Why residents of Okuama community can’t access their homes now – CDS

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The Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, General Christopher Musa, has given reasons residents of Okuama in Delta State are yet to have access to their homes days after the military took over the community.

The CDS spoke on a day the chairman of the Okoloba community in Delta State, Mr. Clement Koki, alleged that the people of Okuama hired the mercenaries who killed the military men in the riverside settlement.

Recall that Okuama and Okoloba communities have been embroiled in a communal clash which preceded the killing of the military personnel.

Speaking on Arise TV, Gen Musa said troops were currently conducting a cordon and search operation in the community (as arms and ammunition of the killed in-action troops have not been recovered).

It would be recalled that irate youths who are suspected residents of Okuama working with some other suspects on March 14, ambushed and murdered the Commanding Officer of 181 Army Amphibious Battalion, two majors, one captain and 13 soldiers
The Defence Headquarters had said the troops were attacked while responding to a distress call, arising from a clash between Okuama and Okoloba communities, both in Delta State.

Eight suspects have since been declared wanted in connection with the brutal murder of the military personnel by Defence headquarters.

Gen Musa stated that Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of Delta State and residents of Okuama where the attack took place, have no access to the community because the security agencies were carrying out a “cordon and search” operation in the area.

He also said the Nigerian Army was not taking laws into its own hands by declaring wanted, some persons wanted over the killing of the 17 officers and men.

“We are currently conducting a cordon and search in the community. Cordon and search operation means we are searching every nook and cranny within the community because they have a lot of illegal funds from crude oil theft.

“They have bought a lot of weapons. It is for us to thoroughly clean the community to ensure that no weapon, no explosive is left in the community. I can tell you that at the end of the operation, residents of the community will always go back,” he said.

Meanwhile, Okoloba community has accused Okuama of being behind the killing of officers and men of the Nigerian Army in their domain.

Okoloba counters Okuama

Chairman of the Okoloba community, Mr. Clement Koki, enmeshed in a communal row with the Okuama community, where 17 soldiers lost their lives on March 14, has alleged the people of Okuama hired the mercenaries who killed the military men in the riverside settlement.

Okoloba, an Ijaw community in Bomadi Local Government Area Delta State, shares a boundary with Okuama, an Urhobo community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of state.

Chairman of the Okoloba community, Clement Koki, who reacted to the account of an Okuama leader detailing how soldiers and villagers died in the community, and how an Okoloba leader escorted the Army to the community on March 14, exclusively published by Vanguard on April 2, maintained that the narration was “full of fabricated lies and complicity”

On his part, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen T. A. Lagbaja, at the Nigerian Army’s Civil-Military Cooperation Media Chat for the first quarter of 2024, in Asaba, capital of Delta State, yesterday, urged the media to refrain from inadvertently amplifying the activities of undesirable elements.

What prompted Okuama to hire fighters – Okoloba leader, Koki

Koki told Vanguard: “We are the people that have been tolerating their excesses for decades, and now, they are taking our friendly disposition for foolishness. We are no fools. We are just being friendly and hospitable, acknowledging that they are our brothers, Akugbene’s strangers, and have been accommodating them all this while.

“But instead of appreciating our benevolence, they sought to embark on a reckless journey of territorial expansion to take over our God-given heritage. And it is that inordinate ambition and sheer recklessness that prompted them to hire mercenaries to kill the 17 soldiers on that ill-fated day, March 14, 2024.

“We, the people of Okoloba, have always been calling on the state government to intervene in the brewing crisis before the evil act of killing the soldiers on a peace and rescue mission at Okuama.

“The state government, the army (JTF), the Police, the DSS, and NSCDC, the local government authorities as well as other well-meaning members of the public can attest to that. Therefore, no amount of falsehood can exonerate them from the dastardly killing of the 17 soldiers.

“The lies against Okoloba and her indigenes in the said publication on April 2, 2024, are not well-cooked and are baseless, which exposed their evil agenda against us from the onset. More so, the said publication is self-embarrassing and and indictment.

“We unequivocally state here that Okoloba community did not encroach into Okuama land, and that we have always maintained the peace before and after the Peace Pact both communities signed at Government House, Asaba.

Aggressor

“For the records, Okoloba community has never encroached into Okuama land, it is all fallacies. Okuama has been the aggressor, even as they are now.

“The assertion of the blood-letting by Okuama people that Okoloba people encroached on their land is even an aberration because the Okoloba Federated Community maintains a boundary originally with Akugbene community, not Okuama.

“Perhaps, Okuama people have suddenly forgotten that they are ‘Akugbene visitors’. When they ran for a haven from the onslaught of the traducers because of kingship installation in Ewu Kingdom, they ran to Akugbene, our brothers, who gave them land to farm and fish.

“But suffice it to say that they (Okuama) even trespassed on Akugbene land (their benefactor), and that led to several court cases, notable among which is the 1945 judgment that pinpointed their settler’s status.

“In the same vein, they trespassed into Okoloba beyond the land Akugbene gave them magnanimously, and are now claiming that we, Okoloba, trespassed into their land.

“The question we, Okoloba, ask is ‘can you give what you do not have?’ They, the Okuama people, do not own any land. How can settlers that were running for safety and our brothers, Akugbene, gave them their land to fish and farm, now claim that they own land that we encroached on? It does not add up.”

DIAG absolves Ijaw leader accused by Okuama

However, the Delta Ijaw Advocacy Group, DIAG, in a statement by its chairman, Augustine Okporu, said: “Our attention has just been drawn to an article trending online with the caption, ‘The Real Cause of the Crises at Okuama Community in Ughelli South LGA of Delta State that Led to Military Invasion’.

“We have taken the liberty to address some misinformation in the publication regarding the recent crisis in Okuama community. It is crucial to separate facts from falsehood.

“First, we would like to emphasize that the publication circulating in the media space is fake and should not be taken seriously. The publication has no identifiable author and, therefore, lacks any credible source.

“However, it was confirmed in the said publication that Okuama people killed Nigerian soldiers, and members of the community have not denied this aspect of the publication until this moment.

“The faceless author in promotion of his hatchet job accused a former Director General of NIMASA of instigating an attack on members of Okuama community and that human sacrifice takes place at Egbesu Shrine in Okoloba community.

“We wish to state clearly that the said former NIMASA boss is a responsible and respectable Ijaw leader, who has never been known to engage in violent and senseless actions. He has over the years, in the public service record and private life, promoted peaceful coexistence among different ethnic nationalities.

“Ijaw tradition is against engaging in human sacrifices for whatever purpose, such actions are alien to Ijaw people and the publication is a deliberate falsehood.

“Therefore, the negative remarks made against the former NIMASA boss are the handiwork of those who are promoting senseless inter-communal crises and killing of military officers to divert attention.

“Again, there was no time members of Okoloba community, led by the former NIMASA boss, attacked indigenes of Okuama community and killed anyone.

“All the allegations are unfounded, which are aimed at attributing blame to the wrong persons for the senseless killing of military officers in Okuama community.

“We, therefore, call on security agencies to investigate the source of the fake publication.

Soldiers never burnt the Egbesu shrine

“Additionally, the publication alleges that the Nigerian Army went to Okoloba community to burn down the Egbesu Shrine.
“We say there was no such incident and there is no reason to do so. That is the handiwork of the bloodthirsty and warmongering Okuama people.

“The claim that the tradition in some Ijaw communities requires that the mother of a king must be of Urhobo origin is a big lie! This is false and far from the truth. There is no such tradition in any Ijaw community.

“We, however, unequivocally condemn the gruesome killing of the 17 soldiers and joined the call for a comprehensive investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice.’’

Speaking at the media chat, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen T. A. Lagbaja, said the actions of non-state actors aiming to undermine the security, welfare, and overall prosperity of the country would be significantly diminished, and almost nonexistent without the collaboration of certain unpatriotic and unscrupulous individuals.

Lagbaja, who was represented by the General Officer Commanding, GOC, 6 Division/ Land Component Commander, Joint Task Force, South-South Operations, Delta Safe, Major Gen. Jamal Abulssalam, said the Nigerian Army was aware of the complexities and difficulties presented by the current security landscape in the country.

He advised the media to refrain from inadvertently amplifying the activities of undesirable elements, saying terrorists, insurgents, and other deviant groups thrive on attention and exploit propaganda to instill fear in law-abiding citizens.
His words: “In this regard, the unprovoked killing of some of our troops carrying out their constitutional assignments in Okuoma community of Delta State comes to mind.

“The dastardly act was executed in the most barbaric and cruel manner, which is unacceptable and condemnable. I urge the media to refrain from inadvertently amplifying the activities of these undesirable elements.

“Terrorists, insurgents, and other deviant groups thrive on attention and exploit propaganda to instill fear in law-abiding citizens. Through our collective efforts, we can effectively combat insecurity, and restore peace to our country.”
Lagbaja said the theme of the event, “Imperatives of Military-Media Partnership for the Attainment of National Security” underscored the critical role collaboration between the military and media plays in safeguarding national security.

Oborevwori should speak to Deltans on Okuama/Okoloba incident – Dr Ughwanogho

In a similar development, former governorship candidate in the state, Dr. Ovie Ughwanogho, has urged the governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, to address the state on update around the Okuama and Okoloba boundary dispute that resulted in the killing of 17 soldiers

Ughwanogho, on his Facebook wall, said: “The governor of Delta State should, without further delay, address the people of the state on the security situation in the state, particularly as it relates to the crisis in Okuama and Okoloba.
“The state belongs to all of us, and in a crisis like this, the leadership must keep the people informed of what is happening and the efforts being made to resolve the issues.

“A state-wide broadcast by the governor will be reassuring and will have the effects of reducing misconceptions and anxieties. Media aides making statements here and there does not cut it. The people want to hear from the governor.”

Vanguard

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