…Diri, Sylva trade words over killings …There will be no further attacks – Delta Governor …Killers may be mercenaries, says Senate …Delta lawmakers beg military

Fear has gripped Bayelsa communities as the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) intensified manhunt for killers of 17 officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army, who were murdered in Okuoma, Ughelli South local government area of Delta State, last Thursday.

LEADERSHIP learnt that fear in the oil-rich state was accentuated by the widely acknowledged association of some purported state officials with the prime suspect in the dastardly act (name withheld).
He was said to be close to some key officials of the state government.

Already, the fate of the soldiers has pitted Governor Douye Diri against one of his predecessors and former minister of state for petroleum resources (Oil), Chief Timipre Sylva.

LEADERSHIP gathered that the authorities in DHQ have narrowed down investigation into the heinous crime to the suspected leader of the Okuoma killer gang, which murdered the troops, including the commanding officer of 181 Battalion of the Nigerian Army in Bomadi, the headquarters of Bomadi LGA of Delta state, Lt. Col. A. H. Aliu.


Other officers killed in the bloody incident as identified by DHQ were Major S.D. Shafa, Major D.E. Obi and Captain U. Zakari.

Angry troops of the Nigerian Army had on Sunday stormed an Ijaw community in Bayelsa State, Igbomotoru, in Southern Ijaw LGA, the paternal home of the alleged ringleader in a futile search for him.
Okuoma, the centre of the wanton killing, was regarded as the suspect’s maternal community.

Although the suspect, acting on a tip-off, fled the community before the arrival of the troops, the invasion left in its trail large-scale destruction of life and property.

No fewer than 11 indigenes of the community are feared dead in the incident.

LEADERSHIP further gathered that the alleged relationship between the top echelons of the state government and the wanted prime suspect has forced some stakeholders in the state to insinuate that he was being protected and shielded by the authorities.

The suspect was linked to the campaigns and re-election of Governor Douye Diri in the recent gubernatorial election in the state.
To this end, one of the sources in the security circles told LEADERSHIP that the troops are on a manhunt of family members and political allies of the suspect in the state.

The chairman of Southern Ijaw local government area, Mr. Lucky Okodeh, a sibling of the wanted suspect, was said to have been under surveillance by detectives seeking information to nab the suspect.

Similarly, another ally of the suspect, who is the chairman of a state committee, is said to be under the radar of the detectives investigating the killings.

It was learnt that detectives were apparently on the neck of the two officials to elicit information that could lead to the arrest of the alleged key actor.

Meanwhile, an Urhobo group, Urhobo Renaissance Assembly, has decried the security clampdown on some Urhobo riverside communities in the wake of the Okuama incident.

Though the group, in the statement issued by its President, Chief Austin Esiri, sympathised with the Nigerian Army over the incident, it advised the military to direct its resources to apprehend the killers to “Bayelsa State and Bayelsa Government House, Yenagoa, instead unleashing terror on law abiding communities.

Meanwhile, Sylva stirred fresh controversy while reacting to the death of the soldiers in a Facebook post when he insinuated that those who helped Diri to power were responsible for the fate of the soldiers.

Sylva, in the post, tactically linked Diri to the killers of the soldiers.

He stated, “I condemn in totality the killing of Ken of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Okuoma, Delta State. This again shows why politicians should not arm irresponsible non-state actors.
“The last Bayelsa state governorship election featured a disheartening state sponsorship of gunmen. And today, we all see the results of that act of desperation and unnecessary loss of Nigerian lives. My heart goes out to the families of those gallant soldiers that lost their lives.”

In firing back, Diri flayed his main rival in the last gubernatorial election in the state for playing politics with the fate of the slain troops.

Diri’s statement, signed by his chief press secretary, Mr. Dan Alabarah, was entitled, “Slain Soldiers: Diri Condemns Sylva’s Statement.”
Taking a swipe at Sylva, Diri said, “The Bayelsa governor wondered why the former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources chose to dance on the graves of the slain soldiers in his false allusion to the use of non-state actors in the governorship poll in the state.

“Sylva’s statement was akin to the proverbial pot calling the kettle black when the APC governorship candidate’s antecedents as a politician was like an open book known to everyone”

…There will be no further attacks – Delta Governor

Delta State Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, has assured that there will be no further attacks on communities in the state following the deadly incident that killed 17 soldiers on a peace mission.

Speaking to State House correspondents after meeting with President Bola Tinubu yesterday at the presidential villa, Abuja, the governor condemned the killings and said both he and Tinubu are committed to maintaining peace in Delta, which had been largely calm since last year.

He said, “What is happening now is something that we did not bargain for, but we want to assure everybody that there’ll be no more attacks on the villages, if there’s been anyone that had happened in the past,”
He revealed that as recently as February 7, the two conflicting communities had signed a peace accord brokered by the state government.

“We both condemned the killing of the officers and the soldiers because they were there on peace mission,” the governor said.

While being scant on specific details citing security reasons, Oborevwori said the government is “managing the situation” and will ensure the “innocent citizens will not be attacked,” adding that the people who are culpable will be brought to book.

The governor said one of the villages had been “deserted” amid the violence, preventing contact with local leaders so far.

“First and foremost, the community people… the place has been deserted, so the issue of whether we’ve been able to see the community leaders, no.

“We’ve only gotten full briefing from the Army and we’re on it because this week the traditional council is going to meet and discuss. I’m going to invite stakeholders; we’re on top of it,” he said.

Oborevwori said the priorities are securing justice by “fishing out the real culprits” with support from security forces, while also providing assistance to the slain soldiers’ families and preventing further bloodshed.

Killers May Be Mercenaries, Says Senate

The Senate has said that people who killed 17 military personnel on their way to a peace mission might be mercenaries.

The Senate President, who stated this during deliberation at the floor of the Senate, asserted that Niger Delta people respect people in uniform.

Akpabio said, “I don’t want to conclude that these people are from Niger Delta, because we respect men and women in uniform.

“That is why I am saying that your additional prayer should be to carry out a thorough investigation to know whether they were mercenaries outside Nigeria, who came in to commit this crime, because I don’t think these people are from Niger Delta,” Akpabio said.
Akpabio said, “We are not at war. Even in the field of war, to lose such a large number of personnel, no community will go to the extent of doing that kind of thing; I don’t think they are from Niger Delta.”

Akpabio said the panel would be saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that those involved in the killings were brought to book.

The Red Chamber also resolved that the federal government should compensate families of the deceased soldiers.
The Senate is investigating the March 14 killing of 17 Nigerian Army personnel in Okuama Community, Delta.
The Defence Headquarters on Monday released a list of 16 of its personnel killed while on their way for a peace mission.
The upper chamber thereby mandated its committees on Army, Defence, Air force and Navy to immediately swing into action to commence the investigation.
This followed a point of order raised by Sen. Abdulaziz Yar’adua (APC- Katsina) during Tuesday’s plenary.
Raising Orders 41 and 51 of the Senate Standing Rules, Yar’adua, who is chairman, Senate Committee on Army, described the incidence as “a serious threat to national security and stability of the nation.”

“The tragic incidence underscores the urgent need for justice and account tability without resorting to retribution,” he said.
He lamented that the understaffing of the Nigeria Police has made Nigeria’s military take over internal policing duties such as organised crime, oil theft, communal crisis, kidnappings, banditry and other policing responsibilities.

Delta Lawmakers Beg Military
Meanwhile, the Delta State House of Assembly (DTHA) has appealed to the Nigerian military to temper justice with mercy over the killings of 17 soldiers at Okuama community in Ughelli South local government area of the state.
The appeal came following a motion raised at Tuesday’s Plenary under matters of urgent public importance by the member representing Ughelli south state constituency, Hon Festus Utuama.
Utuama, in the motion at Tuesday’s Plenary presided over by the Speaker, Hon Emomotimi Guwor, sought vehement condemnation of the unprovoked killing of the 17 officers and men of the Nigerian military and one civilian whom, he said, were on peace mission at the community.
While commiserating with the immediate families of the slain soldiers and the Nigerian Army, the lawmakers called on the Delta State Governor, Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, to, as a matter of urgency, urge relevant security agencies to investigate, arrest and prosecute those who carried out the dastardly act.
Also, the lawmakers enjoined the state governor to constitute a commission of enquiry to investigate and unravel the immediate and remote cause(s) of the crisis between Okuama community in Ughelli South and Okoloba community in Bomadi local government area.
The lawmakers also asked state governor, Hon Sheriff Oborevwori to put in place measures aimed at protecting the elderly men, women, children and the vulnerable persons who have suffered untold hardship as well as loss of property since the crisis began barely a week ago.
Meanwhile, the speaker, Hon. Emomotimi Guwor has directed that the motion should be forwarded to the state governor for immediate action just as he enjoined the House committee on Legislative compliance to ensure full compliance of the resolution.
A minute silence was observed in honour of the slain soldiers.

Reps Call For Probe, Ceasefire
On its part, the House of Representatives has mandated the Armed Forces to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances that led to the gruesome killing of officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army in Delta state.
This was just as the chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Hon. Francis Waive (Delta, APC) called on the military to abide by the international rules of engagement and stop burning houses in the community, appealing for an end to reprisal attacks.
The House further urged the military to work with the relevant authorities to bring all perpetrators and their collaborators to book.
It equally mandated its Committees on Defence to interface with the Armed Forces to ensure compliance and report to the House within four weeks.
These resolutions followed the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance on “Need to investigate and apprehend perpetrators of the gruesome killing of seventeen military personnel in Delta State”, moved by the chairman of Defence Committee, Hon. Babajimi Benson (APC, Lagos) at plenary on Wednesday.

He said the perpetrators of the heinous act did not only stop at killing the military personnel but also went ahead to sacrilegiously debase their remains by ripping out their hearts and other body parts.

The House on adoption of motion observed a minute silence in honour of the murdered military personnel and called on the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to provide relief materials to those affected in the community.

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