Niger Delta Leaders to FG: Pull Army out of Okuama, other Delta, Bayelsa communities

ASABA – Monarchs, retired security officers, clerics, and activists in the Niger Delta, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to direct the Army to withdraw its siege to the embattled Okuama community in Ughelli South Local Government Area, Delta State to avert losses of more lives and douse tension in the oil region.

They also asked the criminals who killed 17 military personnel and snatched their weapons on March 14 at Okuama to devise a means to return the arms and ammunition to the appropriate authorities.

The stakeholders, who observed that the Army had no business going to Okuama for peace talks over a communal dispute between two communities, suggested the Federal Government sets up an independent commission of inquiry to find out what really happened at Okuama and how to avoid a recurrence.

The leaders also advised government to withdraw soldiers from other communities in Delta and Bayelsa states. Those who spoke include the traditional ruler of Kabowei Kingdom in Delta State, HRM (Barr) Shadrach Peremobowei Erebulu, Aduo III; Wing Commander Patrick Biakpara, retd; Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Bomadi, Most Rev. Hyacinth Oroko Egbebo, and environmentalist, Comrade Alagoa Morris.

Others are the Co-convener, of Embasara Foundation, an Ijaw Think-Tank for Good Governance; Iniruo Wills; ex-Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, president, Eric Omare; and the governorship candidate of Labour Party in the last elections in Bayelsa State, Engr. Udengs Eradiri.

The Nigerian Army had since March 15, a day after the lawbreakers killed a lieutenant colonel, two majors, and others at Okuama, laid siege to the community and other neighbouring communities in search of the killers.

Villagers, including women and children, had since fled Okuama and are stranded in the forests for over a week without food, as neighbouring communities, afraid of persecution by prowling soldiers, denied them shelter.

Army has no business with peace talks– Wing Commander Biakpara, retd

Retired Air Force officer, Wing Commander P.Y. Biakpara, said: “I am a military man and there are rules of engagement. Things start from the police and it is only when the situation goes beyond the police that the army is rarely called upon. If there is any small issue, one person will run to the army checkpoint and soldiers will go there, nonsense! That means our army has nothing to do!

“I am not happy about what happened at Okuama and I sympathize with the families of the lost heroes, as well as innocent civilian lives lost in this issue. I’m not happy about the whole thing.

“The government should be well advised that they should not use the military in this wrong way, they are using the military very, very carelessly. The military is not made to make peace, and even if they make peace, they will kill people to make that peace.

“They do not negotiate to make peace. To negotiate, they call in other people, so the military is misused, and we are paying the price for misusing the military.

“Of the military that I know, losing a weapon is the worst thing and they will go after those who took their weapons till they reach the end of the earth.

“So, my advice to the perpetrators is the more you keep their weapons, the more there will be problems and the weapons should be returned, even if it means returning them in such a way that they are not properly identified, let them return the weapons.”

Return arms, ammunition– HRM Erebulu, Kabowei monarch

The Pere (traditional ruler) of Kabowei Kingdom in Patani Local Government Area, Delta State, HRM (Barr) Shadrach Peremobowei Erebulu, Aduo III, said: “It is a sad incident that we never envisaged in our dear state that has been peaceful.

“My advice first goes to the youths involved in this incident, and I plead with them to return the military weapons to the appropriate authorities because their actions have caused innocent persons to lose their lives and habitation.

“When things like this happen, most times it is not even the perpetrators that feel the impact, it is innocent people in the community that become victims.

“So, I would call on the youths that have carted away the military items to submit them to the appropriate authorities.

“To the military, I urge them to employ their tactics in investigating and fishing out these persons. I know the military has a way they go about things, their intelligence. In doing that, let them be wary of attacking or hurting innocent persons because at times like this, you may not know the perpetrators.

“If innocent persons are affected, it turns the whole ball around, so they should not cause more problems in the communities.

“To the Federal Government, almost all parastatals and agencies have spoken on this issue that they would do their best to fish out the perpetrators. My advice to government is to walk the talk, and bring the needed peace in the area.

“The Federal Government should pay attention and set up a commission of inquiry to inquire into the happenings and causes of this ugly incident in Okuama community to bring justice to the people. At this stage, when we talk about justice, it is justice to the government, military; and people, which can only be achieved after proper investigation through the commissions of inquiry.’’

Requires watchful appraisal byunbiased minds – Bishop Egbebo

Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Bomadi, Most Rev. Hyacinth Oroko Egbebo, said: “This unfortunate incident has come about as a result of several years of our people having to grapple with the painful issues of being abandoned by the government in all spheres of life.

“Although the main problem of these two communities, that is, Okuama and Okoloba, has to do with the festering issue of land grabbing by settlers, it is more because of lack of development of this region. There are no roads, electricity, health facilities, and proper schools here.

“The presence of a lively social life and modern amenities as found in other parts of Nigeria, would have profitably distracted our youths from engaging the military in war-like activities. They would have been more preoccupied with relevant issues that relate to living life in a more civil manner like their counterparts in other parts of Nigeria, rather than this unfortunate and primitive way of life.

“Therefore, the way forward entails a careful study of the situation by unbiased minds and persons; and for the government to proactively develop this place. There is a lot of protest against oppression by the government on the grounds of lack of development of this place, despite the huge contribution to the economy from here and the lack of justice regarding the frustrating land grabbing scenario here.”

Why soldiers should quit – Morris, environmentalist

Environmentalist, Comrade Alagoa Morris, told Vanguard in Bayelsa State: “As a concerned citizen and stakeholder in our collective interest, I will say the military should pull out of all the communities currently occupied both in Delta and Bayelsa states to ease tension and allow law-abiding Nigerians in those communities go about their means of livelihood.

“The federal and state governments should work together to get back the military guns taken by the killers and arrest the culprits by deploying intelligence gathering mechanisms. The dead soldiers and community folks sadly are gone forever. This is the reality.

‘’We should not commit a collective crime by allowing the military to kill more persons, especially law-abiding citizens, via bullet or starvation. Already, there are stories that those who ran into the bushes or still in the communities on restricted conditions are facing starvation.

‘’Rather than the military, the Civil Defence and Police (with intelligence from the Department of State Services, DSS) should be in the communities temporarily until investigations are concluded.

“The situation also requires speedy investigation and information gathering. Getting to the root of the matter is also very important, especially the actual reasons for the military’s visit to Okuama, and also identifying culprits (the killers of civilians and soldiers at Okuama) and bringing them to book to serve as a deterrent.

The state and federal governments should take steps on the above quickly and ensure law-abiding Nigerians of those communities are not made scapegoats. Punishing the innocent for crimes committed by another is injustice.”

Tinubu should identify national, N-Delta interests – Wills

Similarly, Co-convener, Embasara Foundation, an Ijaw Think-Tank for Good Governance, Iniruo Wills, said: “First, our hearts are with all grieving families. The big question is whether Nigeria even cares to avoid multiplying the number of grieving families.

‘’There are no easy answers, simply because both the federal government and the Niger Delta have found themselves in this tragic vicious circle due to a mutual poverty of quality leadership, strategy, and critical thinking, continuing for over 25 years now.

“Investigations should be conducted under wide inter-service collaboration, but it seems to me, not being a security expert, that the Office of the National Security Adviser must be the coordinator.

“The immediate targets should be for the truth to come out in full, not ethnically or otherwise, tainted fractions of it, and for all direct and remote culprits and masterminds to be duly prosecuted.

“A judicial panel can be set up too, consisting of serving or retired appellate justices who are not stained by credible perceptions of bias or corruption.

“But if we must break Nigeria’s evil official trajectory of Umuechem, Ogoni, Odi, Okerenkoko, and Okuama, then the President, as the symbol of our national brain, is strongly advised to start mentally from a remorseful admission of prolonged policy failure, and then lead a national effort to define and pursue two things that Nigeria lacks.

“Among other vitals, a sensible national interest and a coherent Niger Delta policy, ‘sensible’ and ‘coherent’ being the keywords. So far, both concepts have been myopically misconstrued as synonymous with mineral ‘extra activism’.

‘’No country should be made to look so daft for so long. President Tinubu, while chasing the killers, should not waste the glaring long-term lessons from this tragedy, please.”

The problem is lack of political will – Omare, ex-IYC president

Also former IYC president, Eric Omare, said: “The solution to preventing inter-communal crisis from resulting into a regional crisis is for state governments to be proactive, firm, and demonstrate political will.

“The blame for the unfortunate situation we have at hand, first should go to Delta State Government. The state government from the era of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa till the present governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, has not been proactive and firm. They prioritize politics over lives and security.

“I will give you an example. There has been an inter-communal crisis between Ogbe-Ijoh and Aladja communities, which like the Okuama and Okoloba situation, for over a decade. Tens of lives were lost, properties worth millions were destroyed and socio-economic activities rendered comatose and the land involved is just a few hectares.

‘’Various commissions of inquiry have been set up and recommendations made but Delta State Government lacks the political will to implement any of them. Lack of political will and direction led to the unfortunate situation at Okuama.

‘’So moving forward, Delta State Government and other state governments all over the federation should take the issue of security very seriously.

“Secondly, those who killed soldiers at Okuama are criminals and should be treated as such. I am of the view that the military should go after them, get them, and retrieve the guns. They should be made to face the law to serve as deterrent to others.

“Again, I would also advise that the military needs to be proactive in the area of prevention of crimes. There are known militants who seize territories and use them for their criminal activities and nothing has been done about them, and it is such people that have now become a great threat to national security.

Military should stop killing innocent people – Eradiri, LP guber candidate

On his part, the governorship candidate of the Labour Party in the last elections in Bayelsa State, Engr. Udengs Eradiri, said: “The Federal Government should strengthen the capacity of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, to join the police in handling communal issues. The military has no business in handling any internal dispute.

“The world is watching how the military will handle the incident and the military must show maturity by ensuring that only individuals connected directly or indirectly to the killings are affected by their actions.

‘’The military must resist the temptation of attacking innocent people, and communities and killing people who know nothing about the incident. This is the time to deploy a high level of intelligence in identifying, arresting, and dealing with only the perpetrators.

‘’Nobody involved in this pogrom should be spared. While seeking justice for the deceased, I also call on the military to carry out a thorough and unbiased investigation.

Tinubu should take a cue from Yar’Adua – Adima, political activist

A political activist, Blessing Adima, told Vanguard: “At the peak of militancy in the Niger Delta, which resulted in low oil production, it was people like Chief Edwin Clark, former President Goodluck Jonathan, and the governor of Delta State who went into the creeks and spoke to aggrieved Niger Deltans, and the people bought into the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, by President Musa Yar’Adua.

“The best way to handle the issue is for President Bola Tinubu to take a cue from how President Musa Yar’Adua handled the situation because if it escalates, it will cause more economic hardship in the country.

“Again, an independent panel of investigation should be set up to investigate the root cause of this matter, so that where the parties are wrong, they should be called to order.

“Soldiers should not be the first to be drafted anywhere there is crisis in Nigeria. The federal government has in recent years, approved the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, which has to carry out a community issue like this.

Delta govt fumbled – Ewansiha-Thomas – political analyst

A political analyst and founder of People Volunteer Group in Edo State, Mikiste Ewansiha-Thomas, said: “First, the federal government must ensure that others do not copy this act of infamy, so it should go after the perpetrators of this heinous crime and ensure they are brought to justice.”

“I understand that some low-intensity action is going on in the area, you know, of course, I am worried about collateral damage, which is unavoidable with this type of thing.

“It is incumbent on the military to retrieve lost ammunition. That is why the operation will spread with the intelligence they get as to where they are, so when you hear that people have been arrested, it does not mean the exact culprits were arrested.

‘’It may be people who are accessories to what the military intelligence think can give them information. They are not enemy combatants but those who can help the investigation can be arrested to fish out information and released later.

“The governor of Delta State and the former government did not do enough. The chairmen of Ughelli-South and Bomadi local government areas with the governor have incumbent liabilities.

“Because the governor is the chief security officer, the governor has many explanations to make. He must perform to ensure that these warring communities do not fight anymore, and settle their disputes, but for what they have done so far, justice, must be done.”

Okuama killings: Army urges cooperation of communities to recover stolen rifles

In a related development, the Army yesterday appealed to communities in Delta State to assist with information that will help recover stolen weapons of soldiers after their brutal murder in Okuama.

The General Officer Commanding 6 Division, Nigerian Army/Land Component Commander, Joint Task Force, South South, Operation DELTA STATE, Major General Jamal Abdussalam, made the appeal in a statement by Lieutenant-Colonel Danjuma Jonah Danjuma, Acting Deputy Director 6 Division Army Public Relations.

He assured that the military operation at Okuama would be done, in line with international best practices.
The GOC said part of their mandate was to recover the stolen arms of the slain soldiers and arrest those behind the killings.

“The mission handed to troops by the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Taoreed Lagbaja, is basically to recover the weapons carted away by the perpetrators of this heinous crime and ensure that all those involved are arrested. Troops will remain in the creeks until these objectives are achieved.”

Do not repeat Odi experience-UPU youths

However, the youth wing of Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, has enjoined the military not to re-enact the Odi experience in Bayelsa State when the military completely levelled the place after some security personnel were killed in the community several years ago.

The youth group in a statement by its Legal Adviser, Princess Omeyoma Eshemitan, said the military should respect the rules of engagement and law in its operations in the community, stressing that anyone arrested should enjoy the rights to fair hearing.

IYC denies alleged plans to attack military facilities, locations

Also yesterday, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Worldwide, described as mischievous reports that IYC, under the leadership of Sir Jonathan Lokpobiri, Snr, was planning a coordinated attack on military facilities and locations across the Niger Delta, in response to the ongoing military operations in the region.

Spokesman of the group, Amb Binebai Princewill, said in a statement that the group was wondering where the misleading information came from, as the IYC had openly via a press statement signed its spokesman on Monday, March 18, 2024, condemned in strong terms the killings of the 17 military personnel.

The statement read: “The attention of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Worldwide has been drawn to a maliciously written and circulating publication that the IYC under the firm leadership of Sir Jonathan Lokpobiri, Snr, is planning a coordinated attack on military facilities and locations across the Niger Delta.

‘’To us, this is not only false but also a lie emanating from the pit of hell, this is an evil taken too far by mischief makers and enemies of the region and Ijaw nation.

“Council would have ignored the said publication but for the times we are in. It is very key and important that we make clear to the military that the IYC has no issue with the military, let alone attacking them.

“The IYC press statement condemning the killing of soldiers was widely publicized by almost all national dailies and credible online news outlets across the country, stating the position of the Ijaw Youth Council on the matter.
‘’Council also urged the military to go after only criminal elements and not let innocent people pay for a sin they did not commit by ensuring that they do not go beyond the rules of engagement.

“This position was further amplified by the President of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Worldwide, Sir Jonathan Lokpobiri, Snr, who granted a live interview wherein he condemned the barbaric attack on the military officers.
“For the sake of emphasis, Ijaw Youth Council is warning mischief makers to steer clear of the IYC as we are tasking Nigerians to disseminate only true and credible information to the public.’’

Pull Army out of Okuama, other Delta, Bayelsa

The situation is very dicey; govt. cannot just give in to such outrageous demands and yet, lives of the victims are at stake. I think govt. should negotiate with the kidnappers and at the same time, secretly mandate the relevant security agencies to carry out speedy operations in rescuing the abducted. Then security should be beefed up in volatile areas to prevent situations like this.

—Dr Umukoro Andrew, Medical Doctor

We have been handling these threats with kid gloves, we have been calling the perpetrators names but whatever we do, you can see that, within the last few months, these criminals have become more daring, bolder and they really have no respect for any level of authority – cultural, religious, military or political. They just do what they will and dare who they will. Are the perpetrators above the law? Government at all levels should be sincere in tackling insecurity.

—Blessing Sunday,Businesswoman

In my opinion, these problems are not as intractable as they seem. Some people are just cashing in on our weaknesses. It’s a simple thing, if you do not meet madness with equal or more madness, nothing will happen. As it is often said, no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it, you have to rise above it.

—Miracle Joy, Teacher

It is so glaring that there
are some powerful Nigerians behind some of the attacks in all these states. Recently, the Minister of Solid Minerals made similar reference that some powerful Nigerians are behind some of these activities, particularly in the mining area. Then some people spoke about lack of political will to deal with insecurity. Where are we going in this country?
—Olamide Alli, Caterer

Govt. has to be ruthless with those behind these kidnappings and anybody who cannot provide a solution should just step aside. We have had enough. In the eight years of Buhari, over 17,000 people were said to have been killed while thousands were abducted and in the last eight months, we have lost thousands of people and the numbers are not reducing. The bottom line is, we have to lock horns with those behind insecurity in our nation and we have to break horns.

—Shaba Lucky, Engineer


Recommended For You

About the Author: Citypost

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *