JUST IN: Slain soldiers to get national honour, befitting burial – Tinubu

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu yesterday promised that the 17 military men who lost their lives while on a peace mission in Okuama, Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, would get a befitting burial and national honours....READ FULL ARTICLE

President Tinubu spoke during a special Ramadan Iftar (Muslim breaking of fast) with Vice-President Kashim Shettima and House of Representatives leadership, including Speaker Tajudeen Abbas.

He again expressed his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and pledged that the sacrifices of the fallen heroes will never be in vain.

The President said: ‘’In responding to distress calls they met the end of their lives in a savage manner. Let us work to sympathise and symbolise the fact that they are worth the sacrifices they have made for Nigeria.

‘’We salute all our men and women in uniform, and we sympathise with them. I will soon make further pronouncements but they must have a befitting burial and national honours.’’

The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also condemned the gruesome killing of the soldiers and commiserated with the Nigerian government.

It called on the authorities “to carry out a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding the gruesome murder of the soldiers and apprehend the perpetrators with the view to bringing them to justice.

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“The Commission urges the communities to eschew all forms of violence and employ pacific means to resolve their differences and maintain communal harmony in the overall interest of all”.

Delta State Governor Sheriff Oborevwori and policemen have not gained access into Okuama Ughelli South Local Government Area because of an ongoing military operation in the troubled community, the state Police Commissioner Abaniwonda Olufemi said.

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“Since that incident (killing of officers and men of the Nigerian Army in Okuoma) happened, it has become what I call a military operation zone. We have not been able to move into that community,” Olufemi told a national television station yesterday.

Four officers and 13 soldiers were ambushed and killed a week ago by youths suspected to be indigenes of the Ijaw community.

The soldiers were said to have gone to Okuama to settle a land dispute between the community and its neighbour, Okoloba.

Olufemi added that “few individuals who have been brought in” were being quizzed over the killings.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who on Sunday expressed deep concern over the killings had directed the Chief of Army Staff to immediately arrest the perpetrators.

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Before visiting the President on Tuesday over the development, Governor Oborevwori confirmed to reporters that the troubled community had been deserted.

Giving an insight into the face-off between the two communities, the Police commissioner said his command has not been missing in action.

Olufemi explained that he would need clearance before deploying police operatives in Okuama since it is now a military zone.

He said: “We have been on the ground, we have been supportive and we have not been missing in action. In the Okuoma incident, we have an ongoing military operation there. We are working in conjunction with other security agencies and I can assure you that we are making progress.

“The situation in the general Okuama area, not just the communities, is calm for now. Most of the places are deserted.

“The Okuama and Okoloba communities have been having perennial disputes over fishing rights. The unfortunate incident happened when military officers went on peacekeeping. Since that incident happened, it has become what I call a military operation zone.

“We have not been able to move into this community. Of course, it is our responsibility as the primary line of defence in internal security. But when you have another sister agency conducting an operation, the reasonable thing to do is to wait for them to finish.

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“We have not been able to get into Okuama because of the volatile nature of what is going on around that environment.

“I might not be able to accurately respond to these questions [if buildings were torched or more civilian casualties have occurred, but what is important to note is that these things are ongoing. We must seek to be collaborative.

“For us to get to Okoloba or Okuama, we must get clearance from a military theatre commander or the operation commander so that any police operative deployed would not be hurt.”

On the possibility of deploying drones by the Police, Olufemi said: “When this situation happened, the main perpetrators disappeared into the creeks and to other states. Delta shares boundaries by the waterways with several states.

“A few individuals who have been brought in are being questioned. The manhunt is on. It is a collaborative responsibility and engagement. For now, our drones are not deployed in that environment.”...READ FULL ARTICLE

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