By Emma Amaize

 


ABOUT four children, including a one-year-old baby, were feared dead and 40 houses allegedly burnt at Ebeberegbene community in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State, when Joint Task Force, JTF, codenamed Operation Pulo Shield, attacked and razed illegal oil refining factories,  in the area, yesterday.

The one-year-old boy was identified as August Boson. Others are Oruke October (two years), Amasei Daniel (two years) and  Julius Ogele (three years).

A community source said the soldiers who came from Ndoro community area, invaded the community at about 6.30 am and put fire on Ebeberegbene because of three local refineries that were located near the community.

Chairman of the community, Mr. Pius Oruma, who confirmed the attack on the community, said, “Over 40 houses were burnt.”

Among the villagers whose houses were razed are Gbeke Oyas, Peter Apamowei, August Orukefi, Son Oma Seven, Helen Busa, Friday Boson, Etima Eyekorogha, Omonday Otomene, U. Akpi and Joseph Sagari.

A human rights activist and community leader from the area, Mallam Yusuf Eregbene,  said: “Over four people were feared dead while thousands fled into the bush for safety, as  the soldiers prevented people from carrying their belongings. So property worth millions of naira were destroyed.”

He said people of the community were now facing acute hunger as a result of the incident and called on the government to come to the aid of the helpless villagers.

Eregbene noted that the community was not aware of the existence of the illegal oil refineries that soldiers came to destroy, saying: “If we were aware, we would have arrested the owners. The occupations of our people are fishing and farming.

“Up till now, (yesterday afternoon), many people have not been seen, they are feared missing. It was last two years that the community stopped this local refinery business in our territory. Since then, it was free from this illegal work because we have a law that when you are caught, you will pay a fine of N50, 000.

“This led to the stoppage of the business because the refineries are not good for the health of our people.”

 

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