The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) has alleged that Nigerian soldiers have burnt over 50 houses in Toru-Ndoro since Saturday over the killing of a security operative by militants in the community.
PREMIUM TIMES on Friday reported that residents were fleeing the coastal community in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State following the beheading of the security operative negotiating disarmament with the militants.
Condemning the murder of the security operative in a statement it issued in Yenagoa on Monday through its President, Eric Omare, the IYC, however, urged the military against visiting reprisal against the entire community.
“The IYC has received several distress calls from residents and indigenes of Toru-Ndoro Community to the effect that military officers on a manhunt for alleged killers of a security operative have invaded and burnt more than 50 houses,” Mr Omare said in the statement.
“The IYC in the strongest terms condemn the alleged beheading of a security operative by some criminals operating within the Toru-Ndoro axis and we strongly support efforts to bring the perpetrators of the heinous crime to justice.
“However, we hold the strong view that it is extremely wrong and condemnable for security agents to invade and burn down an entire community in the name of looking for criminals.
“We demand that the few persons who are involved in criminality should be separated from the rest of the community and made to face the full weight of the law.
“In most cases, the people and communities where these criminal elements operate from are usually the first victims of their criminal activities.
“The whereabouts of Mr. Bonny Gawei, an ex-militant leader from Ogulagha Kingdom, Delta who accompanied the beheaded security operative to Ndoro on a peace mission is still unknown despite the fact that he too is Ijaw,” the statement read in part
Mr. Omare said the IYC, Ijaws and Niger Deltans in general do not support the activities of the few criminal elements.
“We have severally expressed our determination to work with security agencies to fish out these criminals because it is not part of our way of life.
“However, the entire community must not be made to suffer for the crimes of few persons,” he said.
He appealed to the military commanders to be civil and stick to their rule of engagement and refrain from burning of Toru-Ndoro while efforts were being made to bring the criminals who beheaded the security operative to justice.
However, the Bayelsa Government had in a reaction to the development said that there was no cause for alarm.
The government called on fleeing members of the community to return home as the situation had been brought under control.
The Commissioner for information, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, said the assurance came in the wake of a meeting between Gov. Seriake Dickson, security chiefs, officials of the military high command, leaders and stakeholders of the community.
Mr. Iworiso-Markson said it was resolved that the military would move into the community and restore normalcy, while the government would begin a peace process.
He said with the presence of the military in the area they could go about their normal businesses.
The commissioner said the situation was now under control following government’s quick intervention, and expressed regret over the incident
He said Gov. Seriake Dickson had met with very senior security chiefs and the military high command, as well as leaders and key stakeholders to decide on the steps to take and it was agreed that the military should move in to provide the needed peace.