Oborevwori Briefs Tinubu on Delta Killings, Says State Taken Aback By Development

•Assures situation under control

Deji Elumoye, Sunday Aborisade, Juliet Akoje in Abuja, Sylvester Idowu in Warri, Olusegun Samuel in Yenagoa, Sunday Ehigiator in Lagos and James Sowole in Abeokuta

Delta State Governor Sheriff Oborevwori briefed President Bola Tinubu yesterday at State House, Abuja, on the recent killing of 16 military personnel in the state. Oborevwori, who met with Tinubu behind closed doors, said Delta State was stunned by the horrific incident at Okuoma, in Ughelli South Local Government Area.

The governor addressed newsmen after the closed-door meeting with the president, promising to end attacks in the area and assuring that the killers of the military men would be brought to justice.

The senate commenced a probe into the March 14 killings yesterday.

President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, while condemning the killings, said the investigation should be open-minded, as the perpetrators might be foreign mercenaries.

The House of Representatives also mandated the armed forces to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances that led to the killings.

But Bayelsa State Governor Douye Diri and former Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, yesterday, squabbled over comments made on the killings.

That was as President of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Jonathan Lokpobiri, accused the Nigeria Army of carrying out reprisal attacks on Egbomotoro II community in Bayelsa State as a result of the killing of the military personnel in Delta State.

However, determined to apprehend the killers of the military men, operatives of the Joint Task Force (JTF) extended their search to neighbouring Bayelsa, Edo and Ondo states.

The military authorities had announced that an attack on soldiers on a peace mission in Okuoma community of Delta State last Thursday led to the death of a commanding officer, two majors, one captain, 12 soldiers and one civilian.

But Oborevwori, who told reporters that the situation was already under control, both in Okuama community and its environs, dismissed the possibility of further attacks.

The governor said, “You know the happenings in Delta State since 14th of this month and it is necessary for me to brief the Commander-in-Chief and that’s what I’ve come to do, the full details of what happened.

“People may not have knowledge of what we’re doing since I came on board. Since last year, we’ve been enjoying peace in Delta State and we commend all the security agencies, but an unfortunate thing happened last week that people who don’t have the knowledge have started talking about.

“The two communities in question have been having issues for years and last month, on the 7th of February, they were invited by the state government; the two communities, the members representing those two local governments, the council chairmen, and the leaders of those communities, and they agreed to work together, signed a peace accord.

“When this unfortunate thing happened, it was very sad because Delta State is governed within the tenets of the rule of law and decency. So, what happened is not in line with what we’re doing in Delta State because I have promised Deltans that I’m going to be governor for all Deltans and we’ve been enjoying peace and one of my MORE Agenda is that we’ll enhance peace and security, and that’s what we’ve been doing.

“So, I decided to come here to brief Mr. President on all the things we’ve been doing to maintain peace and Mr. President has assured me that he’s in support of the peace and we both condemned the killing of the officers and the soldiers because they were there on peace mission.

“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 any one that had happened in the past…

But we know that those who are culpable will be brought to book, but the innocent citizens will not be attacked.”

Asked to comment on the number of casualties and the reprisal attacks by soldiers on the community, Oborevwori declined comments, saying it is a security issue and there are certain things he cannot say in public.

The governor revealed that he met with the security heads in Bomadi but was yet to meet with the community involved, as the place had been deserted.

According to him, “When something happens like this, it’s always easy to manage tension. Yesterday, I was in that local government, I was in Bomadi for security meeting, to get full details and briefing.

“So, some of those issues are security issues that you can’t say publicly. That’s the truth, and we’re managing the situation. So, the issue of whether a place has been burned down or people have been killed, has happened, but what is the way forward?

“The way forward are two ways: the people that have been killed, the officer and soldiers, we must see how we can find succour for their families and give them a befitting burial.

“Also the community, anything that has happened in the community in the past will not happen again. We assured them. But the people who are culpable will be brought to book.”

He said while his government had met with the military, it had yet to meet with the community because it was deserted.

He explained, “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.” 

Oborevwori stressed that perpetrators of the killings will be brought to book and innocent residents will not be victimised.

He stated, “Like I said, we had a meeting yesterday with the security heads, the General Officer Commanding 6 Division of Nigerian Army was there, the JTF Commander was in attendance.

“We’ve all agreed, all the security agencies are putting heads together, we’re on the same page to fish out the real culprits because innocent people will not suffer for it and they have assured us that no innocent person will be victimised.”

Senate Begins Probe of Killings

The senate, yesterday, commenced a probe into the March 14 killing of 16 military personnel in Okuama Community, Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State.

The upper chamber mandated its committees on Army, Defence, Air force, Navy and National Security to immediately commence the investigation.

The decision of the senate was sequel to a point of order raised by Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Abdulaziz Yar’adua (APC, Katsina) during yesterday’s plenary.

The motion was tagged, “The killing of Nigerian Army Personnel in Okuama Community, Delta State, and the Necessity for an Urgent Investigation.”

The upper chamber also urged the federal government to ensure that those responsible for the crime were identified, apprehended and made to face the full consequences of their action through a fair and transparent legal process.

Citing Orders 41 and 51 of the Senate Standing Rules, Yar’adua described the incident as “a serious threat to national security and stability of the nation,” adding: “This highlights a serious threat to national security and stability of the nation.”

Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau, in his contribution, said what happened was despicable.

Barau said, “It is inhuman and it is something that cannot be accepted. We need to commiserate with the Nigerian Armed Forces and, indeed, the entire nation

“It should be condemned, what happened is inhuman and no stone should be left unturned in trying to find out the culprits, who are responsible and they must face justice and this should never happen again in this country.”

Similarly, Senator Ahmad Lawan said the military needed support at all times and not assault, as happened in the Delta community.

Lawan said, “What happened in Delta was not an accident but well-orchestrated to kill our men,” he said.

The former senate president called on the executive and the legislature to ensure better welfare for the military.

Senator Seriake Dickson (PDP, Bayelsa) described the act as sad and dastardly, and called for an inquiry to ascertain the totality of the facts of the matter.

Akpabio, in his comments, said the senate and the entire country were concerned.

He said, “We condemn this dastardly act. It portends danger for the entire society. Every single culprit involved must be brought out to face the full wrath of the law. This is not acceptable in any sane society in the world.”

Senator Dafinone Edeh, who seconded the motion, consoled the military and the families of the slain soldiers, adding that since the motion centred on the same issue, he would only propose an additional prayer of a minute silence for innocent civilians killed in the incident.

Senator Ned Nwoko seconded Dafinone’s additional prayer and called for a minute silence for innocent victims of the soldiers’ invasion after their colleagues were murdered.

His proposal was, however, rejected by the senate president, who said holding a minute silence for civilian casualties or victims of collateral damages would come after a thorough investigation had been carried on what led to what on the tragic and very embarrassing incident.

Akpabio stated, “That is why I am saying that your additional prayer should actually be to carry out a thorough investigation to know whether these people are mercenaries from outside Niger Delta, who came to commit this crime because I don’t think these people are Niger Deltans.

“We are not at war to lose such number of personnel.  No community will go to the extent of doing this kind of thing. I don’t think they are from Niger Delta

“So, I think the first point is that we should first establish the culprits, who committed these crime. We must take this seriously. Supposing they are not from Niger Delta, supposing they are not even Nigerians and we now come and be giving relief materials to…

“People should bear their consequences of their characters. We will not support relief materials.

“What has happened is condemnable and stand condemned. The senate will hold a minute silence for the 16 military personnel gruesomely murdered and condole with President Bola Tinubu, the military and families of the deceased for now.

“After investigation, civilians involved in the collateral damage will be honoured by minute silence or whatever action that may be necessary.”

House Urges Armed Forces to Investigate Killings

The House of Representatives mandated the armed forces to conduct a thorough and wholesome investigation into the circumstances that led to the killing of the military personnel in Delta State. This resolution followed the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance on the need to investigate and apprehend perpetrators of the killings by Hon. Babajimi Benson at plenary.

Benson, while presenting the motion, stated that the fallen soldiers were on a peaceful and mediatory mission to quell a communal clash between Okuama and Okoloba communities in Ughelli South and Bomadi local government areas of Delta State, respectively, when the horrific incident occurred.

He stated, “Aware that these military personnel were only responding to a distress call in their service to their fatherland when they were ambushed and killed on Thursday.

“The perpetrators of this heinous act did not only stop at killing these military personnel, but also went ahead to sacrilegiously debase their remains by ripping out their hearts and other body parts.

“Unless checked and stopped, acts like this, by the very people the AFN is meant to protect, have a potential of demoralising the military and affecting the war on insecurity, which has so far recorded some successes.”

The House observed a minute silence for the deceased military personnel and mandated its committees on defence to interface with the armed forces to ensure compliance and report to the House within four weeks.

Diri, Sylva Bickers over Killing

Diri and Sylva disputed over the killing of 16 soldiers in the Delta community.

Sylva berated politicians, particularly, Bayelsa State Government, for arming non-state actors with guns and ammunitions during the last governorship election. But Diri rejected the allegation, taking a swipe at the former petroleum minister.

The governor alleged that Sylva’s statement was akin to the proverbial pot calling kettle black, saying his antecedents as a politician is like an open book known to everyone.

A statement by Diri’s Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Alabrah, condemned Sylva’s statement, and the introduction of politics into the highly condemnable killing of men in active service

Sylva had said in a statement, “I condemn in totality the killing of men of the Joint Task Force in Okuama, Delta State. This again shows why politicians should not arm irresponsible non-state actors.

“The last Bayelsa governorship election featured disheartening state sponsorship of gunmen. And today, we all see the result of that act of desperation and the unnecessary loss of precious Nigerian lives. My heart goes out to the families of those gallant soldiers that lost their lives.”

But Diri accused the former petroleum minister of dancing on the graves of the slain soldiers by alluding to the use of non-state actors in the governorship poll in the state.

The governor alleged that Sylva was whipping up negative sentiments and spreading falsehood over the presence of soldiers in Igbomotoru, a Bayelsa community, where the military had reportedly extended their investigation into the Okuama incident.

“It is, therefore, very unfortunate and sad that Chief Sylva chose to play politics with the evil act of the killing of Nigerian soldiers at a time patriots in our country were outraged and mourning,” the statement said.

Lokpobiri Accuses Army of Reprisal Attack

President of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Jonathan Lokpobiri, accused the army of carrying out reprisal attacks on Egbomotoro II community in Bayelsa State, following the killing of 16 soldiers in Delta State.

Speaking in an interview with Arise TV, Lokobiri stated, “Part of the reason why we are concerned is that the civilian casualty is getting to an unprecedented one, especially in Bayelsa.

“I don’t know the exact status of Okuama but, like I said, regardless, every community that is suffering from the yoke of this military occupation or invasion, it is Nigerians that are suffering.

“That position is clearly to be known. As leaders of the people, we do not subscribe to violent crimes against the state. So, this is a crime against the state, which is condemned in the highest terms.

“But our take on this is that Nigeria, with a professional military, must evolve in targeting criminals in our communities rather than razing down the entire community on account of pursuing criminals.

“Let me take our minds to the days of Odi. Very few criminals who were even recalcitrant youth held an action against the state but because they were well aware of the crime they were into many escaped, the innocent community was completely razed down, and people were killed and buried.

“What is happening today in Bayelsa from an incident that happened in Okuama community, an Urhobo community in Delta State, and it is having the greatest impact on the Bayelsa community called Egbomotoro II in Bayelsa.

“The military, perhaps, will tell Nigerians the nexus or the connection between what happened in Okuama community and how our people get to be the greatest people punished for what had happened in Okuama community.”

Military Extends Search to Bayelsa, Edo, Ondo

Operatives of the Joint Task Force (JTF) extended their search for the killers of 16 of their men to neighbouring Bayelsa, Edo and Ondo states.

Security sources told THISDAY yesterday that officers of the intelligence units had been deployed to the affected states based on intelligence extracted from those arrested so far.

A source said, “Officers from the intelligence units have been deployed to Bayelsa, Edo and Ondo states while others are combing some communities in Ughelli and Warri for now.

“The military is deploying as intelligence are being gathered about the movements of the suspected killers of the soldiers. For now, some of them are fleeing into those states and the military are in pursuit of them.”

The security sources said the military high command in Abuja would brief the nation soon on the extent of investigations and how many suspects had been arrested so far.

Speaking on the razing down of Okuama village by soldiers on reprisal attack, the source maintained that many buildings were still standing in the community and residents were still in their houses unmolested but that they were mainly elderly men, women and children.

“It is only the houses and residency of the suspected killers that were touched. Many buildings are still standing in that community,” the source said, while showing a video allegedly recorded after the invasion by soldiers.

Omo-Agege, NANS Condemn Killing

The immediate past Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, condemned the killing of officers and soldiers at Okuama community in Delta State.

According to a statement he personally signed, Omo-Agege said the act was a grave crime against the state.

He stated, “I unequivocally condemn this appalling attack against our men in uniform in the strongest terms possible.

“Such extreme bloody violence has no place of comfort in our society, and it is clearly inconsistent with the traditional warm hospitality of all our people, including Urhobos and Ijaws.”

National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) also condemned the killing of the 16 soldiers and demanded thorough investigation.

In a press statement by its National President, Comrade Pedro Obi, the apex students’ body described the incident as unfortunate and barbaric.

Obi, while calling for a thorough investigation of the incident, urged the military to exercise caution in order to avoid a repetition of the November 1999 Odi massacre.

NANS stated, “We condemn the killing of 16 soldiers, who were on a peacekeeping mission in some communities of Delta State. The incident is most unfortunate and condemnable. In fact, it portrays barbarism.

“We believe that no matter what, members of the armed forces deserve equal respect as civilians. Hence, no attack, not even in that coordinated manner, should have occurred.

“This unfortunate incident has not just tested the will of the armed forces but also put to test the response level of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

“We, therefore, call on the president to direct the police, as is their legal duty, to conduct a thorough investigation into the remote and immediate causes of the brutal attack, which led to the murder of 16 army officers.”

Related Articles