By Chris Mbunwe
Wednesday, January 31, is the day and month that a Batibo man in Momo Division of the Northwest will hardly forget. On this day, soldiers who were chasing a bike and gunman who, as early as 8am, went round town shooting in the air and chanting “Ambazonia Oye! Ambazonia Oye, our new country Oye!” and his mystical disappearance when he reached Ambo village, left the soldiers confused and they started venting their anger on the unarmed population. For fear of being arrested, young men and women disappeared into bushes. The whole of Batibo Commercial street was deserted.
In order to steal freely, the soldiers went on the rampage, firing guns in the air and the villagers disappeared into the bushes nearby and watched helplessly as their shops, private homes were being broken into, ransacked inside-out and goods carted away in their military vehicles.
Over FCFA 4 million, was stolen from stores and goods estimated at FCFA 7 million, carried away by soldiers.
When this reporter met the soldiers at the brigade, some of them were still feeding on their booty; bread, smoked meat, fresh meat from restaurants, biscuits, sardines, assorted can foods.
Anyone who resisted or tried to prevent the soldiers’ access to stores around was severely beaten.
Victims Recount Tragic Tales
One of the victims, Mary Ngati, 70, a Widow who is barely eking out life through the sale of food, recounted that the soldiers stormed her home and carted away food and money.
“My husband died a year ago and we have been managing this business for a living. Unfortunately for us, this morning, soldiers from nowhere came chasing us out of our homes, shops, and where they could not gain access they smashed the door open and took every franc collected. We sold food for FCFA 24,000, and they carried it away with smoked meat, foot trotters etc.”
The CWF Treasurer of Presbyterian Church Ambo, Bridget Mbah, bemoaned the grabbing of church money by soldiers: “The money I brought from Church yesterday and today, about FCFA 125,000, have all been carried away by the soldiers who forced opened my bedroom and went straight for the mattress.”
Another victim, Grace Aboh, 67, said: “the soldiers shattered all the louvers of our new house. We were still planning to move into the newly constructed house. I cannot estimate the cost of destruction and the amount cannot be below FCFA 500,000”
According to Alfred Tah, whose finger was shattered by a gunshot, the solders got him well beaten because their gunshot aimed at him, didn’t get the target. Hear him: “a bullet aimed at me failed to get me on the right spot, but it shattered my finger.
When they forced the door open and got into my bedroom, the soldier shot at me but I immediately fell on the floor and prostrated. He got me up and started beating me with a plank, calling me an ‘Odeishi’. My FCFA 700,000, android phones, whiskies and many things I had in my shop were carted away”.
Not even the physically challenged were spared from the military brutality as Milani Anoh, a physically impaired was also assaulted: “I am a disabled and I have only this hair dressing saloon that the military have destroyed for my livelihood. Right now I am so depressed.”
Eleve Atout, who is yet another victim who was tortured and fleeced of FCFA 300.000, had this to say: “My finger was shot and I was helpless as the soldiers molested me and collected FCFA 300,000 from my store.”
To Divine Mbah, a businessman in Batibo, “It has been a very sad day. All the laptops and other electronics that were in my shop, as well as FCFA 250,000, have been carried away by the uniform men.”
The story is not different from that of Ebenezer Nyambod Fon, who was arrested, thoroughly thrashed by the soldiers, his wallet containing FCFA 51500, was seized and he was later released to meet his mates in the bushes.
Other victims, Magaret Tendong and her sister, Bridget Anye said the door into their house was smashed and the soldiers ransacked the bed rooms and carted away an unspecified amount of money and jewels. Meanwhile, Grace Nduuh, a bar attendant said the soldiers broke into her off- license and drank some beer and soft drinks to their satisfaction.
“The worst thing they did was to break the bottles of beer since they could not carry them away.”
However, life has returned to normal in Ambo – Batibo, after the havoc caused by the soldiers.