Unknown gunmen have allegedly invaded Kokoloko community in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area of Edo State, shooting one person and abducting three others as the protest against Sahara Enageed Resource Limited went bloody.
Local sources told BIGPEN Online that the attackers may have acted on behest of some overzealous officials of Sahara Enageed Resource Limited in connivance with some elements in neighbouring communities who have been trying to disperse the protesters since the protest started last week.
It was gathered that the attackers stormed the community late evening of last Sunday shooting sporadically and in the process injured one person, while three others were kidnapped in attempt to rescued an oil badge belonging to the oil and gas firm.
The source said, the hoodlums reportedly invaded the riverine community of Itsekiri stock with five speed boats: three from Ajoki and two from Ologbo, both neighbouring Itsekiri communities, shooting at anything in sight.
Sources revealed that since the incident, there have been palpable tension in the area with most of residents now helplessly taking cover in the woods in the community which shares boundaries with Koko, Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State.
Dependable sources disclosed some youths from Kokoloko had, during their week-long protest, seized a badge belonging to Sahara Enageed Resource Ltd, but had agreed to release it last Monday after security agents’ intervention, only for the guntotting assailants to invade the community on Sunday night to forcefully cart the badge away, leaving behind sorrow and tears.
Comrade Sunny Etchie, President-General of the community, told newsmen that but for the military operatives from the Joint Task Force (JTF) under the 19 Battalion, Nigerian Army in Koko, who stormed the community after receiving a distress call, the casualties and damage would have been higher.
Etchie, while speaking with journalists Wednesday evening at the scene of the shooting, said the incident took place on Sunday night shortly after leaders of the community returned from the office of the Directorate of State Service to tender their grievances against Sahara Enageed Resource Ltd which had been allegedly shying away from its responsibilities in the community.
He identified the young man, who was shot as one Ayowe, with pellets pumped into his left limb and one of the three kidnapped as Ajatiton Edwin, who later escaped after his boat engine, a boat and some money were confiscated by the assailants.
“So around 6:30 in the evening, my people called me from the village that all of them were inside the bush.
“Asking what happened, they narrated how the Ajoki people, led by their youth chairman, one Isaac Ajatiton, came with two speed boats: two from Ajoki and three from Ologbo,” he noted.
“The JTF have tried their best on this issue, they intervened and they told us to release the badge and I even called the crew members to come and carry the badge on Monday morning, before we saw the sponsored thugs.
“They shot one in the arm. Then the one I sent to take food to the guys that were looking after the badge to prevent vandalisation was kidnapped and released the next morning after enough beating.
“We took him to the hospital and treated him. The place is no longer safe. Government should come and intervene. We don’t have police station here, no vigilante.
“We don’t have anything. We reported the matter and those we could identify among the assailants to Zone 5 and I believe the investigation is going on.
The shot victim, who’s currently in pains, said he was only employed to secure the badge from vandalism when the assailants swooped on him and shot him, thanking God for escaping death.
“I am lucky to be alive this day to narrate my survival from those armed men. I was one of the security men that was guarding the boat.
“All of a sudden, I saw some gunmen in more than four speed boats shooting at us and we were not armed.
“They shot me and I jumped into the river with the bullet wound; I was there for more than three hours before my employer came to my rescue. And that was how I survived,” the survivor enthused.
A visibly-shaken octogenarian, Felicia Ayokuche, accused their Itsekiri brethren from Ajoki and Ologbo communities for allowing themselves to be used by an external enemy to kill them, calling on the government to secure Kolokolo as well as resolve the imbroglio they have with Sahara Enageed Resource Ltd before things go out of hands.
Meanwhile, authorities at the 19 Battalion, Nigerian Army, are said to be on the trail of the guntotting assailants, who invaded the squalid community, shot one and kidnapped three.
A senior officer in the battalion, who refused to disclose his name, said soldiers had been monitoring the peaceful protests of Kolokolo community before the shooting, vowed to deal “mercilessly” with gun bearers in the area.
Authorities of Sahara Enageed Resource Ltd and leaders of Ajoki and Ologbo communities could not be reached for comments as of the time of filing the report.