Peremabiri Town: A Gory Metaphor Of Election Violence In Bayelsa … No Respite Yet For The Victims
The governorship elections are over, for about a year now, but anguish still envelops the sprawling riverine town known as Peremabiri in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. The town has had a large dose of unrest arising from battle for supremacy and communal resources among groups, before the last elections provided another chance to unleash havoc.
The reports where all over the places, but did not really appear plausible, especially as to who and who were killed and whose property were destroyed. Where exactly the victims met their brutal attacks and death were also not clear, hence doubtful to some hearers of the reports.
Election monitors and journalists could not also give graphic details of the violence, somehow, due to the difficult terrain of the river parts of the state and the absence of facts from security operatives, especially the police, to which some of victims’ families made complaints to, but allegedly to no avail.
Since after the elections, victims of the electoral violence, those who are luckily alive or those whose property were destroyed are living in pains, awaiting the intervention of governments and donor organisations, but none has gone to visit, let alone give them relief packages.
This is despite the fact that a coalition of civil organisations, including Save Jaw Nation Group and the Centre for Democracy, based in Lagos raised alarm concerning the piteous state of the victims, who are displaced from their homes since after the elections in December 5-6, 2015 and January 9, 2016.
The civil organisations had painted a gory picture of the degree of violence and human rights violations allegedly sponsored by some politicians who they said used vulnerable youths to perpetrate the violence for electoral motives. Despite their efforts, government is still in akimbo over the reports.
The facts, according to chairman of the Centre for Democracy, Mr. Olufemi Lawson, one of the partnering NGOs, were obtained through personal visits and contacts with living victims and families of those who died and those maimed. The NGOs have been able to back their claims with evidences of pictures, videos, phone numbers, addresses and others to buttress their findings.
The displacement of about 600 indigenes of Peremabiri community who are taking refuge in a camp outside the town, as reported by the NGOs is most heart rendering. But even this is yet to attract empathy and attention from government and philanthropic donors and service providers. Up till now, is it not known to the Federal Government and donors that there are Peremabiri is in such plight? Or is that they are displaced by Boko Haram insurgents, so they need no respite?
At the moment, proper investigation, let alone processes of prosecuting culprits may not have been done by security operatives and judiciary, on the alleged murder of Master Isaac God’s-gift who was allegedly accosted by a convoy of security men and shot dead at the community’s river on the election day. Master Isaac, according to findings by NGOs, was in the company of his teenage friends in a boat, when the security men chased them and shot sporadically, and killed the ill-fated lad.
The same lukewarm attitude surrounds the alleged killing of one Abule (male, surname not given), who was also allegedly shot dead at the Peremabiri River. These are aside other known and unknown killings, discovered by NGOs, yet no meaningful action taken to provide justice for the victims.
Certain top politicians, who believed to be taking cover under the powers that be in the country, to perpetuate electoral violence and go scot-free, are suspected to have used some willing government security operatives and civilian thugs to unleash the havocs on the victims. But the Nigerian security forces defend themselves that the alleged persons who wore conventional military uniform to attack electorate and politicians are not government security men. This appears credible to an extent because it is a common phenomenon to see civilian political mercineries disguise as formal military officers and do the bidding of their political masters during elections.
Miffed by the inaction of government to provide justice, the coalition of NGOs, handed over the matters to Amnesty International, for possible filing at the International Court of Justice in Hague, Geneva, but good news is yet to be heard about that.
Calls on President Buhari to investigate arrest and prosecute the alleged perpetrators in line with the laws of the country, irrespective who are involved have also yielded no results at the time of writing this article.
Relief materials and medical services for the IDPs in Peremabiri, may not have also been sent at the time writing this article..
The last has also not been heard from the Nigerian Representative of Amnesty International, United Kingdom, Bar. Al’ Attah Ikide who assured that his organisation will investigate the election violence and human rights violations reports from Bayelsa and take necessary actions.
Ikide had described the official report submitted to Amnesty as well-researched and the most comprehensive so far from Nigeria, adding that the credibility of the report, when re-affirmed, would surely move Amnesty Internationally to take drastic actions. But the anguish continues in Peremabiri.
The Amnesty International (UK) is concerned because of what its Nigerian representative described as the spate of killings and human rights violations in Nigeria even in the current regime of President Mohammadu Buhari but regretted that most of such matters are not properly reported by the media or NGOs to Amnesty International.
He assured that the Save Ijaw Nation Group and their allies will soon be invited to the Amnesty International Office in London, to further clarify the reports. But the last is yet to be heard from the groups as well.
Governor of Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson, has been in possession of the NGOs report of the election violence in Peremabiri and other parts of the state and the negative outcomes on the victims. This is aside setting up a panel of inquiry headed by Justice Margaret Akpomiemie. But as a governor who is now in opposition party, certain actions to be taken by him might invite political vendetta to him.
However, Governor Dickson has called for justice for the victims, and says the state government was ever to committed to security of lives and property in the state, and will always cooperate with the Federal Government and called for support in that regard.
Sources from Peremabiri who spoke with this writer said the indigenes are disturbed about the situation they find themselves since after the elections. Like the prayer of a poor man who is hopeless of when he will have food to eat, the sources are praying for urgent intervention, to forestall starvation, epidemics as well as a resurgence of same acts as the perpetrators feel being above the law.