Three words – anguish, fear and helplessness – best described the atmosphere in Omoku in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers state on Monday when PREMIUM TIMES visited the town.
It had been about a week since armed men suspected to be cultists invaded it, killed some residents and chopped off their heads.
Some streets in the town looked deserted as at 2:30 pm. when our reporter visited.
Security agencies were not seen around the community.
Some residents had fled the town while those who remained locked themselves up in their homes, peeping through windows to see who was passing by.
In Ndoni Street, a distraught old man, Benedict Ajie, narrated what happened that fateful night.
He said he heard gunshots on the street at about 9 pm, and by dawn he found that at a house opposite his own, two of his kinsmen, two young brothers, had been shot dead.
Mr. Ijie gave the names of the victims as Nwaudo Ijie and Ahiakwo Ijie.
He said in Ndoni Street alone, eight persons were shot dead that night.
It was at about 10 am that some policemen from Ahoda arrived Omoku, claiming they were responding to distress calls, Mr. Ijie said.
On Samuel Osere Street, two persons, including a Junior Secondary School class 3 student, were said to have been beheaded.
“We can’t run away from our home, we don’t have anywhere to go to,” a female resident of Samuel Osere Street told PREMIUM TIMES.
“We are afraid.”
At 19 Umu-Imeci Street, a handful of old men and women visited a bereaved family member on condolence. The invaders had descended on the home of Martin Uge, a retired civil servant, killing three persons, including his 31-year old son, Elechukwu.
Elechukwu was killed inside his bedroom, right on his bed. The other two victims, who were tenants in Mr. Uge’s compound, were dragged from their bedrooms, and shot dead in the street that night, residents said.
Mr. Uge, 71, said his daughter-in-law received gunshot wound.
“Because of fear, I couldn’t look at them (the assailants) because recognising their faces could lead to another thing,” he said of his encounter with the assailants.
Mr. Uge said his son wasn’t involved in active politics, and that he didn’t know why they killed him.
He said the government could stop the killings if they really wanted to.
In Umu-Eyike Street, two brothers, Eze Izeh and Oge Izeh, were also gunned down. Late Oge, the older of the brothers, left behind a wife and two sons.
Near Umu-Imeci Street, Eleanya Ugorji, a bishop at God’s Victorious Church, said he noticed the corpses of his younger brother, Ekwela, and the wife, Victoria, outside in the morning after several hours of gunshots around their home the previous night.
“He (Ekwela) was a politician, that’s all I know about him,” the bishop said. “The wife was a trader.”
In Umuchikere Street, Omoku, one of those beheaded, Emeka, was buried in a grave right in front of his house.
There are video clips currently in circulation on Facebook and other social media sites, showing the headless bodies of the victims of the killings.
In one of the videos, three corpses are on the floor, two of them beheaded, while people, apparently the victims’ relatives, are seen crying helplessly.
“They shot him 11 times,” one of the mourners was heard saying, pointing at a corpse.
A radio presenter in Port Harcourt said of the Omoku killings, “If you google the world ONELGA on the Internet today, the results you’ll get is ‘killing, killing, killing.”
ONELGA is the acronym for Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area in Rivers state.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress has claimed that those killed in Omoku were its members.
The party said, Tuesday, that by its own count, 26 persons were killed, and some of them beheaded.
The chairman of the APC, Davies Ikanya, said a cult group, Icelanders, invaded the town at night and picked on the party’s members in the town.
Mr. Ikanya said the party publicly alerted the police, several weeks before the killing, of a plan to kill its members in the area.
“Our evidence was that following security operations carried out by the military on 11/1/2016 at the house of one Igwe Ejima Dibia alias Don Wannie at Aligu village in ONELGA, members of Icelander cult and their PDP collaborators held a meeting at about 2300hrs at Obohia in Omoku and concluded that prominent members of the APC will be eliminated irrespective of whether they live in ONELGA or Port Harcourt and other locations in the State as long as they are of ONELGA origin,” he said.
The party said less than 24 hours after the alert, its chairman in Ward 6, simply identified as Owotor, was shot dead on his street.
The police are yet to make public the outcome of their investigation into the killing of Mr. Owotor till date, Mr. Ikanya said.
He also recalled the recent killing of a former member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Monday Eleanya, who was shot dead while driving out of his residence on Ada George Road, Port Harcourt.
The late Mr. Eleanya represented ONELGA constituency in the Rivers State House of Assembly between 1999 and 2003 on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party. He recently decamped to the APC.
The APC accused the police of failing to provide security for the people of Omoku when the gruesome killings took place.
It also accused the police of covering those responsible for the killings.
The party said it was ‘most bizarre’ for the police to hurriedly blame the killings on a supremacy fight between two rival cult groups.
“We are convinced beyond doubt that the Rivers State Police Command has resorted to a policy of drawing hasty conclusions for the purpose of either hiding their incompetence or protecting the interests of sponsors of the killers or both,” the party said in a statement.
But when contacted by PREMIUM TIMES, Ahmad Mohammad, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state insisted that the killings arose from a deadly fight by two rival cult groups in the area.
When asked how the police came by the information that it was a battle between two cult groups that led to the killings, the police spokesperson said Omoku had an age-long history of cult violence.
Mr. Mohammad however said he did not know the names of the cult groups that were involved in the ‘battle for supremacy’ in Omoku.
He also said the police saw 12 corpses, not 26, and that none was beheaded.
Some bereaved family members had told this newspaper that the victims were beheaded.
But when our reporter gave the police spokesperson that information, he responded, “What we have not seen, we cannot account for (it).”
The police said two suspects had so far been arrested, and that investigation into the incident was ongoing.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Austin Tam-George, declined to respond to the allegation that the PDP collaborated with the cultists.
“To comment on this (allegation) would mean to dishonour the dead. No, I can’t do such,” Mr. Tam-George told PREMIUM TIMES, while adding that the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Nwike had urged the people of Omoku to work with the security agencies to improve security in the area.
“Unfortunately, the police commissioner he (Governor Wike) was working with was transferred out of the state at a time the state government was about organizing a security summit in the state,” Mr. Tam-George said.