Banditry: Undeclared War In Okuama Community Of Delta State

By Lateef Adegbite

When  Bola Ahmed Tinubu,  President and Commander In-Chief , C-In-C, of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, decl that ared  he has granted’’ full Authority to Christopher Musa, an Army General and Chief of Defense Staff, CDS,  to go after the criminal elements who had  killed  the  four Army Officers and 14 other  soldiers  including one  AH an Army  Lt. Col Ali stonel,  who incidentally was the Commanding Officer,  6 Division, of the Nigerian Army , PortHarcourt, Capital of Rivers state , deployed at Okuama, Ugheli South Local government Area, on Thursday, March 14, 2024, , many knew that the Community  is in trouble.

Gen. Christopher Musa: CDS

Troops of the 181 Amphibious battalion, Bomadi  and 63 Brigade Asaba, the Delta state Capital,may not have read the handwriting on the wall that there was danger ahead as the  Okuama Community Youths who were heavily armed  were prepared for them. They were said to have laid an ambush for them on the Creeks ostensibly to engage them in a shootout on the high sea.  They had their way.

 Unknown to them, it was an invitation for trouble for the Okuama Community and other Communities around Bomadi and Ughelli Local government Areas of the state.The soldiers may have drawn their experience from the Odi Community, military invasion in Bayelsa, home state of former President Goodluck Jonathan, on November 4 , 1999 and Zaki  Ibiam in Benue  state in 2001 during  former President Olusegun Obsanjo’s Administration.

At the instance of Taoreed Lagbaja, an Army Lt. General and Chief of Army Staff, CoAs, who may have on the instructions of the CDS, in accordance with the Presidential directive to bring the Okuama Community Youths who had killed the soldiers to book to face the  full  weight of the Law  had given the nod to the I81 Batallion, Bomadi,  which had taken delivery of some military Launchers,  armoured tankers  hurrying to the creeks  to move into the Delta state Community to fish out the culprits.

The entire  Communities in Bomadi and  Ughelli South Local government Areas    of Delta state was said to have been cordoned off  by operatives  of the  6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Capital of Rivers state  , which oversees  the 63  Brigade in Asaba, the Delta Capital to ensure that none of the suspects escapes.

 T he officers of the 6 Division, Port Harcourt and 63 Brigade Asaba , may have be  encouraged to take bold decision, to raze the Okuama Community because of what they  saw on ground, at  the NDDC Jetty, where  the bodies of Lt.Col.  AH Ali, the Commanding Officer of the 6 Division of the Nigerian  Army , Port Harcourt ad two other killed Army Majors  were found floating  by the river bank as other victims were found separated on the Land .

  More pathetic was the discovery of the selfless body  of DE Obi, an Army Major  and  another victim who was said to have been found floating  on river Forcadoes,  near  Ayakoromo Community while the third unidentified victim  who was found in the same location   was said to be  blindfolded  with his hands tied  behind his back.

Given an eyewitness account of the Okuama incident,  Cecil Esekhaigbe,  a rtd, Army  Maj. Gen. confirmed that noting that ‘’ if the soldiers who  had gone to the Okuama  Community to maintain peace between the warring Communities were fully   prepared for the battle ahead , not one of them  would have been killed’’  as the casualty  would have been more on the  Okuama Community. He had said that ‘’the soldiers had  responded  to a distress call  after a communal  clash  between  Okuama and Okoloba Communities , both in Delta state to meet such unprovoked attacks.

The retired Army Maj. Gen. who had appeared on Channel Television, the Morning Brief Break Fast show on Monday, March 18, 2024, had said that contrary to reports making the rounds that the soldiers were in the coastal community with an intention to fight in order   to find out why their colleagues   who were on a peace – keeping operation to the Okuama village were taken hostage, describing as untrue.

The aggrieved soldiers may not have entered the Okuama Community with the intention to fight but  to fish out the culprits who had killed the 16 soldiers on a peace mission in the Community but what they saw on ground may have shocked them to change their plan of action: turn the Community   to another Zaki Ibiam and Odi Communities as  whey  went on a demolition- free exercise.

Okuama Community razed after killing of soldiers

 The troops of 181 Battalion, 6 Division and 63 Brigade who were said to have taken the battle to the Okuama Community were may have sent a message to Youths of other Communities in Delta state and other states in the south-south geopolitical region of what will happen to them if they dare kill any soldier sent to their Community on a peace mission.   

In spite of the fact that officers of the 181 Amphibious Battalion Bomadi,,  63 Brigade , Asaba, and 6 Division, Port Harcourt  of the Nigerian who had invaded  the Okuama Community in a reprisal attack,   over the killing of the four Army officers  and killing of  14 other soldiers, the Okuama  Community,  have continued to receive wide condemnations from Nigerians including heriff Oborevwori, the Delta state governor, who has been barred from accessing the Okuama Community.

Atiku Abubakar, a former Nigerian Vice President  during Obasanjo’s Administration and President Candidate of the Opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP,  in the February 25, 2023, elections and Peter Obi , a- one  governor of Anambra state and Presidential Candidate of the  Labour Party, LP, during the Presidential election, had condemned the killing of the four senior Army officers and  14 other Nigerian soldiers  by armed  Youths of Okuama Community  , insisting that ‘’those involved in the attacks must  be brought to justice as a deterrence to other Youths in the future’’.

The duo had said that the Okuama  Community Youths have no basis to ambush and kill the soldiers   who were  on active duties  of securing and  keeping peace  within the  two warring  Delta state Communities, describing it as’’ barbaric and  totally unacceptable  and should not be tolerated  by any well-meaning Nigerian and any sane society’’.

Obi, the former Anambra state  governor, was said to have  tweeted further  in his official X –handle, that ‘’for a nation  already combatting  a high level of insecurity, ‘’ the killing  of 16 soldiers  who had put their lives on the line  for the country  will be too much of a burden to bear’’.

 Senator Godswill Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom led upper chamber of the National Assembly, which had condemned the gruesome murder of the 16 Army Officers   attached to the ‘’Operation Delta Safe, OPDS, ‘’ in Okuama Community  had said that the culprits must  be made to face  the full consequences  of their actions’’.

  Senator Abdulaziz Yara’dua, Chairman, Northern Governors’ Forum, NGF,    who could not hide his feelings had said that   the sacrifice   that had been made by the 16 soldiers of the OPDS, during the distress incident call forever would be remembered in the annals of Nigerian history.

The Senate Committee on the Nigerian Army has vowed to throw its weight in supporting necessary investigations   and legal processes to ensure that those responsible for this dastardly act face he full weight of the Law.

Oborevwori: Governor of Delta state, Condemns Killing Of 16 soldiers in Okuama Community, Ughelli south, LGA, of the state

Sheriff Oborevwori, governor of Delta, was said to have also condemned in strong terms, the unprovoked killing of the 16 soldiers   attached to   the 63 Brigade at Okuama Community  in Ughelli south Local government Area of Delta state.

The governor, who was apparently  disturbed  by the violence  and unprovoked  killing of the officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army had described  it as ‘’alien culture  of Deltans’’, noting that it is contrary to the values  and path of peace  that the state government is promoting to enhance security in the state’’.  

He may have gladdened the heart of the officers and officers of 63 Brigade when he promised that  ‘’the state government shall take  all measures necessary  to fish out all those  behind  this dastardly act  and ensure  they are  made to ace  the full weight of the Law’’.  He noted that a state governed by the Rule of Law,    and human decency,’’ acts such as the killing of 16 soldiers unprovoked   will not be tolerated’’.

Meanwhile, Gen. Musa, the CDS,has ordered  a probe  into the tragic  killing of the  four officers and 12  soldiers attached to the 63 Brigade  to get to the root of the matter. The probe is coming on the heels of the arrests that have been made of those allegedly involved in the crime as the security agencies intensify efforts to unravel the motive behind the attack on the soldiers.        

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