The New Year celebration turned tragic in Rivers State as gunmen opened fire indiscriminately at people returning from the church in the early hours of Monday where they had gone to usher in the New Year.
The incident occurred at Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni (ONELGA) Local Government Area of the state.
The police spokesperson in the state, Omoni Nnamdi, who confirmed the incident to PREMIUM TIMES, said it was difficult for the police to give the exact number of people killed in the shooting.
“We can only confirm the incident, but we can’t confirm the number of casualties. We are still working on that because some people were taken to the hospital and some of them are recuperating,” said Mr. Nnamdi, a deputy superintendent of police.
The police said normalcy has returned to the area and that they would let the public know the number of casualties after an investigation.
However, the Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, who is an indigene of the state, said that 21 people were killed in the incident.
Mr. Peterside, in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES, blamed the incident on the fight for supremacy among rival cult groups in the area.
Mr. Peterside said that cultism and cult-related killing thrived in the area because of the backing from powerful politicians.
“My heart goes the people of ONELGA and the immediate families of the deceased. This is an act that must be condemned. The good people of Omoku have suffered enough and this has dealt a further blow on their sufferings,” he said, adding that the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, lacked the capacity to tackle the state’s security challenge.
“I have said it time and again that Governor Wike lacks the capacity and competence to guarantee the safety and security of Rivers people.
“It is unfortunate that over 1,000 persons have been killed in questionable circumstances in the last two years under his watch. He should stop playing politics with the lives of Rivers people and face governance.
“Since the governor is not rising to the occasion to show competence, we will henceforth partner with all relevant security agencies to bring peace, law, and order to ONELGA and other parts of Rivers State.
“This is indeed a sad day for the people of ONELGA and the only way we can assuage their feelings is to ensure that this does not happen again. Governor Wike can rise above his partisan politics and display the hallmark of a statesman by openly condemning this murderous act and stop at nothing to arrest the criminals,” Mr. Peterside said.