9th March, 2012
Tension is now brewing between a former lawmaker and his Alesa-Eleme people, the hosts of two refineries and muti-billion Naira Ndoroma Petro-chemical, near Port Harcourt, Southsouth Nigeria, over the killing of a man by soldiers guarding his house and property in the community yesterday.
We gathered that two soldiers shot and killed a young man said to be slightly mentally unstable in Alesa, Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The mentally unstable man usually used hard objects to smash parts of private cars without provocation but he was tolerated because of his mental state by many residents of Eleme.
We learnt from residents of Alesa community that the soldiers were on regular security guard duty at the home of a two-time former member of the House of Representatives, Chief Olaka Wogu, who had served as a two time Chairman of Eleme local Government, before proceeding to the National Assembly.
An eyewitness said the the soldiers were in a Hilux van on the way from the Refinery junction towards their duty post in Alesa when the man threw the bottle he was holding in their direction. It was not clear if the bottle hit any of the soldiers.
Angered by the impunity of the man, one of the soldiers stopped their vehicle and threatened to shoot him. But the man picked a stone and pelted at them.
This further angered one of the soldiers who shot him in the leg.
The eyewitness, who does not want his name mentioned, said another soldier who who was apparently not satisfied that his colleague only shot the man in the leg, perhaps unaware of the man’s mental state, quickly jumped down from the Hilux van and shot the man in the chest, killing him on the spot.
“It was not the first time this man was smashing the windscreen or side mirror of private vehicles. People in Eleme know him for that, but it is unfortunate he did what he did to the wrong people. The soldiers too thought that he was a violent person, “ an yewitness also said.
The incident triggered angry reactions by youths of Alesa community. They took to the streets to protest the killing of the man, but were later calmed by the executive chairman of Eleme Local Government Area, Chief Oji Ngofa Oji.
Ngofa frowned at the action of the soldiers and called for the immediate withdrawal of the military men from the area.
“It is unfortunate that this kind of crude action is still being experienced in a democracy. Why will the soldiers just kill a man like that? I am calling for the immediate withdrawal of the soldiers from Eleme.
“I am aware that the soldiers were guarding a private person and a private property. Is it not the constitutional responsibility of soldiers to protect lives of Nigerians? How can soldiers shoot a man and another soldier came down from their vehicle and shot the same person? Now, they have killed him just like that. We as a council will not take this lightly. We must insist on the prosecution of these soldiers, because we know them,” the council boss said.
The Army Public Relations Officer (APRO) Lieutenant Colonel Aminu Ilyiasu has not reacted to the incident as he was said to be in a meeting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State over the incident.
Mr. Ken Atsuete, a Port Harcourt-based human rights lawyer, condemned the killing as” callous, inhuman and a violation of the man’s right to life. In the Niger Delta,what we have is an army of occupation killing the people at any slightest provocation.
“If their lives were threatened, shooting the man in the leg was enough to demobilise the alleged mentally unstable man rather than denying the man’s right to life.”
The State Police Public Relations Officer, Ben Ogbuegbulam confirmed the incident to our correspondent on telephone, saying, “Yes, I heard it, but I have not really gotten the details.”
Meanwhile, Alesa youths vowed to insist that Olaga Wogu and the Army authorities withdraw the soldiers from their community as they no are longer safe if two soldiers can shoot and kill one man.
By Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt