Killing of Soldiers Has Nothing to Do With Engagement of Private Security Firms, Say Groups

Sylvester Idowu in Warri

O’odua Integrity Network (OIN) has berated a former Minister of Communications, General Tajudeen Olanrewaju (rtd), for linking the killings of four Nigerian Army officers and 13 soldiers at Okuama community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State recently to the engagement of private security contractors to fight oil theft in the Niger Delta region.

The group accused the former army general of fronting for oil thieves with his statement wherein he labelled operatives of the private security firms as militants, thugs and hoodlums who were not different from bandits.

In a reaction to the killings which shocked the country, Olanrewaju attempted to link the killing of the soldiers to the collaborative protection of the country’s oil pipelines between private security outfits, the military and security agencies.

But OIN in a statement issued and signed by its President, Chief Adewale Adeosun, and Secretary, Ige Kilanko, and made available to journalists in Warri yesterday.

Recalled that the former general did not commiserate with the military, his primary constituency, only to unleash vituperation on efforts made by the government to curtail activities of oil thieves with engagement of private security firms.

It said: “The brutal killing of officers and soldiers of the 181 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Bomadi, Delta State, elicited shock among citizens of this country. An incident of this type hasn’t been witnessed nor thought of since the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua granted Niger Delta youths presidential amnesty over a decade ago.

“In the list, is the press statement of 78-year old Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju (rtd) of March 21, 2024. If it was for commiseration with the Nigerian army and families of the slain soldiers, it would have been glossed over like others. After all, the military is his primary constituency.

“But the old soldier, in the statement purportedly issued by his media office, titled: ‘Non-State Actors Protecting Oil Installations Politically, Economically Unsafe for Nigeria’, dovetailed into areas he has since lost expertise. His knowledge of security matters has long flagged after many years in retirement.”

 The group said it disagreed with his stand against involvement of private security firms protecting national assets, and wondered where he was when former President Muhammadu Buhari decided to hire private security companies to keep surveillance over federal government-owned oil assets?

The group added: “Is it a different military the country had then than it has now? What prompted President Buhari to look outside the Nigerian Armed Forces to seek help for the protection oil pipelines? Has the prevailing situation changed?

“The old general’s tirades against private security firms surveillance of crude oil pipelines because of the Okuama slaughter of soldiers is unsolicited. It doesn’t resonate. The killing of officers and soldiers of the 181 Brigade, Bomadi, has no nexus with pipelines surveillance. Does the communal feud between Okuama and Okoloba communities has any connection with crude oil theft or pipelines surveillance contracts? No!

“The statement of General Olanrewaju had diluted intentions than meet the eyes. The local oil thieves and their international backers whose criminal activities were dealt crippling blows by the private security companies have latched on the Okuama killings to raise their ugly heads once again.”

Similarly, leaders of the Ijaw Youths Network have picked holes in the comments of Olarenwaju on the grisly murder of 16 officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army by Okuama youths over land dispute.

The group said Olarenwaju’s claim that it is unsafe for non-state actors to protect oil installations in the country at this critical time is curious and wrong.

The IYN in a statement issued yesterday by its Coordinator, Frank Ebikabo and Secretary, Federal Ebiaridor, said the army’s general’s claims only re-echoed the same “misguided and false narrative” being peddled by frustrated oil thieves and their cohorts who did not get the pipeline contract of the NNPCL.

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