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Soldiers’ killing: Army, Delta community differ over reprisal as troops arrest 20

Soldiers’ killing: Army, Delta community differ over reprisal as troops arrest 20
Soldiers’ killing: Army, Delta community differ over reprisal as troops arrest 20

On Monday, the Nigerian Army said that the Okuama community in the Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State where military personnel were murdered, had resorted to propaganda.


They denied any form of retaliation on the community, as it was gathered that about 20 suspects had been arrested.

The names of the Army personnel who were killed on Thursday, during a peace mission to Okuama were released on Monday by the Defence headquarters.

The community was slammed by the military and then stressed that no amount of advocacy would stop the culprits from being seized, while the Defence Headquarters also vowed that there would be injurious consequences.

Speaking to our correspondents under anonymity due to concerns about harassment, a community leader charged that the military was responsible for large-scale arrests and killings.

He issued a warning that the Odi incident might happen again as a result of the soldiers’ actions.

After several soldiers were killed in the town of Odi, Bayelsa State, the Army launched an attack on the town in 1999.

The community leader accused the military, saying that instead of pursuing the criminals who had committed the crime, the soldiers had started to target innocent civilians in the community.

He said and I quote, “If it involves mass arrest, nobody will complain about it, but mass killings are currently ongoing in the community. A situation where soldiers will enter a community and open fire is a terrible thing.

“The same thing that happened in Odi is happening in Okuama today. When people take laws into their own hands because of the mischief of a few, it becomes a problem. When miscreants go to an area and cause mayhem, and the military is taking that to wipe out an entire community, that is a bad omen.”

Additionally, on Monday, there were rumors that soldiers stationed in Okuama set fire to houses as the locals fled.

During a community conflict over a land dispute in the Delta State communities of Bomadi and Okuoma on Thursday, angry youths killed at least 17 military personnel.

On Thursday, the members of the 181 Amphibious Battalion were ambushed and killed while responding to a distress call.

As soldiers seized control of the area on Friday and allegedly set some homes on fire in retaliation for the deaths of 16 soldiers, including senior officers, many residents of Okuama in the Ughelli South Local Government Area and Okolaba in the Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State left their communities.

Major General Jamal Abdussalam, the Nigerian Army’s General Officer Commanding 6 Division, oversaw the Joint Task Force soldiers who recovered the soldiers’ bodies from the Okuama community late on Saturday.

Army slams community

However, the Army expressed regret that the community was spreading propaganda instead of helping to apprehend the criminals in a statement released by Maj. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, Director of Army Public Relations.

Propaganda, according to Onyema, demonstrated that the troop deaths were a “communally orchestrated attack against legitimate forces.”

According to what the statement read, “The unfortunate killing of troops of 181 Amphibious Battalion of the Nigerian Army, while on a peaceful and mediatory mission, after a reported case of a communal clash between Okuama and Okoloba communities in Ughelli South and Bomadi LGAs of Delta State respectively, is not only despicable but should be unreservedly condemned by all.

“These were troops committed to peace and security of lives and property of citizens and non-citizens alike in the Niger Delta Region, murdered in cold blood by an armed youth gang of Okuama Community, in the most gruesome, heartless and cruel manner and went ahead to sacrilegiously debase their remains by ripping out their hearts by the very people they were there to protect.

“Regrettably, the community complicit in this dastardly act has resorted to media propaganda and shenanigans, rather than engage in a positive effort to fish out the perpetrators of this heinous crime. This again is a clear indication that the murder of the troops was a communally orchestrated attack against legitimate forces.”

Onyema stated that no amount of deceit would shield the people responsible for the personnel’s deaths from prosecution.

But he assured law-abiding citizens that there would be no retaliatory attacks in the neighborhood, so they should proceed with their lives fearlessly.

He said and I quote, “The falsehood being peddled by these criminals and their cohorts to whip up sentiments and sway the public to cover up, endorse or support the outrageous criminal acts of their armed youth gang should be disregarded in its entirety, it is only a ridiculous attempt at justifying their crime, rather than turn in themselves to security agencies. No amount of propaganda would arm-twist the narrative, they are complicit and must be ready to face the wrath of the law.

“While law-abiding citizens are assured that there will be no reprisal on the part of the troops, we enjoin all to go about their normal activities, even as ongoing efforts are scaled up to positively identify and isolate the criminals to account for their atrocious deeds.”

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Toareed Lagbaja, has ordered that those responsible be held accountable, according to an Army spokesperson.

“While commiserating with the families of the officers and soldiers who lost their lives, he has directed that no stone should be left unturned until the perpetrators of these gruesome acts are apprehended to face the full wrath of the law.

“Troops are determined to get to these criminals, there is certainly no hiding place for them.”

Murdered personnel named

On Monday, the names and images of the Defense Headquarters personnel who were killed in a communal clash in Delta state were made public.

There are 13 soldiers and 4 officers in the group.

The officers are Commanding Officer 181 Amphibious Battalion, Lt. Col. A.H Ali; Maj S.D Shafa (N/13976); Maj D.E Obi (N/14395) and Capt U Zakari (N/16348).

The soldiers are SSgt Yahaya Saidu (#3NA/36/2974); Cpl Yahaya Danbaba (1ONA/65/7274); Cpl Kabiru Bashir (11NA/66/9853); LCpl Bulus Haruna (16NA/TS/5844); LCpl Sola Opeyemi (17NA/760719); LCpl Bello Anas (17NA/76/290); LCpl Hamman Peter (NA/T82653); LCpl Ibrahim Abdullahi (18NA/77/1191); Pte Alhaji Isah (17NA/76/6079); Pte Clement Francis (19NA/78/0911); Pte Abubakar Ali (19NA/78/2162); Pte Ibrahim Adamu (19NA/78/6079) and Pte Adamu Ibrahim (21NA/80/4795).

One of our correspondents was informed by a military source that roughly twenty people, including three prime suspects, had been taken into custody. The source quickly clarified that the effort to apprehend the perpetrators was not yet complete.

“The operation to arrest the perpetrators is still ongoing. I am sure that the three prime suspects in the killing of the soldiers have been arrested. I don’t have the accurate figures of those arrested so far because it is an ongoing operation. If I am to put a figure to it, let me say about 20,” the source, who pleaded to remain anonymous due to lack of authorization, stated.

Maj. Gen. Edward Buba, the Director of Defence Media Operations, assured our correspondent he would respond on Tuesday.

He stated, “You will get details by tomorrow (Tuesday). It is a developing story and requires accuracy.”

However, on Monday, the Defense Headquarters promised that those who kill its personnel in Delta State will face severe consequences and measured responses.

The DHQ promised to uphold human rights laws and its rules of engagement when dealing with the offenders, according to a statement made by Maj. Gen. Buba Edward, Director of Defence Media Operations.

A portion of the statement read,

“The senseless and barbaric killing of these men is a tragedy. They were killed in a dehumanized and unspeakable manner. Accordingly, on behalf of the CDS, Gen CG Musa, the armed forces mourn the loss of these gallant troops who paid the supreme sacrifice for the nation.

“We console their families, colleagues, and loved ones over the tragic incident. They have died trying to restore peace in the nation.

“It is necessary to reiterate that both the Constitution and the Armed Forces Act saddled the military with the responsibility of the protection of sovereignty and territorial integrity of our nation.

“Accordingly, the armed forces consist of citizens from every nook and cranny of the nation, that have taken an oath of allegiance to put themselves in harm’s way to defend our great country.

“The military assures that there would be measured responses and injurious consequences for the perpetrators of these dastardly acts. Nevertheless, the armed forces being a disciplined force that complies with rules of engagement, laws of armed conflict, and the respect for human rights would be tempered by these provisions. We would not be led by emotions but by the rule of law.”

Buba also refuted claims that local troops had carried out retaliatory strikes in response to the incident.

He said that before the troops arrived on the scene, the community had been abandoned.

Buba asked people spreading misleading information about the incident to stop showing disrespect for the deceased.

He urged the public to help the armed forces apprehend those responsible for the horrible crime.

He said, “It is against this background that the military debunks all claims that the military embarked on reprisal attacks in the Okuama community after the incident. The community was deserted even before troops arrived at the scene.

“Importantly, those involved in peddling this misinformation, disinformation, and fake news that the military had embarked on reprisal attacks on the community following the incident, should desist from further dishonoring our fallen heroes.

“Rather, it behooves the community leaders, elders, and even the people of Delta State to assist in the investigation to identify the perpetrators of the dastardly act so that they can be held accountable for their actions.

“Furthermore, it must be noted that the dispute between Okuama and Okoloba communities remains unresolved. It therefore implies that there could be untoward activities not initiated by the military.”

Nonetheless, Buba pleaded with Nigerians to fight the urge to spread the graphic videos showing the soldiers’ execution.

“We urge the public to resist the temptation of allowing any videos of the incident of the killed personnel from going viral. Their loved ones are still alive, even though they have died protecting our country and its citizens.

“It would be dishonorable to the fallen heroes to allow such ugly videos of their demise to go viral. Above all, as the military mourns, it remains ever determined to ensure the safety and security of citizens across the country,” he said.

Okuama on blockade

As members of the military Joint Task Force continue to besiege the unrest-plagued community of Okuama, tensions have grown among the locals.

Many Okuama residents were reported to have taken refuge in neighboring communities within Ewu Kingdom and beyond when their houses were allegedly being destroyed by military personnel.

Ijaw Youth Council Worldwide, in the meantime, denounced and called the incident “very unfortunate” after witnessing the brutal killing of the soldiers in Okuama.

“To us, this is not only barbaric but also unacceptable,” the council stated in a statement issued on Monday and signed by its spokesman, Binebai Princewill.

The Okuama incident, according to the IYC, “is an evil that must not be swept under the carpet,” so the government should take all reasonable steps to hold those responsible accountable to serve as a deterrent to others.

“As a council, we are calling on the military top hierarchy to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter with a view of bringing the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice. This is an evil that must not be swept under the carpet as bringing the culprits to book will serve as a deterrent to others.

“Delta State Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, should also quickly resolve whatever differences the people of Okuama and Okoloba are having now before it degenerates to something else. The government must not appear to be too relaxed in tackling communal clashes.

“There is nothing more disturbing than this news at the moment. The government must swing into action now. We have lost too many precious lives in this battle already as we cannot afford to lose anyone going further.”


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