By Rufus Preye
Residents of Alokpagbene Quarters in Ijansa community in the Warri South West Council Area of Delta State have accused the operatives of the Joint Task Force (JTF) codenamed Operation Delta Safe for allegedly setting ablaze about 20 buildings in the community.
They said about 500 persons were displaced from their homes and properties worth several millions of naira destroyed as a result of the incident.
WARRI TODAY gathered that the incident occurred Sunday Dec. 23, 2018 when a patrol team of the JTF reportedly discovered a wooden boat carrying suspected illegally refined petroleum product near the community jetty.
It was learnt that the soldiers set the boat on fire when members of the community denied ownership of the boat and the product.
The raging fire was said to have escalated to residential buildings closed to the waterside after the soldiers left which allegedly led to the destruction of no fewer than 20 houses and other valuables.
The residents called on the Federal and the Delta State Governments to urgently intervene in their plights. They accused the military men of deliberately setting their houses over alleged false involvement in oil bunkering.
Decrying the incident during a protest organised in the community, the chairman of Alokpagbene, Chief Richard Evenen, said all their properties including their historical home of the founder of the community and monuments were burnt down.
Evenen noted that they could not rescue their belongings because many members of the community had gone for church services.
“Last two weeks Sunday when most our people have gone to church, we saw a flame from a far distance and when we rushed down it was fire. The whole place was surrounded with JTF soldiers and we later found out that the soldiers came all the way from Warri to burn our village.
“We are not involved in oil bunkering. There is no oil or pipeline situated around our community. Our only occupation is fishing but they had come to burn the entire village. Some of our elders and children got burnt in the process. There is nothing left in this village. The most elderly man in the community was burnt.
“I am appealing to the government both at the state and federal to come to our aid. We are suffering because there is no where to stay. Our people have nowhere to sleep or to stay. We are living like animals. We are pleading with the government to investigate the matter.”
Also speaking, the councilor representing Ijansa ward 13 at the Warri South West Legislative Arms, Johnbull Aniyanghan, expressed shock over the incident, saying that they were yet to come to terms with the burning of the community by the soldiers for alleged illegal bunkering.
“The whole quarters under Ijansa community is not an oil producing areas. We have no well head here and no form of crude oil business takes place around the community. This is wickedness! How could they come and burn poor fishermen community?
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“The aged parents are emotionally traumatized. Our people here are suffering. No house, no food. I am appealing to government to bring relief materials and food for our people. Our people are dying…they need food for survival. The environment is not conducive, many of them sleep outside”, Aniyanghan added.
Effort to speak with JTF spokesman, Major Ibrahim Abdullahi, for official reaction over the community allegation was unsuccessful as repeated calls to his telephone lines were not successful.