An indigene of Ndele community in the Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, Godson Anwuri, tells CHUKWUDI AKASIKE why he fled his community after he was kidnapped, tortured and released
You were recently tortured by a group of men in your community; can you narrate what led to this?
There was a handover to a new youth chairman of Ugbola in Ndele, Okechukwu Nwonodi, and I am a member of the youth association. Ndele is in Emohua Local Government Area. However, a group of persons, who were then members of a vigilante group known as OSPAC (Onelga Security Peace and Advisory Committee), never wanted youth existence in the community. They came and kidnapped me and some members of the community. They took us to the last community close to the river and told us to say our last prayers and that it was time to kill us. We were tortured and dealt with. If not for the intervention of the police who ordered our release, we would have been killed. We were hospitalised for five months after the incident.
When did this happen?
It happened between July and August last year, which was 2022. The matter was taken to court after we complained about our ordeal in the hands of those who kidnapped us but nothing was done. There were threats against us from some people in Ndele. That was how we stopped coming to court and nothing was done.
Has the court finished with the matter?
The court is not done with the matter but we stopped coming to court.
How old are you?
I am 35 years old with two kids.
What is your current occupation?
I am currently into procurement and supply.
Did you see the faces of your captors when you were kidnapped?
Apart from flogging you, what did they do to you?
They told me to stop talking to the police. So, they removed two of my teeth; they dealt with me. As I am talking to you now, I don’t have two teeth.
How did they remove your teeth? Did they hit you?
Yes, it was a blow from one of them and you should also know that after we reported to the police and all that, the matter went to the court. Those accused stopped going to court and nothing happened. I had to leave the community because of the intimidation. On July 11, 2022, the former OSPAC commander came back with his team and killed Okechukwu Nwonodi. After three to four days, they came to my house and set it ablaze. If not for the fact that I am a friend of the Civil Defence Corps and the police, I would have got burnt in my house. I put a call across to the police and that was how they (the police) rescued me from the community.
Was your house burnt after you were kidnapped and released?
Yes, it was after I was abducted and released. They set my house ablaze on July 11. After that was done, they were charged to court and nothing happened. They came back and killed Okechukwu (Nwonodi) and nothing happened.
Was Okechukwu Nwonodi killed in his house?
Yes, he was murdered in his house and nothing happened. Nobody could talk. You know that there is a cabal that is backing those people in the community.
We learnt that the former OSPAC commander who you mentioned had been arrested. How true is it?
It is true that he has been arrested. I have also confirmed that. He was arrested in Aluu (Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State) by the IGP Monitoring Team with two AK47 rifles, two military camouflage and some charms in his car.
How true is the claim that you are one of the informants to the police and you tell about oil bunkering in your community?
Yes, I am a former public relations officer of Ugbola Ndele of Ndele community. I was also a private security guard to the late royal highness. I am also a security guard employed by the Rivers State Government in the Neighbourhood Watch.
Was that the reason why you were kidnapped?
All these were reasons why they continued to threaten me. I am not a bad person in the community; it is just because I work for the police (give police information).
Is oil bunkering still going on in your place?
Yes, it’s still going on and these problems have been lingering. As I said, all the intimidation I am facing is because I work for the police. Some chiefs initiated the bunkering in Ndele community.
Apart from the arrest of the former OSPAC leader that tortured you, was any of his gang members arrested?
None of his gang members was arrested. In fact, the people were something else because they have a cabal telling them to steal and they steal and nothing happens. That is what is going on in Ndele community as I am talking to you now. The law of the land is not there again; it has been abused by some set of people in Ndele community. If not for God’s intervention and His grace, I would have gone. They are looking for people to kill and have been killing people on their own and the chiefs and elders are there in the community and are not saying anything.
With all these, what were the responses of the chiefs and elders of Ndele?
Nothing happened and that’s where it’s even baffling me, giving me a signal that it is a cabal that is doing all of these in Ndele community because nothing happened. They will just see someone and shoot and the person will die and nothing will happen. They killed the youth chairman, Okechukwu Nwanodi, and nothing happened thereafter. So, that was how it happened. They have been killing people and nothing is happening. What I did was to leave the place. It’s been over one year now since I left my community. I left my community on June 11, 2022, and I have not gone back there till now.
I left the community so that I will not be killed. My wife is a teacher and my children are in nursery school. I left the area because of peace; nobody knows what has come over those people. The people who are supposed to guide and protect us are the people killing us. So, you can imagine that nobody can talk because, in an attempt to talk, they will say that you are the enemy.
There is also a woman whose house was burnt in your community. Her name is Wuche Ajuru. What led to the torching of her house?
Yes, I know her. Well, the reason I heard was that she is a friend of the police just like me. So, they saw her as an informant too because what they are doing is a crime against the government. We that are saying that they shouldn’t do that are also protecting the entire community because it’s a hazard and you should not involve yourself in a crime that will make the government to look for you. You are to protect the government, not to kill the government, not to steal from the government. We are true citizens of Nigeria and we are to protect the country.
How many people have been killed in this community as a result of being informants to the government?
About four to five persons have been killed. Seven to eight persons have been sent on exile from the community. Many people don’t visit home because of the former OSPAC commander. His work is to kill; he doesn’t ask what happens. He doesn’t think about the law or the community law. So, these are the things and now that he is in the hands of the government (police), the whole world is watching what the government will do in his matter.
But he still has members of his group in your community, Ndele?
Yes, he has his members but he is the final man and when he goes out, he doesn’t go without his men; he and his men will be subdued.
Do you mean that’s when peace can be restored?
Yes, by subduing his men, that’s when peace can be restored. The Chairman (of Ikwerre Local Government Area), Mr Chidi Lloyd, has also gone on air to say that he has disbanded OSPAC in the community. Despite that, they are still parading themselves around the community, committing crimes and doing all sorts of things. They are to protect us and not to be killing us and kidnapping us. All hands will have to be on deck. We are your brothers and no one should kill anybody in the community. Are they meant to kill? We only need to hand over a suspect to the government. We should allow the government to see what we have done. It is not for them to kill and bury their fellow human beings.
How many houses have been set ablaze since the attack on innocent people began?
Many houses have been attacked.
What do you want the government to do for peace to return to your community?
My advice to the government is to see how we will return to the Ndele tradition because we have deviated from what we used to do. Ndele believes in tradition. There are a lot of people who don’t want the community to grow; they are always there for their personal interest. They don’t want the community to grow but all hands should be on deck, let the government try to fish them out or there should be total dissolution of OSPAC. I have told you that Chidi Lloyd disbanded the vigilante group and I don’t know why they are still parading themselves as the vigilante group in charge of securing our community. The state government should look at how to ban the group because they don’t have the right to do what they are doing. They are also disarming military men in the community. They once seize their (military) guns and so on. When the guns were recovered, they were handed over back to the ministry.
Do you want your attackers to be prosecuted and punished?
Yes, they should be prosecuted and punished because they have committed a crime, a very big crime.
Where are you currently staying after fleeing your community to save your life?
I’m currently living in exile and it’s been a year now, since July 11, 2022.
When will return to your community?
Well, if the government is able to do as much as possible. Like I told you, I am a very responsible man in the community and I have been a friend to the police. Apart from that, if these men can be apprehended, I think I can go back and meet my people. I left because of the killings.
How many of you fled your community because of the threat to your lives?
A lot of them but I can tell you of seven of my friends. They don’t come home at all. These bad people usually call them that my friends should not come because they (my friends) won’t like what they will do to them. The OSPAC men have deviated from what they sent them to do.
What’s the job of the OSPAC in the first place?
They are to protect us and our family members but they have turned the other way round.
Are you saying that some OSPAC operatives left their security work and went into illegal oil bunkering?
Yes! This is a very big crime to Federal Government, even to the state government. We see them as they take things to their house. The day soldiers came, they snapped the place where those involved in illegal oil bunkering were refining crude oil. As I talk to you now, the place is now abandoned and bushy.