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Delta State: Killing of 16 Soldiers and vexing dissonant narratives

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There are still questions begging for answers in Killing of 16 Soldiers in Delta State and vexing dissonant narratives



Delta State: Killing of 16 Soldiers and vexing dissonant narratives
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By Ifeanyi Izeze

It is an understatement to say that the gruesome killing on March 14, 2024, of 16 Nigerian Army personnel, including the Commanding Officer of the 181 Amphibious Battalion, two Majors, a Captain, and 12 other ranks in Delta State, is a vexation of the spirit. But what is even more vexing is the discordant narratives from all quarters about what led to the gory incident. It is very tragic that in the same incident, everybody has their own account of what transpired differently from any other.

Okuoma, a riverine Urhobo community in Ugheli South local government council of Delta State, and Okoloba, an Ijaw community in Bomadi area council also in Delta State, are two neighbours that have been embroiled in a land dispute that has been causing communal skirmishes between the two communities. This is true!

On March 14, 2024, 16 soldiers, including the Commanding Officer of the 181 Amphibious Battalion, 2 majors, a captain, and 12 soldiers on a peace mission, were ambushed and killed in a tragic incident that could best be described as blurred in Okuama Community. This is also true!

Slain soldiers vs burning towns: Questions unasked

In its reprisal attacks, personnel of the Nigerian Army responded in kind by completely razing down the Okuoma community and allegedly killing innocent citizens, including the elderly, women, and too young to escape children. This is also true!

Escalating the reprisal attacks, the soldiers, following credible intelligence as claimed, crossed into Egbomotoru, a community in Southern Ijaw LGA of Bayelsa State, where they were informed the real attackers and killers of the soldiers in Okuoma had returned to hide. This community and several adjoining communities were also ransacked by the soldiers. During these raids, scores of deaths were reported. The excuse was that General Endurance, popularly known as Amagbein, had a hand in the killing of the soldiers and in the inter-communal crisis in Delta State, where he is backing Okuoma against Tompolo and the former NIMASA DG’s support of the Okoloba community. This is partly true and partly speculation!

Also read: Slain soldiers vs burning towns: Questions unasked

Sometime between late Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th, a video hit the internet to tell the “true story” of what happened in Okuoma. In that video that has now gone viral, the young man who claimed to be the leader of those who attacked and killed the soldiers directly accused Tompolo of being responsible for the unfortunate incident at Okuoma. He accused the Nigerian Army of being biased against Okuoma in the so-called peace meeting because the soldiers were working for Tompolo, the Ijaw former militant warlord.

Whether anybody wants to hear this or not, there are many missing details that the military and the people of Okuama owe us, and the focus on reprisal by the military is not helping the story to get clearer.

There is so much to this incident that must be found out. Every reasonable person cannot help but wonder why a lieutenant colonel, two majors, one captain, and 12 other military personnel would be deployed to settle a land dispute.

Nothing justifies murder, simple. That said, the government owes us some clarity on what happened in Okuama. How did the soldiers die? What weapons or training did their assailants have so that they could overpower so many well-trained officers? What pre-existing relationship did they have with their killers that precipitated the attacks on the soldiers?

What was the true mission of the soldiers to the Okuama community? Was the Ovie (king) of the Ewu Kingdom and her subjects informed of the military visit on a peace mission? Was the Governor of Delta State, Sheriff Oborevwori, informed of the peace mission?

Why did the situation report come from the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Bomadi, and not the DPO of Otu-Jeremi in the same local government as Okuoma? Why would the military, stationed in Bomadi, embark on a peace mission to Okuama in Ughelli South, without the involvement of the DPO, Otu-Jeremi, and local government officials?

Why was the military peace mission escorted by Ijaw youths as alleged, and how come, the civilian members of the peace mission survived to tell the story, yet no military man survived?

Why were the police, DSS, and other sister security agencies not involved in the military peace mission to Okuama, and why was the military peace mission only for the Okuama community?

Was Okuama and Okoloba at war for 16 soldiers to be gruesomely killed in less than 24 hours?

Also read: Group attributes killing of 16 soldiers in Delta to gaps in military, civilian relations

Who were the civilians that took the military to Okuama, as quoted in the report that earlier claimed that over 22 soldiers were killed? Who were the Ijaw civilians who accompanied the soldiers to Okuama? How did they survive while the soldiers were killed?

If there is peacekeeping, two parties must be involved; people from the two communities must be involved, and a neutral ground will be taken, possibly the local government headquarters, if you are talking of a peace initiative.

Curiously, we need to understand how the attack happened, the people involved, whether they had external help, and how they even mustered the confidence to stand up to armed soldiers. How did it happen that soldiers on a supposed peacekeeping mission ended up dead?

Bros, somebody is somewhere using una heads. Period! Both Tompolo, the army, and other interest groups have been successfully manipulated by what, from obvious indications, looks like a “fifth columnist” agenda.

And until we sit down to look at the matter deeply and without bias, we may never get the truth of what happened, which looks more like a script in a larger agenda. This may just be “Plot One, Act One” in this dastardly drama!

The viral video by the young man was part of the plot to confuse the narratives and the authorities. Who in his right senses would carry out such a dastardly act against the military and come out in a video in less than 48 hours to own such a crime?

Can the people of Okuoma confirm that this boy is from their community? And even if he is from there, what has he been doing before now, or does he live elsewhere outside the community? Even at the place he lives, what does he do, and who are his employers or associates?

Just go watch the video again and again with an unbiased mind to see what the video sets out to achieve. First, the video unequivocally confirmed that the killing was done by Okuoma youths under the leadership of that young man. Secondly, the same narrator in the same video outrightly indicted Tompolo and the former NIMASA director general, who is from Okoloba, accusing them of using Tantita boys and Nigerian soldiers to harass and kill Okuoma youths. Can’t you see that the narrative in the video tried to close the case? Tompolo, former NIMASSA DG, Tantita boys, and soldiers have been killing Okuoma youths, and now the youths have been ambushed to retaliate against the soldiers. But is the case closed? No, it’s still very wide open.

Whether anybody wants to hear this or not, the main hidden reason for this evolving crisis, which has started in Delta state and would spread to other parts of Niger Delta, particularly Rivers and Bayelsa States, hinges on the monopolization of the Pipeline Security Surveillance contract by Tompolo’s Tantita. His former militant warlords across the region had insisted the contract should be shared amongst the various state leaders but their request has been ignored till today.

Tompolo should not be oblivious to the fact that some of his Ijaw brothers and even some non-Ijaw Niger Deltans in their league of former militant warlords are very bitter that, despite all their campaign of calumny against him, Tinubu is keeping him in the pipeline protection business. Tompolo should know that these Ijaw brothers of his have the ability and capacity to cause havoc.

  • Izeze is a columnist with National Daily and wrote from Asaba: [email protected]; 234-8033043009

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