Delta, Bayelsa: Soldiers Killed, Military Searches Creeks for Perpetrators

Delta, Bayelsa: Soldiers Killed, Military Searches Creeks for Perpetrators.

Uneasy calm pervaded the coastal districts of the Bayelsa and Delta states yesterday as stern-looking armed soldiers combed the creeks of the two states in search of the killers of 16 soldiers of the Nigerian Army suspected to have been murdered  by youths of Okuama community in Ughelli South local government area of Delta State on Thursday.

Apparently to underscore the seriousness of the assignment, fresh troops have been deployed in the areas, especially the troubled scenes and other adjoining Ijaw and Urhobo communities in the two neighbouring states.

Business and other normal life’d activities were paralysed in the areas under surveillance by the troops.

Impeccable security sources told LEADERSHIP that six gunboats were also deployed in the exercise.

The gunboats were stationed at the jetty of Okuama community, obviously to tame the recalcitrant youths.

Already, LEADERSHIP gathered that military authorities have penciled down the names of the hoodlums responsible for the dastardly act for arrest.

LEADERSHIP recalls that 16 soldiers, including the commanding officer of 181 Amphibious Battalion, Bomadi, a Lt. Col, two army majors, an Army Captain and 12 other personnel, who were on peacekeeping mission in Okuama community were ambushed killed in yet unclear circumstances, on Thursday.

The headless corpses of 14 of the fallen soldiers were recovered from the waters of Okuama community on Saturday evening.

Screenshot 2024 03 18 061323

It was further gathered that the bodies of the soldiers were dismembered by youths.

The Chief of Army Staff (CoAS), Lt. Taoreed Lagbaja is expected to visit the scene today (Monday), obviously to appraise the situation and evaluate the efforts aimed at apprehending the miscreants.

LEADERSHIP gathered that the military in extending the search for the hoodlums beyond Okuama creeks and were working on the information that those involved in the heinous crimes had fled to various communities in Bayelsa and Delta states, in order to escape arrest.

Specifically, a suspected ring leader of the killer squad, whose mother reportedly hailed from Okuama community, was reported to have fled to his paternal community in Bayelsa state.

Okuama community was deserted yesterday.

Indigenes have relocated to safe havens outside the troubled community, for fear of being caught up in the reprisal invasion by the troops.

Unconfirmed reports also revealed that some indigenes of the community were killed as the reinforcement of a combined team of the various units of the armed forces arrived in the community on Saturday.

Traditional ruler of the area, the Urhukpe of Ewu-Urhobo, HRM, Clement Ikolo is reported to have relocated to Asaba, the state capital.

Angry troops were reported to have torched a few buildings suspected to be owned by the suspected killers of the soldiers.

A reliable source in the military circles said, “We now have sufficient numbers of men (troops) on ground in Okuama and its environs to effect the arrest of the killers of our officers and soldiers.

“We have six gunboats by the jetty of Okuama and we are combing the neighbouring creeks of Bayelsa and Delta States for the killers, who had already fled to areas they considered as safe havens.

“But we must apprehend them. Their leader, whose mother is from Okuama, has fled to his paternal community in Bayelsa state. We must get him and his accomplices. They can’t waste that number of officers and men and go scot-free,” added our source, who pleaded that his name should not be mentioned in print.

The director, Defence Information, Brigadier General Tukur Gusau, had, in a statement confirming the dastardly act on Saturday, said the Chief of Defence Staff, General CG Musa, had ordered the immediate arrest and investigation of all those involved.

Killing Of Soldiers Won’t Be Tolerated, Tinubu Warns

President Bola Tinubu has strongly condemned the killing of 16 Nigerian soldiers, including a commanding officer and other senior ranks, who were ambushed while on a peace mission to Okuoma community in Delta State.

“We will not accept this wicked act,” Tinubu stated firmly in a statement on Sunday.

The tragedy occurred on Thursday when troops responding to a crisis between the Okuama and Okoloba communities were attacked by yet unidentified perpetrators.

Tinubu declared that the ambush that killed the soldiers, including two majors, one captain, and 12 other troops, as well as one civilian, amounted to “a direct attack on our nation.”

He praised the “heroism, courage and uncommon grit and patriotism” of the fallen men, and vowed that the “cowardly offenders responsible for this heinous crime will not go unpunished.”

He revealed the military high command was already responding, and the Defence Headquarters had been granted full authority to bring anyone involved to justice.

“Any attack on our armed forces is a direct attack on our nation. We will not accept this wicked act. My government will not relent until we achieve peace and tranquility in every part of Nigeria,” he said.

The president joined all Nigerians in mourning their death and commiserated with the families and colleagues of the fallen.

Clark, PANDEF, Lawmaker Demand Probe

The national leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, has condemned the recent killing of military officers and men in Delta State.

He called for a full investigation, insisting that all culprits must be brought to book as quickly as possible.

A statement by PANDEF yesterday said the Clark and PANDEF “received with shock and total condemnation the killing of senior military officers and soldiers at Okuama Community, Ughelli South local government area of Delta on Saturday, 14th March, 2024.

“The elder statesman is personally pained by the fact that this occurred barely two days after he had spoken with the Commander Officer of 181 Battalion in connection with preparations for the burial of his younger brother, Colonel Bernard Clark (retired), who was buried just on Friday, 15th March, 2024.”

PANDEF urged the Nigerian Army and other security personnel around the country to continue with their great national service and not to be deterred by this present sad development.

Meanwhile, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Bomadi/Patani federal constituency of Delta state, Hon Nicholas Mutu and Urhobo Media Practitioners Advocacy Group (UMPAG) have disagreed over Thursday’s killing of 16 soldiers in Okuama community, Ughelli South local government area of the state.

While Mutu condemned the killing, which he linked to some irate youths of Okuama community, an Urhobo enclave in Ughelli, and further described the action as “barbaric and inhuman,” UMPAG has urged parties involved in the communal crisis to refrain from making unguarded statements so as not to fuel the crisis.

Mutu, who is the chairman of the Gas Committee in the House and chairman of the Southern Nigeria Caucus in the House, made his position on the tragic incident known in a statement issued by his media office on Sunday.

The lawmaker, however, frowned at the distortion of facts of the incident in a section of the press, which linked the fate of the soldiers to Ijaw militias in Okoloba, an Ijaw community in Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta state.

“This is far from the truth of the incident. The Ijaw is not in any way linked or connected to this unjustifiable barbaric and inhuman and condemnable act.

“The facts of the matter are with all appropriate security agencies and they are in fact in the public domain. The indigenes of Okuama are responsible for these senseless killings. Two contingents of troops of Nigerian Army who were deployed separately on peace keeping mission in Okuama, particularly to investigate the killing of an Okoloba boy, were ambushed and wilfully murdered in cold-blood in Okuama.”

“Their headless and dismembered remains were recovered in the waters of Okuama Community, which is the scene of the crime.

“It’s therefore callous to link the Ijaw to this heinous crime, which is a national embarrassment. It’s wrong for a section of the press to link the innocent Ijaw people to this crime and I seize this medium to debunk such irresponsible reports on the incident.

“I condemn the reports linking the Ijaw with this crime and call on the authors of such falsehood to retract them and apologise to the Ijaw nation, forthwith.”

But UMPAG, in a reaction signed by Mr. Okpare Theophilus, secretary, and Mr. Onitsha Ogaga Shedrack, executive member, they called on the Delta State government and the Nigerian Army to urgently constitute a joint panel of enquiry to unravel what led to the killing of the soldiers on the said peace mission to Okuama and Okoloba communities.

“From information available to us, we demand that the panel probe the following areas: What was the true mission of the soldiers to Okuama and Okoloba communities? Was the Ovie (King) of Ewu Kingdom and her subjects informed of the military visit on a peace mission?, Was the governor of Delta State, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, informed of the Peace mission?*

Others are: why did the situation report come from DPO Bomadi, and not DPO Otu-Jeremi? Why would the military, stationed in Bomadi, embark on a “peace” mission to Okuama in Ughelli South, without the involvement of DPO Jeremi, and local government officials? Why was the military “peace” mission escorted by Ijaw youths?

Again, they asked: how come civilian members of the peace mission survived to tell the story, yet no military man survived? If the king, PG, DPO Jeremi, LG officials were not involved, who were those to sign the peace accord? Why did the situation report come from DPO Bomadi and not DPO Otu-Jeremi? Where did the community source such sophisticated weapons to wage such war against the military men? Why were the police, DSS and other sister security agencies not involved in the military peace mission to Okuama?

UMPAG also asked why the military peace mission was only for Okuama community. From the reports, the bodies of the slain military personnel were recovered from the Forcados River. Who dumped the bodies in the river?

They queried if Okuama and Okoloba were at war for 16 soldiers to be gruesomely killed in less than 24 hours.

Obi Condemns Reprisal Military Attacks, Says Two Wrongs Can’t Make A Right


Chibuzor Ukaibe, Abuja

Meanwhile, presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 election, Mr Peter Obi, yesterday said the disturbing reports of the Delta community being under arson attack is as unpalatable and wrong-headed as the killing of security personnel who were on a peacekeeping mission in the community.

Obi, who cautioned that two wrongs cannot make a right, said the reported reprisal arson attacks on the community cannot compensate for the original wrong of the killing of the soldiers.

Reacting on his X handle, Obi said he had earlier added his voice to that of other Nigerians in condemning in the strongest terms the mindless killing of security personnel who were on a peacekeeping mission in a community in Delta State.

He continued, “The act remains censured and accursed by all right thinking Nigerians. However, the emerging disturbing reports of the community being under arson attack is equally unpalatable and wrong-headed.”

According to him, reprisal arson attacks on the community cannot compensate for the original wrong of the killing of the soldiers.

“It is most likely that innocent lives will be lost in these reprisal attacks and innocent citizens who had no hand in the ugly crimes may be rendered homeless by the wanton destruction of the community. The correct and civilized thing to do is to put all machinery in place to apprehend the real perpetrators of the original, ignoble act and bring them to book.

“As painful as the act may be, I appeal to the security agencies to be considerate and avoid transferring their anger to hapless members of the community. I have also learnt that the government of Delta State had been on top of this situation before it escalated.

“I urge the governor not to relent but to put in more effort to ensure minimal damage. In this regard, he needs the involvement of all community leaders to calm the nerves,” Obi said.

He consoled all the bereaved in the unfortunate incident and prayed God to grant the souls of the departed eternal rest.



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