Soldiers from the 4th Brigade, Benin, Edo State attached to Presco Oil Plc, Ovre-Eku, in Ethiope East Local Government Area, Delta State have been accused of stomping a 20 month old baby to death during an early morning raid at Eku community.
The soldiers, it was gathered, stormed the community, last Wednesday, in company of some policemen in three Hilux vans in search of youths suspected to have burnt down an excavator belonging to the company.
The company and the community have been at logger-heads over the former’s alleged acquisition of a disputed land, which did not go down well with indigenes of the community.
Recounting her ordeal to Niger Delta Voice, mother of the baby, Mrs. Maureen Atori, explained that she was in bed with her husband, Mr. Collins Atori when the door to their apartment was smashed open by a team of angry looking soldiers and policemen who tried to forcefully take her husband away.
According to her: “As they (soldiers and policemen) were beating my husband and dragging him on the ground, I and my second son were pleading with them to tamper justice with mercy and leave him alone. It was during the commotion that one of the soldiers stomped on my baby, David.”
Continuing, Mrs. Atori, who also suffered injury on her leg, said: “Though it did not occur to me that the impact on my baby was that serious as I was more concerned about the whereabouts of my husband, until he (David) started acting strange and later died as he was being rushed to the hospital.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of youths from the community, weekend, took to the streets in protest over the incident with an appeal to the Delta State government to caution the management of the company and also set up an investigation panel.
The youths, who described the action of the security operatives as reminiscent of the dark days of the military era, lamented that “though the country is in democratic dispensation, citizens are being brutalized and molested by soldiers in a ‘slave and master’ manner.”
Though attempts to get the comment of the 4th Brigade Army Public Relations Officer, Eromosele J. Unuakhalu proved abortive as at press time, a police source at the Abraka police station, who spoke on condition of anonymity, dismissed as untrue the claim by Mrs. Atori that security operatives stomped on her baby.
He said the security operatives only arrested Collins, father of the late infant and two others, Shedrack and Christopher Usobotie fingered in the alleged burning of an excavator belonging to the company and that matter is being investigated.
Condemning the incident that led to the death of the infant, the member representing Ethiope East constituency in the Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. Evans Iwhurie, said: “As the lawmaker representing the area in the state House of Assembly, I will not sit back and watch this recurring sad development.
When I was informed about the incident, I contacted the District Officer of Eku police post, who informed me that no such entry as regards the incident was made at his police post, instead a similar entry was entered at the Abraka police station where Presco had filed a petition and made an entry to embark on the arrests made.
Personally, I will not allow this kind of criminality to happen under my watch while my people are being brutalized and molested over their land by a company using soldiers from the 4th Brigade and policemen to intimidate and harass them.”