Okuama-Ewu: Over 12 residents trapped in forests die of hunger, sickness

Asaba— More than 12 residents of Okuama-Ewu community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, trapped in the forests since last month, in the aftermath of troops’ invasion of the riverine settlement over the killing of 17 military officers and men have died of starvation, ill health, and snake bites.

This came on a day human rights activist, Femi Falana, SAN, wrote the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, demanding the transfer of investigation of the incident in the community to the Police.

This is even as the governor of Delta State, Sheriff Oborevwori, yesterday inaugurated an Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, management committee to resettle and rehabilitate the displaced villagers.

A former editor of The Guardian Newspapers and an Urhobo leader, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo, leads the IDP management committee as Chairman; the Director of Personnel Management, DPM, Ughelli South Local Government Area, Chief Austin Emaduku, will serve as Secretary.

Other members include former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Senator Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, Festus Utuama, Reuben Izeze, Commissioner for Works (Highways and Urban Roads), Dr. Richard Kofi, Chief Oviri Uto, Josephine Oduaran, Obukohwo Henry Ediyo, Karo Ovemeso, and Austin Ohwofaria, who is the camp commandant.

Innocent people should not suffer needlessly —Oborevwori

Speaking at the committee’s inauguration at Government House, Asaba, yesterday, Governor Oborevwori said: “I welcome all of you to the inauguration of a committee, charged with the duty of planning and coordinating the settlement and rehabilitation of our people at Okuama.

“Much as we condemn in strong terms the dastardly act that took the lives of our gallant officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army, we will do everything we can to reduce to the barest minimum the attendant effects on the common man in the Okuama community.

“Innocent people have been displaced, their homes and properties destroyed; this was, and still is an unfortunate and unexpected development.

“Like I said when I visited Okuama the other day, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and the military agreed that innocent people in Okuama should not be made to suffer needlessly.

“This is why we sincerely believe that soon the innocent will return to their homes. It is now right for the government to set up a committee to plan their resettlement and rehabilitation ahead of their return.

We owe our people this minimum; we must reassure them to have a sense of belonging, as we make adequate arrangements for their resettlement and rehabilitation.

“Note that you have been carefully chosen based on your previous antecedents. We are, therefore, confident that you will do a transparent, thorough, and selfless job that not only the people of Okuama, but also every Deltan will be proud of you as you make adequate arrangements of receiving them and lessening their pains.

“Attach a sense of urgency to this assignment; we must demonstrate the highest love and responsibility towards our people. That is the least we can do for them.”

We’ll be meticulous, selfless — Ogbodo

Responding on behalf of members of the committee, the Chairman, Abraham Ogbodo, thanked the governor for finding them worthy to serve on the committee.

He said their appointment to the committee is a call to service, and assured the governor and Deltans that they will live up to expectations by delivering the needed services to the people.

We recorded more than 12 people who died of hunger, sickness, snake bites

One of the leaders of the Okuama-Ewu community, who spoke to Vanguard 48 hours before yesterday’s inauguration, said: “Many of our people have died since running into the bush. We recorded more than 12 people who have died of hunger, sickness, and snake bite.”

Another asserted: “Up till now, we are still searching for our missing people because most of them are scattered about; we have been able to recover some of them, while we have not seen others till now.

“As you can see, till now, our people have not returned to the community. This has caused a very great loss to us. As we are talking now, most are still in the bush, finding ways to survive. Some are wandering about other places for shelter, suffering all manner of humiliation. Surviving right now is critical.

“Regarding the children’s sickness, which is more critical, because till now (Monday), the state government has not responded to the people’s needs. There has been no relief material and no medical care.

“There is no support, so the means of survival there in the bush are not available. Some of them are begging to eat.
“We have succeeded in recovering some of our dead people, while we have not seen others till now. That is the reason we have not declared the number of dead in the community because we do not want to provide fake records.

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