It’s not the best of times for residents of Khana, Gokana, Obio Akpor, Emouha, Ikwerre, Abonnema and Degema Local Government Areas of Rivers State as cultists have continued to unleash terror in supremacy battles, leading to loss of lives.
Apart from cult related clashes, politcal violence has added to the death toll.
Abonnema, the administrative headquarters of Asari-toru Local Government Area, lost its peace when the presidential and National Assembly elections took place. Armed thugs invaded the 130 Battalion of the Nigerian Army and shot dead a Second Lieutenant while other soldiers on duty sustained serious bullet wounds.
The incident provoked the Nigerian Army as troops from 6 Division of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt invaded the community and engaged the bandits in a shootout. More than 15 persons reportedly lost their lives in the encounter.
The incident created tension in the community, as residents fled. It took the intervention of prominent indigenes to pacify the soldiers who later withdrew.
The dust was yet to settle when two armed men in military camouflage on the night of March 2 shot dead two soldiers along Obonoma road while the third soldier was seriously injured.
The killing forced thousands of residents to flee Abonnema to nearby communities.
On Febuary 23, the former Chairman of Andoni Local Government Area, Pastor Mowan Etete, and his elder brother, were shot dead by gunmen suspected to be hired assassins. Their bodies were taken away by the fleeing bandits.
A senior lecturer with the Ken Saro Wiwa Polytechnic, Dr Ferry Gberebe, was shot dead on March 9 during the governorship election by gunmen suspected to be members of the Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS.
Dr Gberebe was the PDP’s Returning Officer in Khana during the governorship election.
In Oyigbo, a youth identified as Azunwo was shot dead on March 9 by unidentified gunmen.
In Degema, an ad-hoc member of staff of INEC, Ibisiki Amachree, was shot on her way to submit collated election results.
Shortly after the conclusion of the collation of the governorship election results, no fewer than eight persons lost their lives in a suspected rival cult attack in Rumuelumeni, Obio Akpor Local Government Area.
The Chairman of Rumuelumeni Community Development Committee, Sunny Odum, told a radio station in Port Harcourt that rival cult groups engaged in a gun battle early Sunday.
He said one of the groups invaded the homes of members of the other group where they shot and killed about eight persons.
The police spokesman, Nnamdi Omoni, however said three persons died in the incident.
Omoni said members of the Demgba Dewell cult group had engaged another cult group, the Icelanders, in a gun battle.
He said three persons died in the incident while three others were injured.
Omoni added that men of the command had taken over the area to avoid reprisals.
Less than 48 hours after the incident, 12 others were killed in a cult related clash in two communities same week. Five persons were said to have been killed in a renewed clash at Rumuche and Rumuohia Communities of Emohua Local Government Area while seven were killed in Kaani Babbe in Khana Local Government Area.
It was gathered that a 64-year-old man was among the persons killed during the clash at Emohua.
A community source who pleaded anonymity named Foundation Onuekwa, Bright Oteh and Junior Kayi as the victims of the Emuoha clash.
The source also disclosed that one Atochi Ogbonna and two other persons who were hit by stray bullets were hospitalized.
A resident of Emuoha, Solomon Erim, said trouble started when a rival cultist who had gone for a burial programme in the area was attacked, sparking a reprisal.
In Khana, Mgbibari Nyornyaa, Sorlesi Youngman, Dornu Aanu, Bariagra Menebe, Lekia Eleaee, Boy-Mgbibari and Sira Mgbibari were reportedly killed in Kaani Babbe.
A source in the area who also pleaded anonymity said 12 gunmen invaded the community and shot them.
The gangs have also continued to kill and maim their rivals in Khana axis of Ogoni land. A community source disclosed that not less than 60 rival cult members have been killed in less than one month in the area.
The National President of Ogoni Youth Federation, Legbosi Yebana, recently threatened to lead a protest to the Government House in Port Harcourt in protest over the incessant killings.
Yebana said residents continued to live in fear, as armed bandits were on a killing spree. He urged the state government to expedite action to arrest the situation.
Also, a community leader in Ogoni land, Chief Gani Toba, condemned the killings, saying bandits were terrorising the communities.
One Joy Samuel Obuge was murdered a few days ago behind the University of Port Harcourt Demonstration Secondary School, Aluu by gunmen suspected to be cultists. She was buried last week at her home town, Otari In Abua-Odual Local Government Area.
Joy was a graduate of Fine Arts and Design from the University of Port Harcourt.
The Rumuji/Elele/Owerri road section of the state has been taken over by kidnappers and armed bandits who take their victims hostage and demand huge ransoms from their relations.
In recent times, scores of victims of abduction along the route have been killed before their relations could pay the negotiated ransom or rescue could come.
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and the state police command have vowed to flush out the cultists, kidnappers and bandits terrorising the state. The governor said he would frontally tackle cult-related killings.
Wike who spoke at the Government House when the state council of traditional rulers paid him a congratulatory visit on his re-election, said his administration would take the fight to cultists.
“We will not allow these cultists who want to paint the state black continue to cause mayhem. We will take the fight to them. Enough is enough. These people cannot continue to kill our people,” he said.
He revealed that he had met with the State Security Council and modalities were worked out on how to rid the state of cult-related killings.
He urged the traditional rulers to support the government in the fight, saying prompt information would be useful in tracking down the criminals.
The governor stated that he would jealously guard the interest of the state and ensure further development.
He also charged the vice chancellor of the state university to fish out cultists in the university.
The police command also declared its resolve to rid the state of armed bandits, kidnappers, and cultists. The spokesman said all the tactical units of the command had been deployed to launch an onslaught against bandits and cultists.