Delta bloodbath: Gov meets Tinubu, N’Assembly demand thorough probe

The Senate, on Tuesday, mandated its committees on Army, Navy and Air Force to liaise with the military for a thorough investigation of the gruesome killings of 17 officers and men of the Nigerian Army in Okuoma Community, Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State.

The four military officers and 13 soldiers were said to have gone to the Okuoma community on a peacekeeping mission when they were slain by hoodlums last week Thursday.

In honouring the memories of the deceased military men of the 181 Amphibious Batallion, the Senate held a minute silence for them but rejected a motion to do the same for civilian casualties.

This was just as the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, who is from Akwa Ibom State, opined that the killers of the military men might be mercenaries from outside the Niger Delta.

According to him, such killing was not in the character of the Niger Delta people.

“See, I don’t want you to conclude, I do not believe that these people are from Niger Delta, those who did the killings, because we respect men and women in uniform,  that is why I am saying that your additional prayer should be to carry out a thorough investigation to know whether these people are mercenaries from outside the Niger Delta who came to commit this crime because I don’t think these people are Niger Deltans,” Akpabio said.

The Senate President said it was unimaginable that 17 soldiers would be killed in such a situation when the country was not in a war.

“We are not at war to lose such a number of personnel.  No community will go to the extent of doing this kind of thing. I don’t think they are from Niger Delta.

“So, I think the first point is that we should first establish the culprits who committed this crime; we must take this seriously.  Supposing they are not from Niger Delta, supposing they are not even Nigerians and we now come and be giving relief materials to them. People should bear the consequences of their characters, we will not support relief materials,” he added.

The Senate, in its resolutions taken on the incident, urged the Federal Government to apprehend the killers and bring them to justice.

The Red Chamber also urged the Federal Government to hasten the recruitment and training of more policemen to relieve the Army from internal security matters.

The Senate’s resolutions followed separate motions sponsored by Senators Abdulaziz Yar’Adua ( APC Katsina Central) and Ede Dafinone (APC Delta Central), on the killing of four officers and 13 soldiers by ethnic militias in Okuoma village, Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State.

Senator Yar’Adua, in his motion, described the act “as despicable, barbaric and unacceptable.”

Yar’Adua said, “The officers, comprising of a Lieutenant Colonel, two Majors, and a Captain along with 12 soldiers, were not only killed by the local militias but had their bodies mutilated.

“This heinous act of violence perpetrated by the attackers on our troops is a direct assault on the security and stability of the Niger Delta region.

“The Senate should condemn, in its entirety, the dastardly act and adopt prayers proposed as resolutions.”

But Senator Dafinone, in his presentation, said since the motion centred on the same issue, he would only propose an additional prayer of a minute silence for innocent civilians killed.

His proposal was, however, rejected by the Senate President who said holding a minute silence for civilian casualties or ‘victims of collateral damages,’ would come after a thorough investigation had been carried out on what led to “the tragic and very embarrassing incident.”

Akpabio said, “Senators Dafinone and Ned Nwoko’s prayer for a minute silence for innocent civilian casualties would be taken after the investigation of the dastardly act.

“What has happened is condemnable and stand condemned. The Senate will hold a minute silence for the 17 military personnel gruesomely murdered and condole with President Bola Tinubu, the military and the families of the deceased for now.

“After investigation, the civilians involved in the collateral damage will be honoured by minute silence or whatever action that may be necessary.

“Those involved in the dastardly act, may not even be Niger Deltan , they nay be mercenaries even from outside the country.”

Apparently buttressing the Senate President’s position, Senator Seriake Dickson (PDP Bayelsa West), in his contribution, said there was no need for moral equivalence at this time.

“What happened in Okuoma Community in Delta State last Thursday was very bad as regards the killing of the military personnel. An inquiry needs to be conducted by the Senate for us to have totality of facts on what happened before proceeding to moral equivalence in the form of minute silence for innocent civilians,” he said.

Delta gov meets Tinubu

The Delta State Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, on Tuesday, met with President Bola Tinubu over the killing of the 17 military men.

The Delta State Government, in a statement on Tuesday, condemned the incident, promising that perpetrators would be apprehended and made to face the wrath of the law.

According to the statement, Oborevwori visited the President in Abuja to brief him on the incident.

After meeting behind closed doors with the President, Oborevwori said the situation was under control, assuring that there would be no further attacks.

He said: “The two communities in question have been having issues for years and last month on the 7th of February they were invited by the state government, where the members representing the two local governments, the council chairmen and leaders of the communities, agreed to work together and they signed a peace accord.

“We condemned the killing of the officers and the soldiers because they were there on peace mission. What is happening now is something that we did not bargained for.

“I want to assure everybody that there will be no more attack on the villages if there is anyone that has happened in the past, there will be no more attack but we know that those who are culpable will be brought to book; the innocent citizens will not be attacked.”

The governor said he was in the Bomadi LGA on Monday for a security meeting to get a full briefing.

“Some of those issues are security issues that you can’t say publicly; so we are managing the situation.

“The issues of whether a place has been burnt down or people have been killed, it has happened and what we want is the way forward.

“The way forward is two ways. The people that have been killed, the officers and soldiers, we must see how we can find succuor for their families and how they can be given a befitting burial, and then the community, anything that has happened in the community in the past will not happen again.”

Reps demand probe

Also, the House of Representatives, on Tuesday, urged military authorities to investigate the brutal murder of the 17 military men.

Moving on a matter of urgent importance titled “Need to investigate and apprehend perpetrators of the gruesome killing of 17 military personnel in Delta State,” the lawmaker representing Ikorodu Federal Constituency, Babajimi Benson, described the incident as mindless and unfortunate.

He recalled that the fallen heroes “were only responding to a distress call in their service to their fatherland when they were ambushed and killed on Thursday.”

“The perpetrators of this heinous act did not only stop at killing these military personnel but also went ahead to sacrilegiously debase their remains by ripping out their hearts and other body parts.

“The House noted that unless the killings are checked, they have a potential of demoralising the military and affecting the war on insecurity “Which has so far recorded some successes,” Benson said.

Following the adoption of the motion, the House observed a minute silence in honour of the dead and mandated the Armed Forces of Nigeria “to conduct a thorough and wholesome investigation into the circumstances that led to this heartless, gruesome and despicable act and work with the relevant authorities to bring all perpetrators and their collaborators to book.”

It also mandated the Committee on Defence to interface with the Armed

Forces of Nigeria to ensure compliance and report to the House within four weeks.

Residents blame military

Some residents of the troubled Okuama community blamed the exchange of gunfire on the invading military whom they described as the aggressors.

Two Okuama residents, who spoke with the Delta State Radio and Television in Warri, on condition of anonymity, accused the military of carrying out mass killings.

According to the residents, the soldiers who had visited their community on March 14, 2024, for what they had tagged “a peacekeeping mission”, were received in the town hall but they later insisted on whisking the community chiefs away, a move which the community rebuffed.

The residents claimed that in the process, the soldiers reacted violently and “started shooting our people there”.

“The soldiers killed many of the young people there. People started running; some were killed instantly. Nobody expected any shooting.

“The army went and came back with more reinforcement. About 20 more people were killed immediately.”

Also corroborating the earlier speaker, another resident, a woman, said, “While the community rebuffed the soldiers from whisking away the community chairman, the army just changed all of a sudden and opened fire on us.

“Women and children died. We cannot find some of our children and our parents. They (the soldiers) killed over 20 of our fellow residents. Some of our buildings were razed. Many residents have fled and there are even dead bodies in the bush where we have been hiding. We want the government to come to our rescue.”

Military siege continues

Meanwhile, operatives of the military Joint Task Force as of Tuesday were still laying siege to the Okuama community while the few residents who are still staying behind were reportedly complaining of starvation as they can no longer access their farms.

The Catholic Bishop of Bomadi Diocese, in Bomadi Local Government Area,  Bishop Hyacinth Egbebo, condemned the killing of military officers and soldiers in Okuama community.

The Bishop, at a press conference held in Yenagoa, on Tuesday, condoled with the military for their loss.

He, however, called for peace while the investigation was being carried out.

Stop killing civilians – Urhobo group

The Urhobo Renaissance Society, on Tuesday,  commiserated with the Nigerian Army over the killing of its men and officers.

The group in a statement by its Secretary, Dr John Uwa, however, demanded an end to the killing of civilians.

“We discovered that the innocent civilians of the Okuama community are getting punished and killed for an offence they never committed in the first place.

“An offence perpetuated by non-state actors with the intent of grabbing the Okuama ancestral land through the instigation and promotion of the present carnage.

“Our investigation was inspired by the singular fact that the Okuama people are peasant farmers; and apart from lacking the capacity, brute and sophistication to act in such a barbaric manner, they have never shown aggression, even in the face of oppression from civilians in the communal dispute.

“We are calling for an immediate stoppage of the carnage by the military, and an immediate unbiased investigation to unravel the truth.”

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