Local vigilantes based in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, under the aegis of ONELGA Security Planning and Advisory Committee (OSPAC), have killed about 10 persons at Okomoko and neighbouring communities in Etche Local Government Area of the state.
The victims were killed on Saturday night when the group raided the area in what they said was meant to punish criminal elements. The killings sparked riots and tensions between the communities and policemen who later came to try to restore order.
Witnesses said the OSPAC members rounded up people at local drinking joints and forced them to lie face down at gunpoint while they frisked them for weapons.
One eyewitness said, “As the boys lied face down at gunpoint, OSPAC claimed to have used black power to identify some of them as criminals. They immediately shot and killed those they supposed to be criminals and took their bodies to the Otamiri River Bridge at Chokocho, where they were disposed.”
The eyewitness, who desired anonymity for safety reasons, said, “The OSPAC members shot intermittently for more than one hour, as villagers scampered for safety.”
Sources in the area said most of the victims were killed at Okomoko, while others were shot by the vigilantes at Egwi and Chokocho. Among those killed at Okomoko were Nnochiri Kingdom Alozie and Ugochukwu Otamiri.
Tensions rose Monday afternoon as the bodies of the victims were being recovered from the Otamiri River. Six bodies were pulled out of the river by Monday afternoon while the search for more bodies continued.
The Chairman of Etche Local Government Area, Hon. Obinna Elvis Anyanwu, was widely alleged to have invited the vigilantes to help rid the area of criminals.
When Anyanwu visited Okomoko on Monday afternoon he could not address the community, as tensions built up. He left without addressing the locals.
But a former member of the House of Representatives representing Etche Federal Constituency, Hon. Ogbonna Nwuke, tried to calm the situation and later addressed the angry youths. Nwuke appealed to the youths not to take laws into their hands. He told them to allow the police and other security agencies to resolve the matter.