Okuama Residents Seek Justice: Claims of Innocence Amidst Military Occupation

Delta Community Displaced to Forests Asserts Farming Livelihood, Denies Oil Bunkering Allegations

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In a heart-wrenching appeal from the depths of Okuama forest, Delta State, Bernard Michael, a father of six and one of the many residents now living as refugees within their own land, vehemently denies allegations linking his community to oil bunkering activities. Following a deadly confrontation last month, which resulted in the loss of 17 military lives, the community finds itself under suspicion, with its people forced into hiding amidst fears of further military action.

 

Speaking to Vanguard, Michael, along with other displaced residents, painted a grim picture of life in the forest, a stark departure from their former lives as farmers. The incident that led to their current plight began unassumingly, with a visit from soldiers accompanied by an Ijaw man unknown to the community. According to Michael, what started as a peaceful interaction quickly escalated, resulting in chaos, destruction, and the eventual occupation of their village by military forces.

 

The allegations of oil bunkering have been fervently refuted by the Okuama residents, who insist that a thorough investigation by the government would reveal the absence of any such activities within their locale. “It is a lie that we have oil in our community. We do not do bunkering,” Michael stated, emphasizing the community’s primary engagement in agriculture and their lack of involvement with the illegal oil trade.

 

The toll on the community has been severe. Displaced families, including Michael’s, now survive on wild fruits, sleep on the ground, and face the anguish of not knowing when they will be able to return home. The military’s presence in their village has left them without shelter, with Michael revealing the loss of his home and possessions, save for the clothes on his back.

 

The situation has also gravely impacted the education of the community’s children, who are now out of school due to the crisis. Michael’s plea to the government is simple and poignant: to allow them to return home and rebuild their lives away from the baseless accusations that have cast a shadow over their existence.

 

The plight of the Okuama residents underscores a broader issue of displacement and misunderstanding, calling for urgent attention and resolution to ensure that innocent communities are not unjustly accused or punished. As the situation unfolds, the call for justice and a return to normalcy grows louder, echoing through the forests that have become a reluctant refuge for those caught in the crossfire of conflict and controversy.

 

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