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Delta killings: Troops occupy Okuama, raze more buildings

Soldiers deployed to Okuama community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State have continued razing more houses in the community, following last weekend’s killing of several military men on rescue mission to the riverine community.

A community source, who spoke to our reporter, said the military are currently occupying Okuama and that several houses had either been razed or demolished.

Military deploys armoured vehicles to Bomadi creeks

Meanwhile, the Nigerian military, yesterday, deployed armoured vehicles to Bomadi, headquarters of Bomadi council, over the killing of military perconnel on peace and rescue mission in Okuama community in Ughelli South Local Government Area. The military personnel and no fewer than three armoured vehicles were seen zooming across the Bomadi bridge late, yesterday, probably heading to the creeks. This is even as President Bola Tinubu ordered the military high command to fish out those who killed the military officers. Also, Mr. Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP, in the 2023 elections, has condemned the killing of army officers and soldiers in Delta State, describing it as barbaric and unacceptable.

This is just as Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of Delta State condemned the killing of the officers and soldiers, describing it as despicable and alien to the culture of Deltans. On its part, the Pan- Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, led by Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, said the act is totally unacceptable and must be fully investigated. Meanwhile, Senator Ede Dafinone, has called on the dramatis personae involved in the ongoing carnage at Okuama community to sheathe their sword for the sake of humanity.

Urhobo group urges probe

Also, the Urhobo Media Practitioners Advocacy Group, UMPAG, demanded an independent investigation into the killings and arrest of the culprits.

A community source, who spoke to newsmen, said: “As I’m talking to you right now, soldiers are there and they continue the demolition of buildings in the community, and I don’t think they will leave very soon. They usually come to our community to buy some stuff and go back to Okuama.’’

Recall that last week, soldiers from the 222 battalion of the military Joint Task Force, JTF, Bomadi Division, led by the commander, Maj. Jaffa, were ambushed and killed while on a rescue mission to Okuama to release a hostage, Mr. Anthony Aboh, from neighbouring Okoloba community in Bomadi over a lingering land dispute. The situation became tense when more soldiers were killed the following day.

The perpetrators of the act, who fled the community during the remobilisation and the consequent reprisal attack on Okuama by the military, are now at large, with the military launching a manhunt for them in neighboring communities.

Meanwhile, a renowned ex-militant leader and his group, who was allegedly hired by Okuama community to fight their neighboring Okoloba community, is said to have been declared as the prime suspect, and is currently on the run. Indigenes who fled the community, especially children and women, are reported to be living with relatives in neighboring communities in Ughelli South. When contacted to speak on a possible humanitarian crisis in the council, the Head of Personnel Management, HPM, Ughelli South, Mr. Austin Emaduku, said: “First and foremost, I’m a civil servant and not an elected officer and I have my restrictions speaking to the press. “Besides that, the state government has issued a statement on the crisis and the public should take that for now.” It was learned yesterday that the military has commenced a counteroperation. The operation, according to sources, is to fish out the suspects who perpetrated the babaric act of not only killing the soldiers but also beheading some of them as witnessed in viral videos of the bodies recovered. Sources said that that the Land Component Delta Safe, Major General Jamal Abdusalam, the GOC, 6 division, and the Commander, Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral John Okeke are coordinating the counteroperations.

I’ve authorised military to fish out perpetrators — TINUBU

Meanwhile, President Bola Tinubu, yesterday asked the military high command to fish out killers of the soldiers. He said: “The Defence headquarters and Chief of Defence Staff have been granted full authority to bring to justice anybody found to have been responsible for this unconscionable crime against the Nigerian people. “My government will not relent until we achieve peace and tranquillity in every part of Nigeria. “I extend my profound condolences to the families of these fallen soldiers, their colleagues and their loved ones. “The military high command is already responding to this incident. The cowardly offenders responsible for this heinous crime will not go unpunished.’’ The President said the incident demonstrated the dangers faced by servicemen and women in the line of duty. “As a nation, we must constantly remember and honour all those who have paid the ultimate price to keep our country safe, strong and united. “The officers and men who died in Okuama community have joined the pantheon of great men and women who gave their all, with honour, in the service of our fatherland. “Members of our armed forces are at the heart and core of our nationhood. Any attack on them is a direct attack on our nation. We will not accept this wicked act,’’ he said.

Its barbaric, unacceptable — PETER OBI

Reacting in a post on his X handle, yesterday, Obi called for an immediate investigation of the incident Obi wrote: “This killing is barbaric and totally unacceptable and should not be tolerated by Nigerians and any sane society. “For a nation already combatting a high level of insecurity, the killing of our security personnel who put their lives on the line for the security of the nation will be too much of a burden to bear.

“These sad occurrences and many cases of killings, kidnappings, and violent crimes around the country have continued to fuel very deep concerns over the security of the nation. “These security operatives are making a lot of sacrifices in their line of duty and, in some cases, pay the supreme price. We must therefore appreciate and value them by showing empathy towards them and ensuring healthcare for those who are wounded. “There should be adequate compensation and welfare packages for the families of those who die in active service. All of us should always show our love by commiserating with their families and even visiting them in such difficult times.” The former Anambra governor urged security agencies not to be demotivated by the incident. “I sincerely condole with the families of the security personnel that died and their security formations (Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force respectively) over the sad loss of their personnel.

Attack on military personnel, despicable — OBOREVWORI

Governor Oborevwori in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sir Festus Ahon, said: “The Government of Delta State is gravely disturbed by the violence and unprovoked killing of the officers and soldiers, which he described as alien to the culture of Deltans.

“This incident is despicable and not in sync with the culture and tradition of Deltans. It runs contrary to the values and path of peace that the state government is promoting as I have always emphasized in our MORE agenda to enhance peace and security. “On behalf of the government and good people of Delta State, I wish to condole, in particular, the families of the killed gallant officers and soldiers, the Nigerian Army over this sad occurrence. “The state government shall take all measures necessary to fish out all those behind this dastardly act and ensure they are made to face the full wrath of the law.

Dastardly act totally unacceptable — PANDEF

PANDEF, in statement by Chief Clark, said: “This dastardly act is totally unacceptable and must be fully investigated. There must be no sacred cows, the culprits must be brought to book as early as possible. “PANDEF mourns the slain military personnel and commiserates with all the families and the entire Nigerian Army. “PANDEF further urges the Nigerian Army and other security personnel around the country to continue with their great national service and not to be dettered by this present sad development. “May their souls rest in peace.” Sacrifices by our officers shall not be in vain, Northern senators tell CDS Reacting to the killings yesterday, senators of the nineteen northern states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, under the aegis of the Northern Senators Forum, NSF, condemned it in very strong terms. In a condolence message in Abuja, chairman of the forum, Senator Abdulaziz Adua (APC, Katsina), said that the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa, and the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja, should not allow the sacrifices made by the nation’s officers and soldiers on behalf of Nigeria to go in vain. He said: “On behalf of northern senators, we wish to extend our deepest condolences to the CDS, the COAS, and officers and troops of Operation Delta Safe on the tragic loss of personnel who were killed during a peace mission to Okuama community in Bomadi on March 14, 2024. The sacrifices made by our officers and soldiers on behalf of Nigeria shall not be in vain.’’

UMPAG calls for independent panel of enquiry

UMPAG in a statement by its Secretary, Mr. Theophilus Onojeghen and executive member, Mr. Shedrack Onitsha, said: “From information available to us, there is a grand conspiracy to twist the facts of the bizarre incident to paint one party as savages and adjudge another as saints. “From our findings, the incident is coming on the heels of the renewed crisis over a land dispute between Okuama community in Ughelli South and Okoloba community in Bomadi Local Government Areas of the state. “The Urhobos of Okuama community in Ewu Kingdom have lived peacefully with their Okoloba neighbours for ages. Both communities have robust inter-marriages and can even speak both Urhobo and Ijaw languages fluently.

“We have also been informed that leading from the killings of the personnel, Okuama community has been completely razed down by angry soldiers. “The situation has sacked peace and law abiding citizens of Okuama community, especially when it has not been established that Okuama youths were responsible for this gruesome killing of the military men. This, too, we strongly condemn in strong terms. “While we commiserate with the Nigerian military, the Federal Government and the Delta State Government on the unwarranted killing of these personnel, we join other Nigerians to demand for an independent investigation and arrest of the culprits. “To this end, we call on the Delta State government and the Nigerian Army to urgently constitute a joint panel of enquiry to unravel the cause and what led to the killing of the soldiers on the said peace mission to Okuama and Okoloba communities.’’

Ijaw youths condemn killings

Meanwhile, the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Western Zone, yesterday condemned the killing of military personnel in Okuama community. As stated by Douga Okotete, Omoghomi Olu-Derimon and Luguard Izoukumor, chairman, secretary and information officer, respectively, IYC described the killing as barbaric and and wicked.

The statement read, “While we do not want to support the decision of the military in burning down the entire Okuama community and leaving the already impoverished inhabitants to suffer, we wish to call on Delta State government to swing into action and protect the lives of the innocent people in the area. “It is also pertinent to clarify that Okuama community where this sad event occured is an Urhobo speaking community in Ughelli South LGA, and not an Ijaw community.

“We are, therefore, using this medium to call on Governor Oborevwori and the Nigerian security agencies to investigate and bring to book the perpetrators of the heinous act.”

End reprisal attack, Falana tells FG

Speaking on the issue last night, human rights lawyer Femi Falana, SAN, called on the federal government to put an end to the reprisal attacks by soldiers of the Nigerian Army in the Okuama community of Ughelli South Local Government Area in Delta State.

Falana, who made this call in a statement yesterday, said, “Unfortunately, some villages were attacked last night by angry soldiers. After the attack, the villages were set on fire during the nocturnal military invasion.

“Having regard to the destruction of Odi and Zaki Biam over the killing of soldiers, the authorities ought to have taken adequate measures to prevent the attack and burning of the affected villages. It is unfortunate that the Federal Government has not issued any statement on the barbaric incident.

“In view of the tragic turn of events, I call on the military authorities to halt the destruction of the properties of innocent people in the warring communities. It ought to be pointed out that collective punishment is a serious offence under domestic and international law.

“Therefore, the Delta State Government should ensure that the murder suspects and arsonists among the civilians and soldiers are fished out and prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to other criminal elements in the society.

“Once again, I commiserate with the bereaved families of the slain officers and soldiers. Since they were brutally killed in the course of duty, the Federal Government and the Delta State Government should compensate the dependants of the deceased military officers and soldiers. Compensation should also be extended to the victims of reprisal attacks by angry soldiers.”

On the killing of the officers and soldiers, falana said: “We join the members of the civilised humanity in condemning the brutality meted out to the military officers and soldiers as they were deployed for peace keeping mission to resolve the crisis in two warring communities in Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta state.

“We are , however, pleased to note that the military remains focused and committed to its mandate of maintaining peace and security in the country. “Having regard to the massacre of innocent people when the military invaded Odi in Bayelsa State and Zaki Biam i n Benue State in similar circumstances, we commend the military authorities for resisting the temptation to subject the two warring communities to a reprisal attack. By all means, the army should avoid a repeat of the history of having multiple tragedies.

“We have confirmed that in line with the directive of the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Gwabim Musa, some of the gunmen involved in the heinous crime have been arrested. The Delta State Government, the respective local governments, and the leaders of two warring communities should assist the police to identify and isolate the remaining reckless murderers and unravel the motive behind the heinous crime.

“While we commiserate with the Nigerian Army and the bereaved families of the slain military officers and soldiers, we call on the Authorities of the Nigeria Police Force to ensure that a thorough investigation is conducted into the case with a view to prosecuting the suspects without any delay.’’

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