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Published On: Mon, Apr 29th, 2024

After  45 Days Of Horror In Forests, Okuama Residents Head To ‘Oborevwori’s IDP Camp’

OKUAMA REFUGEES

LAGOS APRIL 29TH (URHOBOTODAY)-Governor Sheriff Oborevwori activated the hope of the victims of the military invasion and occupation of the Okuama-Ewu community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State when he inaugurated, on Wednesday, in Asaba, the state capital, an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Management Committee to resettle and rehabilitate the villagers.

Many believe that his choice of a former Editor of The Guardian newspaper and Urhobo leader, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo, as chair of the committee, is a calculated plan by the governor to make the working group tackle the assignment head-on.

However, there are grumblings that when Oborevwori, who had condemned the March 14 killing of 17 soldiers which led to the sacking of Okuama-Ewu, visited the community on April 20, he did not denounce the Army for destroying the homes and other properties of residents.

This came as the residents were spending their 45th day in the forests where they had fled after the military, hunting for the killers of the soldiers, who laid siege to the community.

Blameless villagers will return

Inaugurating the committee, the governor said, “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 most 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 sooner than later, the innocent ones will be allowed to 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 have to reassure them to have a sense of belonging as we make adequate arrangements for their settlement 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 every Deltan will be proud of you as you make adequate arrangements to receive them and lessen their pain.

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

Camp opens this week

Speaking when he played host to the monarch of Ewu Kingdom, HRM Clement Ikolo, who paid him a courtesy visit after his recent release by the Army, Oborevwori said, ”Today (last Wednesday), I inaugurated the Ewu IDP camp and as from next week (this week), the camp will open.

“First is to bring them (refugees) to the IDP camp and work with the military to see how they can be taken back to their community.”

Innocent ones will not agonize pointlessly

The governor, who played host to the House of Representatives Committee on Defense, led by Hon. Babajimi Benson, said his administration had set up an ad-hoc committee to address humanitarian concerns emanating from the crisis in the Okuama-Ewu community.

He stated that President Bola Tinubu and the Army high command had assured that no innocent citizen of the community would suffer because of the crisis

“People do not know that before this incident happened, the Okoloba and Okuama communities signed a peace accord.
“Last Saturday, I went to the Okuama community to see the place to know the extent of the damage. Today, we have set up a committee, the Ewu IDP Committee, by which we can rehabilitate the people.

“By God’s grace, they will commence work next week, so we will do our best to ensure peace across the state.”
Earlier, Hon Babajimi Benson said they were in the state based on the resolution of the House to unearth the remote cause of the crisis that led to the death of 17 military men in the Okuama community.

While condemning the act in its entirety, he called on the military to commence the process for the return of innocent citizens to the Okuama community.

Benson appealed to Tinubu to help rebuild the town as colossal destruction might have occurred there, pointing out that the visit was not to victimize anybody but to help resolve the crisis amicably.

He commended Oborevwori for synergizing with the president, the military and other stakeholders for the peaceful resolution of the crisis and the safe return of the Ewu king from detention.

Victims have suffered irrationally

Hardly anybody agrees with Oborevwori’s continued mouthing of the claim that no innocent person would be allowed to suffer groundlessly in the Okuama-Ewu tragedy, as the residents, including children and mothers, trapped in the forest since March 14 night, have been suffering unnecessarily since then.

Community leaders told Sunday Vanguard that 12 of them had died of hunger, starvation, and snakebites in the forests, where they had received no relief materials or medicare from the state government until last Friday.

The Army had pulled down no fewer than 413 houses belonging to the villagers, churches and the solar electricity system in the community.

To date, the residents do not still have access to the community, which is why the Army has continued to lay siege to it.

FG has shown no inkling of rebuilding Okuama-Ewu

Hon Benson appealed to Tinubu to help in rebuilding the town.

But as of the time of this report, the Federal Government has not shown any indication that it was interested in rebuilding Okuama-Ewu.

Probably nobody bothered to brief Tinubu that the troops of the Nigerian Army descended on the community with earth-moving machinery, even the villagers had all fled the community and for no logical reason, went on a destruction spree.

What the president might be aware of is that the military was conducting a cordon-and-search operation in the community and neighbouring villages for weapons snatched or stolen from the fallen soldiers.

Oborevwori did not disclose if the plan of his government to rebuild Okuama-Ewu was or would be in collaboration with the federal government.

Succor

However, there were strong indications, yesterday, that, from this week, the Abraham Ogbodo-led committee may move the displaced residents to a camp that the government was putting in place.

The committee is likely to distribute food and other aid items from there.

It is after the movement of the distressed villagers to the IDP camp that the committee, in collaboration with the government, would also delve into the matter of resettlement and rehabilitation.

Ogbodo is reportedly upbeat about transparency, resettling, and rehabilitating the victims in record time because they have to return to their homeland as quickly as possible.

Vanguard

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