We’re dying: Ex-Biafran soldiers cry
By PETRUS OBI, Enugu
Monday, May 11, 2009
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The Nigerian Civil war may have ended several years ago on ‘no victor’ ‘no vanquished note,’ but the victims of the war, especially the disabled ex- Biafran soldiers who have been ‘abandoned’ at their settlement camp in Oji-River, Enugu State are still feeling the pains of neglect and abandonment by both the federal government and the defunct Biafran Republic.
From the narrow entrance to the dilapidated camp, one could understand what Mr. Joseph Akani, spokesperson for the ex-soldiers meant when he said that “When we were brought here we were told that we would stay here, decay and die.”
The visit of the de-mining team from the Federal Ministry of Defense to the camp recently provided the disabled soldiers an opportunity to speak out; and they seized it indicting both the federal government, the eleven States of the old Eastern Central States.
They also indicted the former Biafran Leader, Chief Odumegwu Emeka Ojukwu of abandoning them claiming that the former commander of the Biafran army had never visited them since they arrived the camp in 1970.
Said he; “Today our sun has risen; for the first time since 1970 when the war ended we are seeing members of the Nigeria Defence in a great number like this. Happily enough you have seen us you have seen where we are quartered; by our right is the leprosy colony, in our front is the Oji River General Hospital ; it mainly treats the leprosy patients.
As you can see, there is no government catering for us; we only live on charity. As you come here today, we and members of our family are rejoicing that at least, they’ll have something to eat. You represent the federal government and we know through you our message will get to the president.
We need to be rehabilitated. If not that we are war victims, being members of the Nigeria family I think we deserve life. Our children deserve to be educated, our wives deserve to be clothed and have something doing, since they are our helpers; our eyes and our legs. We are pleading that you take our message to the federal government; we are begging that they should come and alleviate our sufferings.
“It’s almost 40 years since the war ended and our existence has been is by the mercy of God. Here there is no water, our accommodation; if you enter there you will pity us. I have seen that those who are asked to die don’t die so quick. When we were brought here we were told that we will stay here, decay and die.
Thirty nine years have come and gone but some of us are still alive. When we came here we were 697 today how many are left; less than 100. I am not happy to say that we are leaving because those who are dead, we are not better than them. Many of us died out of frustration; many died out of simply illness that could have been treated; and those of us living today, we are struggling with one illness or the other; there is one of us bedridden, sores here and there; nobody caters for him, except that the almighty God will never abandon his people.
Leader of the federal government team and the director of Administration Commodore Essien Epkiken (rtd) disclosed that they have been sent to go round the eleven states that were involved in the war and to remove unexploded land mines and the ascertain the number of victims.
As a token of goodwill we are here some gifts for you and your families. We are very happy to be here and we have seen you in person and your families and we seriously appreciate what kind of life you have been going through and it is our responsibility to enlighten all the people around us including the federal government of your plight.
He urged the ex-soldiers to assist the team in identifying the areas where mines were laid during the war to make their work easy and to ensure the safety of the people.