Okuama bloodbath: Avoiding another Odi!

Mar 18, 2024 | Press Releases

The news of the killing of 16 Nigerian Army personnel on a peace mission in Delta State is shocking and most saddening. The soldiers, including the Commanding Officer of 181 Amphibious Battalion, Lt Col AH Ali, two Majors and a Captain, who had responded to distress calls concerning a communal crisis between Okuama and Okoloba communities in Ughelli and Bomadi Local Government Areas, respectively, were ambushed, gruesomely murdered and had their bodies mutilated.

The National Association of Seadogs, Pyrates Confraternity (NAS/PC) condemns the barbaric murder of Nigerian soldiers and commiserates with the families of the slain soldiers and the Nigerian Army over this needless tragedy. Their deaths are a criminal affront on our collective will and must attract swift apprehension of those responsible, their swift prosecution and appropriate punishment, in the manner prescribed by our laws.

However, we implore the appropriate law enforcement authorities, especially the military to exercise caution in the quest to get justice for the fallen soldiers and adhere to due process and best practices. The temptation for violent reprisals and collective punishment by the colleagues of the dead soldiers is high, and therefore those supervising the operation to apprehend the suspected killers must ensure that their actions are lawful, proportionate and respectful of the human rights of the innocent and guilty alike.

Regrettably, reports of unlawful razing down of Okuama community; arbitrary arrests of people and harassment are already rife in the area. This is reminiscent of the fate that befell Odi in Kolokuma/ Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State in 1999 on the watch of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the community was razed to the ground after the killing of Policemen on peace mission. It is also akin to what is currently going on in Gaza where over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed so far by the Israel Defence Forces, IDF, in their quest to dislodge the terrorists group, Hamas from Gaza strip, for the atrocities committed on innocent and unsuspecting Israelis.  

The recourse to indiscriminate brute force would not only make innocent people of the area suffer because of the action of a few criminal elements, it will also diminish the deaths of the gallant soldiers. A clinical operation which is intelligence driven must be deployed to apprehend the culprits. 

More importantly, the federal government, in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders and without delay, must institute an independent probe to unravel the circumstances that led to the killing of the soldiers. This has become imperative following the recriminations between Urhobo and Ijaw leaders over the killings. The ethnic coloration being given to the killing by the Urhobo and Ijaw communities must be wholly rejected and the leaders of the two ethnic groups must desist from hasty, unguarded and inflammatory utterances capable of escalating tension in the area.

We urge community leaders in the area to demonstrate patriotism by enjoining their subjects to cooperate with the military authorities to identify the culprits for arrests to avoid collateral damage to the communities. Apprehending the killers must be a collective responsibility.

Abiola Owoaje
NAS Capoon


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