Soldiers yesterday opened fire on protesters, who barricaded OB/OB gas plant operated by the Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC) in Omoku, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Council of Rivers State, leaving many injured.
They reportedly stripped old women and manhandled old men who were part of the protest. Some indigenes of Obosi quarters in Omoku had since last week barricaded the gas plant over alleged failure of NAOC to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the community.
It was gathered that following protracted deadlocked efforts to placate protesters, the multinational oil company deployed soldiers to the gas plant in the wee hours of yesterday.
Sources told The Guardian that shortly after the soldiers arrived the facility by midnight, they pounced on the protesters and shot at some of them.
Our correspondent gathered that the soldiers decided to use force to evict the protesters because of their refusal to allow engineers of the gas plant access the facility to fix the turbine that supplies free electricity to Omoku and adjoining communities.
Meanwhile, Obosi Youth President, Pureheart Ekeukwu, claimed that the soldiers were deployed by NAOC to brutalise innocent protesters who were merely asking the company to live up to its responsibility.
Ekeukwu stated that the armed soldiers stormed the facility about midnight while most of the protesters occupying the gas plant were fast asleep.
“Agip mobilised the Nigerian army, and the soldiers came to drive out the protesters from the facility around midnight.
“They came and started beating old men and women. They stripped old women, forced them into their vehicle and dropped them at Omoku-Obrikom road that night. Three people are critical in the hospital now. Many others also sustained injuries,” he said.
The youth president described the action of the soldiers and the oil firm as gross irresponsibility.
According to him, it is morally offensive for soldiers to strip protesting old women.
“We are under panic now, but we will not call off the protest. We will end this protest when they meet our demands,” he insisted.
However, spokesperson of the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Col. Charles Ekeocha, was yet to respond to calls and WhatsApp messages sent to him at press time.