The Owaza community in Ukwa West LGA of Abia State has been deserted by residents following an attack on the oil producing community by soldiers attached to 144 Battalion, Asa, who burnt houses over the alleged killing of their colleagues by unknown gunmen.
Residents of Owaza and adjourning communities like Obuzor, Umudobia, Okohia and Obibor have fled to safer areas like Imo Gate, Ugwunagbo, Obehie and other far flung areas.
Pointblanknews.com gathered that the gunmen, suspected to be oil thieves, two days ago, attacked a military checkpoint guarding the pipeline between Owaza and Obibor communities and killed two soldiers while others escaped. The gunmen also stole the dead soldiers’ rifles and burnt their patrol vehicle. This angered the military unit located in the community who mobilized soldiers from the 144 Battalion on reprisal attack, setting fire to houses.
A resident of the community told Pointblanknews.com that the attack on the military checkpoint may not be unconnected with the activities of oil thieves who have been frustrated with the ban of oil bunkering and illegal refinery by Governor Nyesom Wike in Rivers State.
He said the oil thieves have been making several efforts to operate through Owaza and adjourning communities but were allegedly frustrated by the soldiers guarding pipelines in the area.
“The attack on the soldiers may not be unconnected with the oil bunkering. The ban on oil bunkering in Rivers State has frustrated the oil thieves; they are not comfortable with the soldiers at the Owaza. They attacked the soldiers and killed two of them. The Army came in reprisal and burnt houses in the Owaza community. Owaza people have fled their homes as soldiers have taken over everywhere, including all the roads linking the neigbouring areas of Obuzor Asa, Umudobia to Obehie, Uzuaku ,Okohia to Owaza,” the source hinted.
As at press time, Owaza community and the roads linking the area with other villages were still deserted.
Army Public Relations Officer, 14 Brigade, Ohafia, Prince Omale, told journalists that he was yet to be briefed on the incident. However, a soldier who confirmed the incident hinted that the incident has been reported to military authorities.
Reacting to the reprisal attack, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has convened a meeting of stakeholders of the area and sued for calm.