Residents of Ugbo Kingdom under Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State have fled their homes following an invasion of the region by men of the Nigerian Navy, SaharaReporters has learnt.
The invasion of the area comes barely a month after four naval ratings were killed at Gbagira Village and three foreign sailors abducted in the oil-rich kingdom.
The Nigerian Navy, however, soon announced the rescue of the three expatriates including Varonray Anandan (Indian), Roman Dmitriev and Mikhail Finenko (Russians) abducted aboard Sterling Global Oil vessel, MV AMBIKA.
The communities attacked by the naval personnel include Awoye, Mese, Gbagira and Odofado in Ugbo area of Ilaje Local Government Area.
Some residents, who spoke with SaharaReporters on Sunday, alleged that no fewer than three persons in one of the communities died during the invasion.
They claimed that the incident led to destruction of lives and valuables, noting that economic activities had been paralysed as a result of the situation.
One resident, Mr Abiola Ikuoye, accused Commanding Officer of Nigerian Navy Fowarding Operating Base in Igbokoda, Danjuma Ndanusa, of ordering the invasion of the area.
He said, “It’s unfortunate that men of the Nigerian Navy in Igbokoda could twist the facts of the entire story.
“They claimed that our people in Ilaje killed the naval personnel whereas we know nothing about the issue including the abduction of the foreigners.
“It was a gang of sea pirates that abducted three foreigners in Bayelsa State and were later stranded in Gbagira in Ilaje area of Ondo State.”
According to Ikuoye, the abductors became stranded when the fuel in their boat ran out.
He said a fisherman going about his normal activity was held by the pirates in order to help them get fuel.
He added, “The fisherman agreed to help them but instead took one of the pirates to the Naval Base at Awoye.
“He hinted the navy personnel of the presence of the pirate and other gang members on the boat near Gbagira community.
“Later, the naval officers went after the pirates and engaged them in a gunfight, which led to the killing of their men while they fled with their victims.
“Instead of cooperating with us and appreciating what we are doing for them, they are killing our people and invading our homes.”
It was gathered that some indigenes of the affected communities, who took refuge in swampy forests in the wake of the invasion, are yet to return home.
A naval officer, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said they decided to visit the communities following intelligence report about the presence of pirates in the area.
He denied allegations that officers invaded the coastal communities to wreck havoc.
He said, “When our men were killed last month, they stole rifles and ran into the swampy forest while we issued some warning to them to return the arms and ammunition.
“We got intelligence reports that some of the inhabitants of these communities engaged in crime and even haboured criminals in their houses. We issued them a warning.
“They failed to listen, and rather than having a change of attitude, they kept attacking us and also engaged in all forms of crime to sabotage our efforts.”
Meanwhile, the Ugbo Central Working Committee has called for proper investigation into the invasion of the communities by the Nigerian Navy.
In a statement, the committee lamented the activities of the Nigerian Navy in Igbokoda Forwarding Operating Base under the watch of Commodore Danjuma Ndanusa.
The group said the authorities of the Nigerian Navy should also be mandated to repair all properties destroyed during the invasion of the communities.
It added that the navy should also provide locals declared missing when they invaded the area.
The committee said, “The Nigeria Navy should release our people arrested in connection with this incident without further delay.
“They should also be mandated to refund the looted money belonging to our people.
“There should be an urgent security meeting in Ilaje Local Government Area.”