The Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta has deployed troops to restore peace at Ibaa Community in the Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers.
A violent clash by rival cult gangs had sacked residents of Ibaa, forcing them to seek refuge in neighboring towns.
The Media Coordinator of the JTF, Lt.-Col. Mustapha Nanka, told the News Agency of Nigeria on Wednesday in Ibaa that the task force received reports that activities of rival cult gangs had compelled residents to flee the community.
Nanka said the cult gangs, known as the Islanders and Highlanders, allegedly terrorised the people of the community, looting, raping and damaging property, especially at nights.
He said the deployment became necessary, due to an appeal by leadership of the community over reports of pipeline vandalism, oil theft and cultism by armed groups in the community.
Conducting an on-the-spot assessment around the community, the JTF spokesman said that military personnel were deployed there to ensure peace.
“JTF is working in collaboration with other security agencies to restore peace and normalcy in the community, the Commander of JTF, Maj.-Gen. Emmanuel Atewe, was here last week with all the component commanders of JTF.
“That shows the level of our commitment to the elimination of oil theft, pipeline vandalism and all forms of criminality in the Niger Delta region,” he said.
A community leader in the area, Mr Ndubuisi Mbadike, said the bandits made life unbearable for law abiding residents of Ibaa, who were compelled to leave in droves.
“They damaged my only store. In fact, it was only God that saved me. Everybody ran away from the community.
“All these women you are seeing here, they only come to do small work, towards evening they will run to other communities because the cultists will rape people’s wives,” Mbadike said.
Chief Sunday Amadi, Chairman of Community Development Committee of Ibaa Community, said a prominent chief of the community was among those killed in January.
NAN learnt that patients at the Ibaa Health Centre deserted the facility for fear of possible attack.
A community health worker at the centre, who pleaded anonymity, said that the insecurity in the community had affected the turn out for last month’s immunisation and had left the wards deserted with no patient.