but rather give you money to go buy guns, so that is what we want to use this opportunity to stop.”
“MOSEIND has three arms which is Orientation, Repositioning and Recovery. I want to use this medium to appeal to the good people to change their narrative and their mind set how that behind every dark cloud lies a very bright silver lining, so you will not die if only you believe and you trust in GOD. We must not allow ourselves to be dent.”
Also speaking, the MOSIEND national director for mobilization, Alhaji Abubakar Agbarasitamunopiri Amaigo Brown said “since December we have being planning to take this re-orientation to our various clans because any time from now politics will soon come up and we know the duty of politicians, it’s only when politics come they start looking for the youth that will be armed to kill their self for their selfish interest or for their position to become governor or local government chairman us to select the real leadership because what we are lacking is good leadership, we are not here for party A or party B, we are not politician, what we need in Nigeria is good leadership and good governance that will benefit us.
“We can see what is happening in Nigeria, everything is very hard, what about the people that died for them they are not thinking about it. We are telling our youth to wise up, we don’t want what happened in 2019 February 23 to happen this time again.”
Mother of one of the victims of the massacre, Wariku Georgewill, narrated how her son, Ibiba Georgewill was killed. According to her, “I experienced the massacre, my son was involved. He returned from school that same day, (sic) come to see me before the fight as he wants to run the bullet touch him he fell on my hand.”
Speaking of compensation from government, she said “they did not give me, I did not see. my son name is Ibiba Georgewill. Selem Romeo one of my husband brother that was running round for me that time for the money but they did not give me but some collected. I want the government to help me, no husband and the son that will have helped me is late so the government should help no matter how little it is.”
The National president of the National Youth Council of Ogoni People, NYCOP, Mathew Dighi, said, “we are here to mark the event that took place the same this day 2019 when there was rapid shooting in Abonnema and several youths were shot dead in cold blood and a situation like that is a painful event that call for us to gather here to commiserate with the community and preach to them that such should not repeat itself again in this coming election that is about to take place next year 2023.
“We are about to come in for another election again in 2023, so we are here to give an information because when you are not informed your deformed for the youth not to act as what happen in 2019. As a member of the Niger delta youth council we urge all youth to be extremely careful and intelligent not to be used. We are urging them to be careful and understand that election is not a do or die affair.
An elder-statesman, Anate-Kio Tunde Tamunowari, known as CIA, Continues Ijaw Struggle, who has been in the struggle for a very long time told TNN that he was “not only present in the massacre but still a victim of that atrocity. I had eight military men attacking my house because information was given that am an activist who have sympathy for the PDP, but I am apolitical, if am a politician I won’t be here but my house was virtually destroyed and Abonnema was a warfare, a war theatre and when people started mentioning numbers of people that were killed sometimes I say is to make a story or to give accurate number of casualties because some ran into some creeks and never showed up, either eaten up by fish or where never discovered because days after the whole issue, up to one week, dead bodies where seen as far as Agbese, they were never shot with a gun but panic, helter scatter running for their lives, they drown in the various creeks and rivers.
“it’s a sad story and I am by the grace of GOD the first person who called out for SOS save our soul in Abonnema, I was almost killed. It was a dark day in the history of Niger Delta and the annex of Abonnema as a community.”
Advising the youths, he said “if you ask me and you want me to be sincere, the first thing is that our youth must learn to take their destiny in their hands, our youth must stop being used by politicians, our youth must start participating in political activities rather being political dogs, no young man is born to serve as thug to any politician, you go to school you went through education is it to become I am loyal master? It’s wrong, stop being a thug to a man who is old enough to be your father who has sent his child abroad to school and making you his house boy.”