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Living with the ghost (II): Life after military brutality in Bayelsa

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By Godson Etete

Following the report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality and other Related Matters, set up in Bayelsa state in 2020, Godson Etete takes an in-depth look at the aftermath of incidents of Police and Military brutality in the state.

Read the first part here

Military brutality in Bayelsa State

In November 2005, the Nigerian military launched an attack on the Amabulou community in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, says a community document dated December 18, 2019, also presented at the Bayelsa State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on police brutality and other related matters in 2021.

It stated that over 40 people were killed with many sustaining injuries.


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A few years after the incident Woyengimiebi Anderson Igoniderigha from Akaranbiri town in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government also became a victim of military brutality in the state.

Igoniderigha, a wrestler had his leg amputated as a result of an encounter with military highhandedness.

Igoniderigha was schooling and living at Port Harcourt, River state with his family. In 2006, after his contract job with a company expired and his wife just graduated from the then University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, they decide to return to Bayelsa, their home state, hoping to find a greener pastures.

In Bayelsa, Igoniderigha joined politics; by 2007 he started managing his brother’s company which supplies sand.

The next year, 2008 2 April, everything changed after an encounter with an army officer, Shittu Rasheed of the then Joint Task Force (JTF) who shot him on his left thigh.

He was shot during a misunderstanding over a demand of N1000 bribe by the officer. This was after he was physically assaulted, Igoniderigha told The ICIR.

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Igoniderigha was taken to the GloryLand Medical Centre, eventually he had his first amputation below the knee.

There was still no improvement, and required another surgery, this time around, the amputation was above the knee.

Two months later he was discharged, with a prosthesis and a walking stick.

Victim of military brutality
Woyengimiebiigoniderig Igha Anderson.

In June 13, 2019, 22-year-old Ibuwanighe David Obebadol, a motorcycle driver from Otuesega community in Ogbia was assaulted by an army officer at Shell Camp, Otuesega.

Ibuwanighe explains that the army officer, John “Efele” refused to pay the fare after driving him several miles from Ogbia L.G.A. to Yenagoa L.G.A. to and fro.

He told The ICIR that he drove the officer for hours to multiple places, “After we returned to Shell Camp, instead of paying me, the officer forced me to remove my clothes, asked me to seat on the floor. I was startled. He went inside the Camp and brought a new razor blade. I could not even run because before he entered the Camp, he told another officer holding gun at the gate to look after me”.

He said the officer barbed his hair with the razor blade. The soldier also used the razor cut the skin of his skull into five places.

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Images of Ibuwanighe soaked in the pool of his blood were shared online and reported by media houses.

Mr. Ibuwanighe David Obebadol, victim of military brutality
Ibuwanighe David Obebadol.

Abi Patient, Ibuwanighe’s mother, who was alerted of the incident, recalled that she got to the scene and saw her son covered in blood.

She told The ICIR, “When I got there, the soldier was still flogging my son with electric wire.”

Abi said she held the soldier, wailing that he should kill her alongside her son.

Mrs. Abi Patient,
Mrs. Abi Patient

Ibuwanighe was taken to the Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa where he was treated and the cuts on his scalp stitched.

Abi explains that her son could not sleep due to pains, he wept till day break.

She expected the army to take care of the medical bills. They eventually did ask for the bills, but never made any payment.

Ibuwanighe now has phobia for commercial motcycling. He also cannot put any weight on his head.

When he got admission and started school at the Imo State Polytechnic, he realised that whenever he reads for a long period he gets headache and runs temperature.

Invasion of communities and harassment in the creeks

Out of the eight cases documented against the military at the National Human Rights Commission’s office in the state, ranging from torture, cruel inhuman and degrading treatment, unlawful arrest, detention, extra-judicial killing, five were invasion or raid of communities while one bordered on alleged burning and destruction of a community.

Communities are constantly suffering from the similar event that took place in Odi, Kolokuma/Opokuma, L.G.A., Bayelsa State in 1999, were the community was destroyed by the military in what have come to be known as the Odi massacre.

In November 2005, the Federal Government deployed over 30 gun boats, war jet fighters and rocket launchers to destroy Amabulou community in Ekeremor Local Government Area in the State.

According to a legal document by Primetime Solicitors, December, 8 2019, presented by the community at the State Judicial Panel, “Consequently, over forty (40) young men were killed, many children and aged people who could not hurriedly escape from the community were also killed, many people inflicted with permanent injuries, over one hundred (100) houses destroyed, over three hundred (300) young men rendered homeless and properties worth billions of Naira destroyed” it reads in part.

The reason for the invasion was on the allegation that a militant then known as Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo had his spiritual base in there.

On September 7, 2016, again, a troop of the Nigerian Army invaded and destroyed Atimigbene community in Opuama Kingdom, Southern Ijaw LGA.

A petition by the community to the state governor dated August 28, 2017, which was also presented by the community at the panel states that “a troop of Nigerian army invaded the community, chased the inhabitants away and set it ablaze, in the course of this ugly event, some people were injured and souls were lost, also lot of properties and working material worth of millions of Naira were destroyed”.

This community was said to have been invaded on the allegation that it was a militant camp.

Another community where residents live in fear of military and Oil and Gas Task Force harassments is Ikeinghenbiri in Southern Ijaw LGA.

In January, this year the Oil and Gas Task Force, consisting of military and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps raided the community at night with boats.

A victim Tarakiri  -name changed – recalls that the incident happened around 3:30 to 4:am. He narrates that he was brought outside that night at gun point and was beaten. Many persons were forced into the boats and taken to Ologborgbiri, another community in the area.

They were kept for hours in a boat house before he said he was recognised by a  senior officer who freed him and a few others. He noted that the community was invaded on the allegation of oil bunkering.

Although Tarakiri commends and recognise the efforts of the security personnel on the water ways, he believes they could have been more professional in the way they handled the raid.

The community was raided again, a month later on Sunday, February 27, this time around Patrick Benson was shot and injured.

Meanwhile, a few kilometers away, 35 year old James –name changed– narrated his experience around Oporoma River, the headquarters of Southern Ijaw LGA. He noted that the incident was the second time he was harassed.

In 2019, his community was raided by the military on the allegation they were harboring criminals. James was among those beaten.

The next year, on September 25, 2020, he lost his boat laden with goods when he wouldn’t pay bribe to the military.  This time around the incident happened at Asoko town, in Oporoma.

He explained that there was no money by the crow to bribe through the security post which eventually led to the detention of the boat.

The boat and the woods would eventually submerge under their custody.

James said he is still under pressure from the owner of the wood he was transferring to Yenegoa to pay for the loss.

Efforts made to get the military to speak to these allegations were unsuccessful. While the reoorter was denied access at the Headquarters of the Operation Delta Safe (joint security task force) at Igbogene, Yenagoa on February 18, the Spokesman of the Army Headquarters of the 16 Brigade, in the state too was yet to respond to the allegations after the reporter visited the Brigade on February 21.

Keeping faith and hoping for justice

In October 2020, the state governor Douye Diri inaugurated the Bayelsa State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality and Other Related Matters.

At the inauguration, commencement of hearing of cases and consequently, victims and relations of police/military brutalities, extra-judicial killings, and those that their rights have been violated by the various security agencies were hopeful that they will get justice and compensation for these losses suffered. From far and near, even when it was not convenient due to their medical conditions, victims or relations of the victims made financial expenses from several locals to the state capital to attend the panel.

The people of Amabulou community in Ekeremor L. G. A. and the Atimigbene community in Opuama Kingdom, Southern Ijaw L.G.A. Bayelsa State, who had suffered invasion, destruction, loss of lives, properties and suffered various forms of brutalities in the hand of the military, went to the panel to demand for justice.

Igoniderigha and Ibuwanighe, the victims of the military brutalities also took their cases to the panel. The good news was that the above communities and individual got justice at the panel as their cases were addressed. Both their frustration is a result of the delay in the implementation of the outcome of the panel.

Ibuwanighe, for instance, now undergraduate, lamented to our reporter that he finds it difficult to study for long as a result of the brutality. Earlier, he had depended on drugs to suppress the pain, but ever since he got admission into tertiary institution, the situation has worsened as he constantly suffers chronic headache. He stressed that both federal and the state should act swift to implement the judgment of the panel so that he can use the compensation to find out what has gone wrong with his head so that he can get his brain stabilised.

On Febuary 18, the reportert visited the state ministry of Information, Orientation and Strategy, Yenagoa, and twice after that to get the comssioner or government officials to respond to the question on the reasons why implementation of the panel  report was being delayed, all efforts prove abortive.

Furthermore, some of the judicial panel memebers spoken to said they were not paid their allowance.

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