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DELTA SOLDIERS KILLING: Tinubu, Senate Order Manhunt For Killers


President Bola Tinubu and the Senate, on Sunday, ordered the military to apprehend the killers of 16 Nigerian Army personnel who were on a peace mission to the Okuama community in the Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State.

In carrying out the order, it was gathered on Sunday that the military combed the warring communities and arrested a lot of persons including three prime suspects, as the President declared that the Defence Headquarters and the Defence Chief had full authority to bring anybody responsible to justice.

Also, retired army generals and civil society organisations lambasted the killers of the soldiers and called for their apprehension and speedy prosecution in order to serve as a deterrent to other criminal elements.

Many residents of Okuama in the Ughelli South Local Government Area and Okolaba in the Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State, fled the communities on Friday, as soldiers took over the area after the killing of the Army personnel.

Mutilated bodies of the soldiers were recovered by the Joint Task Force under the supervision of the General Officer Commanding 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Major General Jamal Abdussalam, at the Okuama community.

A commanding officer, two Majors, one Captain, 12 soldiers, and one civilian lost their lives in the ambush on Thursday, March 14, 2024.

The neighbouring communities have been engaged in a communal land dispute since January 27, 2024, when some youths from Okoloba were said to have ambushed and killed three Okuama youths, Igho Meshack, Godspower Awusa, and Okiemute Agbabuleke, over an age-long land dispute in the area as they were returning from Okwagbe.

The corpses of the deceased were said to have been hidden by the assailants. Some Okuama youths on Wednesday reportedly ambushed one Mr Anthony Aboh, an indigene of Okoloba, and held him hostage.

The Chairman of the Okoloba community alerted the Divisional Police Officer, Bomadi Police Division, the Joint Task Force, the Department of State Service, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.

It was learnt that the JTF swiftly swung into action and moved to Okuama to rescue the hostage.

JTF personnel

However, the aggrieved youths of Okuama, on sighting the JTF personnel, allegedly opened fire on them at the waterfront and killed two soldiers with some others missing.

The situation degenerated to a gun duel between the youths and the military, leading to some soldiers sustaining severe bullet wounds.

In the ensuing melee, some of the soldiers reportedly managed to escape with the two wounded soldiers, who are said to be presently recuperating in an undisclosed hospital in Bomadi.

On Sunday, troops took over Okoloba and Okuama communities and combed every nook and cranny for the culprits.

Tinubu vows retribution

Responding to the development, Tinubu, in a statement he personally signed, declared, “The cowardly offenders responsible for this heinous crime will not go unpunished.”

The response is titled ‘Statement on the killing of Nigerian soldiers on a peace mission to Okuoma community in Delta State.’

While noting that the military high command was already responding to this incident, Tinubu gave fresh marching orders for the manhunt and prosecution of the perpetrators.

“The Defence Headquarters and Chief of Defence Staff have been granted full authority to bring to justice anybody found to have been responsible for this unconscionable crime against the Nigerian people,” the President stated.

He added, “As the Commander-in-Chief, I join all well-meaning Nigerians and the men and women of our armed forces to mourn and express my profound grief over the needless death of our gallant soldiers.”

He also extended his “profound condolences to the families of these fallen soldiers, their colleagues, and their loved ones.”

The Senate condoled with the military over the killing of the commanding officer of the 181 Battalion, two Army Majors, and 12 soldiers.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Nigerian Army, Abdulaziz Yar’Adua, in a statement he personally signed, condoled with the service chiefs over the loss of their men.

He said, “On behalf of the 10th Senate Committee on Nigerian Army, I wish to extend our deepest condolences to the Chief of Defense Staff, the Chief of Army Staff, the Nigerian Army, and officers and men of Operation Delta Safe on the tragic loss of our gallant personnel who were mercilessly killed by some youths during a peace mission to Okuoma Community in Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State on Thursday, March 14, 2024.

“The sacrifices made by the Commanding Officer, three officers, and 12 soldiers during this distressing incident shall forever be remembered. Their bravery and commitment exemplify the highest virtue of patriotism, courage, and sacrifice and their legacy will forever inspire us all.”

Senator Yar’Adua also pledged the unwavering support of the Senate to the investigations of the incident that led to the gruesome killing of the soldiers.

He added, “I wish to commend the swift response of the Chief of Defense Staff in directing an immediate investigation to apprehend those responsible for this heinous crime. It is crucial that justice is served and those behind this criminal act are brought to account for their actions.

“The Nigerian Army’s unwavering focus on upholding peace and security in our nation is a testament to the resilience and dedication of our Armed Forces.

“The Senate Committee on the Nigerian Army stands resolutely alongside the Defense Headquarters and the Nigerian Army in seeking justice for the fallen heroes. We shall spare no effort in supporting the necessary investigations and legal processes to ensure that those responsible for this crime face the full consequences of their actions. “