THREE SUSPECTS AMONG THOSE WHO KILLED NIGERIAN SOLDIERS IN DELTA NABBED, MOVED TO ARMY HQ IN ASABA

At least three of the suspects who killed 17 officers and men of 181 Amphibious Battalion, Nigerian Army, Otuama, Delta State, last Thursday, have been arrested....READ FULL ARTICLE

The arrest came as the President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio, said yesterday that whoever was responsible for the killing of the military personnel, would be brought to justice.

He spoke on a day the governor of Delta State, Sheriff Oborevwori, briefed President Bola Tinubu on the issue at Aso Rock, Abuja, saying the state is managing the tension caused by the killing and that there won’t be further attacks.

This is even as the House of Representatives yesterday mandated the Armed Forces of Nigeria to conduct a thorough and wholesome investigation into the circumstances that led to the gruesome killings of military personnel.

Vanguard gathered that the suspects were arrested in Port Harcourt yesterday and moved to Army headquarters, Asaba, where they are currently being held.

Meanwhile, speaking during the debate on two merged motions by Senators Abdulaziz Yar’Adua (APC, Katsina Central) and Ede Dafinone (APC, Delta Central), on the killings, Senator Akpabio said: “I don’t want you to conclude, I do not believe that these people are from Niger Delta.

“Because we respect men and women in uniform, I am saying your additional prayer should be to carry out a thorough investigation to know whether these people are mercenaries from outside Niger Delta who came to commit this crime because I don’t think these people are Niger Deltans.

“We are not at war to lose such several 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 and 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..

“People should bear the consequences of their characters, we will not support relief materials.”

However, the Senate has begun a probe into the killing of the soldiers as it asked its committees on defence, army, navy and air force to liaise with the military authorities to get more information on the remote and immediate cause of what it described as a dastardly act.

It also called on the Federal Government to identify, apprehend and prosecute perpetrators of the horrific killing and bring them to book, just as it observed a minute silence in honour of those killed.

The Red Chamber equally asked the Federal Government to hasten the recruitment and training of more police personnel to take up the job of policing responsibilities, while the Nigerian Army should play its primary role in the affairs of the country.

Senate calls for Enlightenment campaign

The Senate also called on the Federal Government to embark on an enlightenment campaign to sensitise the public on their civic responsibility as it affects their relationship with security agencies.

It, however, rejected a prayer to observe a minute silence in honour of innocent civilians killed in the attack or commiserate with their families, saying their number is still unknown.

While the Senate rejected an additional prayer for relief materials for the community by the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, as proposed by Senator Ede Dafinone, it resolved that families of the slain soldiers should be compensated immediately. The Deputy Senate President, Senator Barau Jibrin (APC, Kano North), moved the motion which was seconded by Senator Tony Nwoye (LP, Anambra North).

Resolutions of the Senate were sequel to a motion of urgent national importance sponsored by Senators Abdulaziz Musa Yar’adua (APC, Katsina Central), and Ede Dafinone (APC, Delta Central).

Earlier in his presentation, Senator Yar’Adua, who is the chairman, Senate Committee on Army, noted that the recent tragic incident that resulted in the loss of a commanding officer, two majors, a captain, and 12 soldiers, highlighted serious threat to the security and stability of the country.

He said: “Troops of 181 Amphibious Battalion, while on a peace mission to Okuama community in Bomadi LGA of Delta State, were surrounded by some community youths and killed on Thursday, March 14, 2024.

“The unfortunate incident occurred when the troops responded to a distress call after the communal crisis between Okuama and Okoloba communities, both in Delta State.

“The tragic incident involving the attack on military personnel from the 181 Amphitropous Battalion during the peace mission to Okuama community in Delta State, underscores the urgent need for justice and accountability without resorting to retribution.”

The lawmaker voiced concern over the understaffing of the Nigeria police which, according to him, has made Nigeria’s military to take over internal policing duties such as organised crime, oil theft, communal crisis, kidnapping, banditry and other policing responsibilities.

Yar’ Adua also recalled when Defence headquarters previously reported in August 2023 the loss of 36 military personnel in Niger State, underscoring the persistent challenges faced by the armed forces in carrying out their duties.

He said: “There is a critical requirement for a more streamlined and deliberate collaboration between the armed forces and law enforcement agencies on one side and the Nigerian populace and communities on the other.

“This collaboration is essential to foster trust, enhance security measures, and promote a sense of shared responsibility in preventing such tragedies in the future.”

On his part, Senator Dafinone requested the Senate to show some concerns in handling the situation. According to him, if the matter is not carefully handled, it will lead to a further breakdown of law and order.

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“We need to commiserate with the people of Okuama community over the loss of lives of some of the innocent indigenes in the unfortunate incident.

“I, therefore, plead with the President, defence headquarters and the chief of defence staff to please temper justice with mercy and not punish an entire community of Okuama for the sins of a few unscrupulous elements.”

In his contribution, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Barau Jibrin (APC, Kano North), said: “What happened is despicable, It is inhuman and it is something that cannot be accepted. We need to commiserate with the Nigerian Armed Forces and, indeed, the entire nation, to condole with the immediate families of the fallen heroes and the Nigerian military for what happened.

“These were men trained by the Nigerian government and huge resources were spent on them to defend the territorial integrity of this country and keep us safe as a nation.

“Now, they were killed for no reason; not at a time of conflict, not at the war front, they were just murdered in the worst fashion you can think about.

“It should be condemned, what happened is inhuman and no stone should be left unturned in trying to find out the culprits and they must face justice and this should never happen again in this country.

“The military is doing its best, trying to deal with kidnappers, bandits and a host of other challenges, to make us safe and now some people decided to murder these people and I believe it is something we should all condemn and proffer solutions too.”

Similarly, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Defence and immediate past president of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe North), said the killing of the military personnel is an assault on the security and stability of the Niger Delta.

Lawan, who expressed sadness at the number of lives lost and properties destroyed, following the crisis between Okuama and Okoloba communities, called on the military and security agencies to take urgent action to investigate the killings, bring the perpetrators to justice and restore peace and order to the area.

Lawan urged the people of Okuama community to provide useful information that will lead to arrest of culprits behind the heinous act.

Also yesterday, Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of Delta State said the state is managing the tension occasioned by the alleged reprisal attacks over the killing of 16 soldiers and officers at Okuama, Delta State.

The governor, who briefed President Bola Tinubu on the killing of the military personnel at Aso Rock, Abuja, also said the situation is under control, assuring that there will be no more attacks in the communities involved.

Briefing State House correspondents after meeting President Tinubu, the governor declined to confirm the report of reprisal attacks allegedly carried out by the military and the number of casualties, saying that being a security issue, there were certain things he could not say in public.

Oborevwori said he met with the security heads in Bomadi on Monday but noted that he had been able to meet with the community involved because the place of the incident was completely deserted.

He said: “You know the happenings in Delta State since 14th of this month and it is necessary for me to brief the commander-in-chief and that’s what I’ve come to do, the full details of what happened.

“People may not have knowledge of what we’re doing since I came on board. Since last year, we’ve been enjoying peace in Delta State and we commend all the security agencies, but an unfortunate thing happened last week that people who don’t have the knowledge have started talking.

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

“When this unfortunate thing happened, it was very sad because Delta State is governed within the tenets of the rule of law and decency.

‘’So what happened is not in line with what we’re doing in Delta State because I have promised Deltans that I’m going to be governor for all Deltans and we’ve been enjoying peace and one of my MORE Agenda is that we’ll enhance peace and security, and that’s what we’ve been doing.

“So I decided to come here to brief Mr. President on all the things we’ve been doing to maintain peace and Mr President has assured me that he’s in support of the peace and we both condemned the killing of the officers and the soldiers because they were there on a peace mission.

“What is happening now is something that we did not bargain for, but we want to assure everybody that there’ll be no more attacks on the villages, if there’s been any that happened in the past… but we know that those who are culpable will be brought to book, but the innocent citizens will not be attacked.”

Asked to comment on the alleged reprisal attack, even though the military has denied any involvement, the governor said the issue was a security matter which should not be discussed in public.

He said: “When something as this happens, it’s not always easy to manage tension. Yesterday (Monday), I was in that local government, I was in Bomadi for a security meeting, to get full details and briefing.

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“So some of those issues are security issues that you can’t say publicly, that’s the truth, and we’re managing the situation. So the issue of whether a place has been burnt down or people have been killed, it has happened, but what is the way forward?

“The way forward is two-pronged: The people that have been killed, the officers and soldiers, we must see how we can find succour for their families and give them a befitting burial.

“Also, the community, anything that has happened in the community in the past will not happen again, we assure them, but the people who are culpable will be brought to book.

“As I said, we’re still on it, by the time I get back, I’ll get more details.”

Fielding questions on whether he has been able to meet with the community to ascertain the number of casualties recorded in the attack and the alleged reprisal attack by the military, the governor said: “First and foremost, the community people… the place has been deserted, so the issue of whether we’ve been able to see the community leaders does not arise.

“We’ve only got full briefing from the Army and we’re on it because this week, the traditional council is going to meet and discuss. I’m going to invite stakeholders, we’re on top of it.”

Further asked to give the number of people reported dead when he met with the military on Monday, he said: “You know the terrain of that place, the Okuama terrain, you must go by boat. Where I visited was Bomadi.

“As I said, we had a meeting yesterday with the security heads where the General Officer Commanding 6 Division was there, the JTF commander was in attendance. We’ve all agreed, all the security agencies are putting heads together, we’re on the same page to fish out the real culprits because innocent people will not suffer for nothing.

‘’They have assured us that no innocent person will be victimized.”

However, the military yesterday moved in swamp buggies to the besieged Okuama community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, in continuation of the ongoing razing of the community.

The two swamp buggies, which were off-loaded from trailer trucks onto barges at the Bomadi Police Division waterfront, were transported onward to the creeks.

A source, who spoke from a neighbouring community, disclosed that the heavy vehicles were seen transported on barges through their community waterways towards the direction of Okuama.

“Yes, I saw them passing through our river towards the direction of Okuama, they’re heavy machines but nobody can tell their mission there,” she said.

However, the chairman, Akugbene community in Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State, has been released from detention by men of the military Joint Task Force, JTF, Bomadi Division.

It was gathered that the community chairman and others who were detained Monday over the harbouring of the fleeing chairman of Okuama and other suspects, secured their release yesterday after producing the alleged perpetrators under the community’s custody.

The security situation at Bomadi and its environs is still tense, as armoured vehicles and men in uniform are seen at strategic locations in the town.

Investigate killing of soldiers in Delta, Reps tasks military

Similarly, the House of Representatives also yesterday mandated the Armed Forces of Nigeria to conduct a thorough and wholesome investigation into the circumstances that led to the killing of the military personnel.

This is even as a member of the House, Francis Waive (Delta, APC) at plenary, called on the military to abide by international engagement, stop burning of houses in the community and call for an end to reprisal attacks.

The House also in its resolution on the matter, urged the military to work with the relevant authorities to bring all perpetrators and their collaborators to book.

It further mandated its committees on defence to interface with the Armed Forces of Nigeria to ensure compliance and report to the House within four weeks.

The resolutions were sequel to a motion of urgent national importance moved by Babajimi Benson at plenary.

Moving the motion, Benson noted with deep sadness the needless and gruesome murder of 17 military personnel in Delta State on Thursday, March 14, 2024.

According to him, the military personnel were only responding to a distress call in their service to their fatherland when they were ambushed and killed.

He said the perpetrators of the heinous act did not only stop at killing the military personnel but also sacrilegiously debased their remains by ripping out their hearts and other body parts.

Speaking also on the motion Francis Waive said: “In as much as we condemn this act carried out in this community, we appeal to our military to observe some level of international engagement and put an end to the burning of the community.

The House then observed a minute silence in honour of the murdered military personnel and called on the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, to provide relief materials to those affected in the community. Flags fly at half-mast as the military begins a 3-day mourning.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of Nigeria, AFN, yesterday began three days of national mourning for the slain military personnel.

Consequently, flags were flown at half-mast in all military formations nationwide.

Sources said a signal to that effect was issued to all three Services – the Nigerian Army, Navy and Air Force.

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“A directive has been issued by the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, General Christopher Musa, to the three Services to that effect.

“From Monday, March 18, 2024, up till March 20, 2024, all colours, (flags) are to be flown at half-mast in honour of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, AFN, personnel killed in action, KIA.”

Civil society groups call for unbiased investigation

Reacting to the killing of the military personnel yesterday, civil society groups called for an unbiased investigation to unravel the mysteries and indubitable truths around it, adding that a petition written by the community to the state government before the incident should be revisited.

Coordinator of a group Justice for Communities in Niger Delta, JCND, Prince Desmond Charles, recalled that in the petition signed by the President-General of Okuoma community, Mr James Oghoroko, and the Secretary-General, Bernard Esegba, dated February 2, 2024, a prominent member of a neighbouring community had allegedly set up a dreaded militia group which unleashed mayhem in Okuama community.

They also alleged that the prominent member of the neighbouring community had orchestrated the alleged brutal murder of some persons in the Okuoma community.

JCND coordinator said a look at the petition, which was also copied Delta State Commissioner of Police would help the investigation to some extent on mysteries around the sad incident.

“I will not say much. Security operatives should go back to that petition. It will help the investigation a lot. I condemn the killing of the soldiers,’’ he said.

Also, Comrade Derrick Oritsematosan Agberen, National Coordinator, No Justice, No Peace Initiative, appealed to the military to stop further attacks on properties in the Okuama community.

“In as much as we condemn the attack and share in the grief of the Nigerian Army, the Presidency and authorities of the Nigeria Army shouldn’t use that as a ploy to descend and wreak havoc on the people,’’ he said.

RULAAC appeals against revenge, indescriminste actions on innocent civilians

The Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, RULAAC, also yesterday, appealed against reprisals on communities, saying, a repeat of the sad events of the days of President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007) when the military destroyed communities in Odi and Zaki Biam for killing soldiers must be avoided.

RULAAC in a statement by Okechukwu Nwanguma, its Executive Director, said in a statement: “RULAAC condemns the barbaric decapitation and disembowelment of the killed soldiers by the killers. RULAAC welcomes the resolve of the military authorities to investigate and bring the culprits to book.

“Delta State government must, as well, go beyond condemnation of this tragedy and ensure a thorough investigation of the root causes of the communal dispute and clashes that necessitated military intervention and unfortunately culminated in the ambush and deadly attacks and killing of the soldiers.

“All the perpetrators, and others directly or remotely linked to the crisis that resulted in the dastardly killing of the soldiers must be arrested, investigated, and if found culpable, tried by the law. They must be made to bear the full weight of the law if convicted.

“We appeal to the military to end reprisals on communities. A repeat of the sad events of the days of President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007) when the military destroyed communities in Odi and Zaki Biam for killing soldiers must be avoided.

“We recall that after the military’s violent reprisal attack on the town of Odi in Bayelsa State in November 1999, the community took legal action against the Nigerian government.

“They sued the federal government for the destruction of their homes, properties, and the loss of their lives in the attack.

“In June 2013, the court awarded a monetary compensation of N37.6 billion (about USD 98 million) to the people of Odi for the damages done by the military during the attack.

“However, the government of Nigeria under President Olusegun Obasanjo, refused to pay the compensation to the community and appealed the judgment.

“The case remained in legal limbo for years, with the government not paying the compensation, despite several court orders.

“It is unclear if the people of Odi have received the monetary compensation awarded them by the Federal High Court. Innocent civilians and their properties must at all times be protected.

They must never be made to suffer for the atrocities of a few deviants in the community.

“Military reprisals that result in the killing of civilians are not an acceptable practice under the rules of engagement.

“The rules of engagement are designed to ensure that military operations are conducted in a manner that upholds human rights principles and respects the lives and dignity of all individuals. “Military reprisals are often regarded as an act of revenge, which brings into question the legality of the action.

“The use of force must always be proportional and limited to what is necessary to achieve a legitimate military objective.

“The indiscriminate use of force that results in the killing of civilians is a violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

“Therefore, it is important for the military to ensure that it does not descend to the level of criminals.

“It must ensure that its operations are conducted in compliance with the rules of engagement, which require that the use of force be proportional, necessary, and discriminate.

“The military must uphold its duty to protect civilians, and not take part in acts of reprisal or any other form of violence against innocent civilians.’’...READ FULL ARTICLE

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