The Delta Bloodbath

NIGERIANS woke up March 14, 2024 to a shocking revelation of the gruesome murder of 16 military officers who were on a peace keeping mission to Okuama community, in Ughelli South Local Government area of Delta State, to mediate in the land rift between two warring communities, Okuama and Okolobo. However, there was another narrative that the land in question was privately owned, but the contestation eventually engulfed the two neighbouring communities. Okuama people were reported to have lost three of their kinsmen, leading to the alleged kidnapping of a rival from Okolobo.

     THE gruesomely murdered soldiers, attached to the 181 Amphibious Battalion, were said to have responded to a distress call for intervention, during which they were ambushed, killed, and some of their bodies allegedly dismembered. The dastardly act has generated condemnations from Nigerians, with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu directing that law enforcement agents should fish out the perpetrators.

THIS  condemnable killing of military personnel came with a backlash  as there have been reports alleging  security agents, in search of the perpetrators, destroying and burning most of the houses in Okuama, and majority of residents thereby became displaced. Even though the Army, in a statement by its Director of Public Relations, Onyema Nwachukwu, accused Okuama community of dishing out propaganda, rather than join in unmasking the offenders, it is simple to say that things are no longer at ease in the embattled community. With the sacrilegious killings of these soldiers in search of peace and security for the people, the hornets’ nest has been stared!     

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RESTIVENESS in the Niger Delta region was caused by the sense of exploration and exploitation of resources in the area, with the attendant environmental degradation. In November 1999, a gang group in Odi community in Bayelsa State murdered 12 police officers and soldiers. The military brutally responded to the killings, devastated and leveled Odi, allegedly killing 900 civilians. In another instance, following outbreak of communal clashes between the Tiv and Jukun in Benue and Taraba States, some natives abducted and killed 19 soldiers, leading to the military invading communities in Zaki-Biam Local Government Area of Benue State in October 2021. There were claims that between 100 and 200 men were killed, with properties destroyed.   

WE strongly believe that attacking security agents makes the people to be vulnerable and  defenseless. While condemning this heinous act against the state, The Hope, nonetheless calls for great caution, now than before, on the sides of both security agents and the people. Our military men need to understand the psychology of Nigerians at this moment of challenging economy, and be more professional in the discharge of their duties. All sources of acrimonies should be mitigated in order to prevent such from festering, and attaining a conflagration. This is more so because since the Nigeria Civil War, Nigerians have been carrying burdensome scars, and ethnic mistrust, so much that the unity of the country continuously comes under attacks.  

THE Hope is also worried that the avoidable killings of these soldiers could embolden terrorists, and make them to embark on sustained attrition and attacks on security agents. When this happens, we shall all be worse for it, as the needed collaboration required between law-abiding Nigerians and security agents would have been roundly debilitated.

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AS  we relate to this one needless provocation too many, we call on appropriate authorities to carry out diligent investigation into the matter, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to book, rather than visiting the sin of a few on all dwellers of Okuama. It is also expected that people in the communities would also endeavour to dissuade criminally-minded people from taking laws into their hands, as they all stand the risk of vicarious culpability and retribution, when the chips are down.

NO matter the provocation, Nigerians should be reminded that two wrongs do not make a right. They should not take the law into their hands, but be willing to allow the law takes its course always. Self-help is no help, and will always precipitate very negative consequences. Nigeria has more common enemies to contend with, and the ranks of her law-abiding citizens should not be disrupted, for any reason.

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