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Why army should be punished for allegedly razing Delta community – APC chieftain

A chieftain of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress, Otu Toyo, has accused the country’s military of committing a “treasonous act” for allegedly turning their weapons against the civilian population in Okuama community, Delta State.

Mr Toyo, from Akwa Ibom State, is a former chairperson of the Peoples Democratic Party in Akwa Ibom.

His position in the Delta security crisis was contained in a statement he forwarded to PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday.

The APC chieftain was reacting to the razing of Okuama community in Delta State allegedly by the Nigerian troops in retaliation for the killing of 16 soldiers, including the commanding officer of 181 Army Amphibious Battalion, two majors, and a captain, who were on a peacekeeping mission in the area between the two warring communities – Okuama and Okolobia.

The Nigerian army has denied responsibility for the reprisal, suggesting that it could have been carried out by the rival Okolobia community.

The Director of Defence Media Operations, Edward Buba, a major general, in a statement on Monday, said the community had been deserted before the arrival of the troops.

Mr Buba urged those peddling news of reprisal by the soldiers to desist for “dishonouring the fallen heroes,” referring to the murdered soldiers.

But Mr Toyo blamed the army for the reprisal. He said for taking the laws into their hands to burn down the community and deliberately killed Nigerians, the army is “guiltier of grievous illegality” than the villagers, whom he said were provoked by the shooting to death of their relatives at their town hall while resisting the arrest of their leaders by armed troops who went for peace talks but insisted on “taking hostages.”

He said the reprisal could have been avoided if the army had handled the matter professionally, He wants the soldier punished for allegedly setting ablaze houses in the Okuama community.

“With the benefit of history and proper briefing, it is doubtful if we would be in this station today as those unfortunate and unnecessary deaths and damages could have been avoided.

“The soldiers who were commanded by the late senior officer should have found a less contentious way of concluding their visit and left the village the way they came, in dignified peace and scheduled another meeting with the leaders of the community, possibly in a neutral venue guaranteed by the governor, in a bid to settle the communal rift. If indeed that was their mission. That way, the deaths would have been avoided.

“There is loose talk about investigations, most probably the ‘Nigerian’ way. This particular investigating team must do more than unearth and seek to punish those who committed criminal acts, killed our citizens, and damaged and torched property.

“They must find out the ways and means of preventing such primitive altercations in future. And commend those who did the right things. Compensations to all the innocent victims of the clash must be considered a national debt,” Mr Toyo said.

Military not above the laws

The politician described as “absolute indiscipline” for the army to resort to self-help, adding that they (army) are not beyond the laws.

“No undisciplined force can get anything done successfully. This is something which must concern us.”

Mr Toyo agreed with President Bola Tinubu’s directive that the murderers of the soldiers must be punished, but warned that the president must be careful “not to make anyone a judge in his own case.”

“That will yet again amount to kicking the can down the road, as the aim of the investigation will be defeated at its inauguration. In the event of such an occurrence, it will only be a matter of time until the next set of murders and arson.

“Nigerians are tired of inept solutions to serious national problems. This is a challenge to the President’s promise of renewed hope for a mis-governed country,” he said.

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