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Published On: Tue, May 7th, 2024

Delta Bloodbath: Panel Fume As Okuama Villagers Shun Relocation To IDP Camp

OKUAMA ATTACK

LAGOS MAY 7TH (URHOBOTODAY)-The rehabilitation camp being set up by the Delta State government for internally displaced persons in Okuama, in Ughelli South Local Government Area of the state, will be ready for habitation this week.

This was disclosed by the chairman of the committee set up by the state government to manage the Ewu IDP camp, Mr Abraham Ogbodo.

The development came amidst reluctance by the Okuama people to relocate to the IDP camp as some of the community leaders said they were not prepared to settle down at the camp set up by the government.

The PUNCH reports that on March 14, 2024, military personnel comprising four officers, and 13 soldiers were gruesomely murdered by some irate youths in the Okuama community during a peace mission.

Following the killings, many residents of Okuama and Okolaba in the Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State fled the communities, as soldiers took over the area and reportedly set some houses ablaze.

To get respite for the displaced residents, the Delta State government initiated moves to relocate them to a site at Ewu Grammar School, pending when the community would be habitable for them.

The Delta State Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, also released a sum of N10m to the committee to ease the takeoff of the camp.

mmar School, pending when the community would be habitable for them.

The Delta State Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, also released a sum of N10m to the committee to ease the takeoff of the camp.

Speaking with newsmen on Monday, Ogbodo, a former Editor of The Guardian newspaper, said the delay in moving the IDPs to the camp, 10 days after the inauguration of the committee by the government, was “a result of the enormous work needed to make the site ready to receive the expected IDPs.”

He said the camp would soon be ready and the people could begin to move in.

Ogbodo, however, expressed displeasure that some community leaders were pushing against moving into the camp, insisting that the government should instead help them to return to their ancestral homes.

Ogbodo told journalists, “Those people are just talking nonsense. If we didn’t come out forcefully to push back the military narrative, will they (Okuama people) be talking like this? People stuck out their necks, absorbing the heat; nobody was even talking. Until I was granted that Arise TV interview, hardly anybody dared to say anything.

“Now that we’ve pushed it to this point, some people want to ‘show themselves’. Were they able to help themselves in the first place? Were they not helpless?

“Today, we have a consolidated lawsuit. And so if the government has come up with even a long-term vision to resettle you and after that think of rebuilding your community, then why are the people trying to prove strong-headedness?”

Ogbodo said there was no way they could resettle the people at Okuama now, given the present state of the community and the agitation from the military over the killing of its officers and men.

He said, “They risk destroying their case. The first thing to note is that they don’t have character as a people. They have not shown gratitude to people who spent their money, time, resources, and talents in doing all of these.

“There is no way we couldn’t have had the dissenting voices, but there is a way I do my things. I don’t go beyond the given circumstances. The governor has given a mandate. Go and set up. We are running a camp for displaced persons.

“When the camp is ready and opened, then we will deal with that issue. And if they don’t come, that is when I will come out to make my point. Who will take camp to Okuama? How can you do that at this point?”

Some of the community leaders who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the fear of the military said the Okuama people were not prepared to go into the camp set up by the government.

One of the leaders said, “We are in pain, we know, but we have genuine reasons not to embrace this olive branch by the state government.

“We are talking about our community which was invaded and occupied by the Nigerian Army, leaving our men, women and children dead and those who survived with no food, shelter or healthcare.

“We were so haunted that even communal neighbours were intimidated not to welcome us. For us, if the governor is talking of camps and resettlement, it is for all interventions to be carried out in our ancestral homes.

“For the records, Okuama people didn’t kill soldiers. The army should vacate Okuama and let us restart our lives from our homes. Though our homes are razed and levelled, we will find solace in returning to the barren land where we still have our farms to tend to and kickstart the resettlement.”

The community leader said the experience some of the members had in the Ewu IDP camp after the last flood invasion of the area was not palatable.

“Our Ewu brothers who were not much affected became a thorn in our flesh at the time. Whenever relief materials were brought in, the community youths, with a malicious sense of entitlement, would come in, hijack the process and ask to determine how to share and who to benefit.

“We are traumatised as it were already. We can’t stand hostilities in the name of IDP camps. If the governor is passionate about resettling Okuama people, the interventions should be domiciled in our homes,” he said.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the resettlement committee, Ogbodo said the camp would soon be ready.

He said, “Ewu Grammar School has old and new wings. The school is now running in the new wing. The land is so expansive, almost endless.

“So they have relocated from the old wing. This old wing has about four blocks. These four, abandoned, dilapidated blocks are the ones we are now de-roofing, re-roofing and reinforcing with block work and all that.

“We are preparing a kitchen, working on toilets, just about necessary touches to make sure we put the buildings in a state that is habitable.”

He added, “I have disbursed N8m out of the N10m, leaving just N2m. I’m expecting that the camp should be adequately prepared, then the remaining, we put some touches and invite the governor to start the advocacy for people to come when the camp is opened.

“It is not something you rush into because you are bringing in people. When the people come, they will eat. When they eat, they will defecate. With such human concentration come sanitation issues. There will be medical issues. There will be so many things people may take for granted.

“So it’s not like just telling people, ‘come, there is a place for you to sleep’. It has to be ordered and you just give a basic template on which the camp is going to run.” said

Punch

 

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