• Monday, June 24, 2024
businessday logo


Fresh killing of soldiers less than 3 months after Okuama incident points to low-grade war – Concerned citizens

Military vows payback after IPOB kills 5 soldiers in Abia State

Concerned Nigerians have raised the alarm over the worsening insecurity in the country, fueled by the feeling of discontent in the polity.

They have also urged the Federal Government to take holistic and lasting measures to address the issue of feeling of alienation across the country, rather than the ad-hoc measures that tend to aggravate the situation.

The concerns were raised following the recent attack and killing of five soldiers, less than three months after eight soldiers were killed in Okuama community, Delta State.

Recall that five personnel of the Nigerian Army code-named OP UDOKA, deployed to Obikabia Junction Checkpoint in Obingwa Local Government, adjoining Aba metropolis, were killed by alleged bandits during the sit-at-home declared on May 30, 2024 by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, president general, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, the pan-Igbo cultural organisation, described the killing as senseless, insisting that soldiers should not be targeted for any reason and that only a gang of “criminals” could do that.

Iwuanyanwu, who recently had a three-hour meeting with Kanu, who is currently in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS), noted that the Aba killing of security operatives by a gang of “criminals” did not enjoy the support of all right-thinking Igbos, the leadership of Ohanaeze as well as Nnamdi Kanu, whom he referred to as his son.

Offering a solution, the Ohanaeze leader called for a political solution to the detention of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB.

Speaking with BusinessDay on condition of anonymity, a retired Army officer, said that time had come when the government must address the anger raging across the country.

He pointed out that the style of governance being pursued in the country may be fueling agitations and feelings of non-belonging by many Nigerians.

“I am worried about what I see going on in Nigeria. A situation where every president that comes up faces his own side of the country in total neglect of other areas is a recipe for chaos in society. If you consistently push away some people and declare them as not part of the country, it breeds resentment and animosity. That is what I am seeing.

“Until the Federal Government of Nigeria takes a deliberate step to bring everybody back to the fold, then shall we have been able to tackle the real problems. That is why I think I am happy with the return of the old National Anthem, because it has a message that appeals to conscience,” he said.

The retired officer regretted that Nigeria as of today, was in a low-grade war and that such a war is difficult to fight and win successfully.

“We have various groups across the country, both those that are bearing arms and those that do not, but are very serious about their agitations. You have Boko Haram, bandits, some bad herdsmen that have turned into killer machines, IPOB/ESN, and so many others. The question is, which one are you going to fight? There must be a way to end all these unnecessary wars to make the country function well,” he said.

Bem Hembafan, another retired soldier, regretted that the soldiers were attacked without any provocation and killed while on a lawful duty, protecting innocent citizens against the threat of non-state actors.

However, he called for caution in handling the case as the Okuama community has not recovered from the retributive justice of the Army that invaded the community and reduced it to rubbles after the killing of some soldiers in March this year.

“Nigeria must tackle the roots of military-civilian conflicts to forestall further killings,” he said.

In an interview with BusinessDay, Olisa Agbakoba, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), advised the Federal Government to tackle insecurity, by opening dialogue with groups that are agitating for self-determination.

He also warned against the method being applied over the years, which is a declaration of war against the agitators, saying that it would be difficult to win an unconventional war.

“I said you cannot use conventional war to win an irregular war. The war in Nigeria is not conventional. Anybody who reads Che Guevara’s book on guerrilla warfare will know that you can’t defeat any army that is using irregular means, which is why America lost to Vietnam. Now, the consequence of insecurity in Nigeria can be put in the way that if I ask you with millions of dollars, where do we go and invest? I say, ah, I’ve got an idea of where we should go to invest. And you ask me, where is that? And I tell you, we shall go to Gaza. Will you go to Gaza? So, let us then ask, is Nigeria far from Gaza in its present state? Nigeria is like Gaza; a very unstable country in the context of insecurity,” Agbakoba said.

Joshua Akpata, a community leader, lamented that the high level of insecurity in the country has dwarfed the responsibility of the Nigeria Police, now handing the role to the Military.

“I am sad that we have come to a point in Nigeria where the Military has taken over the job of the Police. The reason being that the Police are not trained to face the type of pressure being mounted by gunmen that are everywhere now. So, you see soldiers, who were supposed to be in the barracks on the street mounting checkpoints. It is only in a war situation that soldiers are seen in such a number that we see them on our streets and major roads these days. We must address our security needs urgently too,” Akpata said.

Ambrose Ujo, a cleric based in Umuahia, advised the Military to carry out proper investigation to enable them to fish out the real killers of the five soldiers.

Ujo said that the advice became necessary following the threat by the Military to visit the area with fury, saying that innocent Nigerians must not be allowed to bear the brunt of the sins of others.

“While I commiserate with the Nigerian Military and indeed the families of the soldiers, I want to advise the Military to carry out proper investigation to ensure that innocent persons are not punished for other people’s sins. Proper care must be taken in this case,” he said.

Condemning the killings, Olu Fasan, a public commentator, noted that every decent Nigerian must be appalled by the killing of the soldiers by non-state actors, while the frequency of the killings, according to him, is the height of lawlessness.

“The incessant ambushing and killing of soldiers and policemen by civilian gangs in Nigeria is a sign of anarchy,” Fasan said in his comment column in a Nigerian national newspaper.

“When soldiers and policemen, symbols of state authority, become frequent targets of civilian attacks, it is an indication that citizens are rebelling against the state and that the state lacks a monopoly on the use of organised violence within its territory,” he noted.

While he supports bringing the perpetrators to justice, he thinks using retributive justice like the Okuama case will not forestall recurrence.

Meanwhile, the Abia State Government has promised to offer N25 million reward to anyone with useful information that could lead to the location and arrest of any of the criminals connected to the unfortunate killing of five soldiers in Aba.

The governor however, directed security formations in the state to treat informants with all the confidentiality required to guarantee their full cooperation and assistance until the criminals are fully apprehended and brought to book.

Nigerians were perplexed Thursday with the news of soldiers killed somewhere in Abia State.

Early reports had announced that two Army personnel were killed. But before the end of that day, the Army confirmed that the number of casualties were five.

The attack happened less than three months after a similar incident in Okuama community in Delta on March 14, 2024.

Up till today, the Okuama community has remained desolate as the Army has since moved in with fury to avenge the blood of the fallen soldiers in the community on a peacekeeping mission.