• Monday, May 27, 2024
businessday logo


Nigerian military taking over more Delta Communities

Nigerian military taking over more Delta Communities

…Urhobos reject enquiry board led by military

The Nigerian military has continued to occupy Okuama Community for about a month now since the killing of 17 military personnel that were reportedly on peace mission in the community.

While the people are crying for the military troops to vacate the community, the troops have stayed put and carrying a cordon and search operation in the community and its environs.

This is despite setting up a board of enquiry to investigate the cause of the tragic killing of the soldiers on March 14 this year.

On Thursday, the troops’ operation extended to a nearby community where they reportedly burst a gun manufacturing factory and arrested persons in connection with the factory.

BusinessDay Sunday gathered that over 200 soldiers stormed Olota in three gunboats during the Thursday raid and arrested over ten persons including key community leaders in the process.

There was an allegation that they also set some buildings ablaze.

Army in a statement on the Facebook page, said its troops recovered arms and ammunition from the armoury in Olota and other locations in neighbouring communities in Ughelli South LGA of the state.

It said troops had raided the secret armoury in response to a tip-off and that the armoury, was concealed in the residence of the suspected gun runner identified as Mr. Kenneth.

The Army said one G3 rifle, 853 rounds of 7.62mm NATO, and 19 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition were recovered from the armoury.

“The operation further extended to other adjoining locations within the community, resulting in the discovery of four G3 rifles and magazines, one pump action semi-automatic gun, three sub-machine guns (SMG) and magazines, as well as 476 live cartridges,” the army said in the statement, adding that three suspects were arrested during the operation, but did not reveal their identities.

The army explained that the operation was part of the ongoing efforts to eradicate illegal weapons in the South- south region.

“Additionally, the troops recovered five locally fabricated guns, a large plastic bag containing substance suspected to be cannabis sativa, and two speed boats with 75 horsepower outboard engines,” the army statement added.

It also said the Nigerian army remains resolute in “sanitising and mopping up illicit munitions in possession of criminals in the region as part of its efforts to ensure peace and security for residents of the region.”

The Olota incident came one month after the military troops combed Onicha-Olona Community in Delta North Senatorial District of the state.

There, they discovered a gun manufacturing factory run by members of a particular family, and arrested them but Senator Ned Nwoko who represents the district in the National Assembly, had to intervene barely a month after the arrest and they were released.

Nwoko said reason for his intervention was on his belief that rather than condemning them, their talents should be tapped into and channelled properly to even earn revenue for the country.

The military seems not to be seeing it that way, instead they are treated as criminals especially as the search for the riffles belonging to the slain soldiers are on.

The manner the military continues to unleash terror on the communities seems to be threatening the people the more that Urhobo, the ethnic group the Okuama Community belongs to, on Friday, issued a statement, insisting on its position not to participate in the board of enquiry set up to investigate the killing of the 17 soldiers in Okuama.

Their major reason is that army cannot be a judge in a matter in which it is a party. They want the military to reconsider setting up an independent panel of Enquiry to be led by police instead of army.

The people who spoke under the Urhobo Progressive Union (UPU) Youth Wing Worldwide and Urhobo Youth Leaders Association (UYLA) would not also participate in the panel except Clement Ikolo, the monarch of Ewu-Urhobo who has been detained by the military for three weeks running, following his voluntary surrender to the Nigerian army.

The people believe that going by the way and manner the Nigerian military is operating in their communities, they would not get justice in the panel.

The condemnation that has also trailed the military brutality and occupation of Okuama Community and environs has not also deterred the military especially as it has the backing of the Federal Government.

The Board of Enquiry which has Air Vice Marshal David Ajayi as its chairman is carrying on with its sitting in Warri and not just the Okuamas, Urhobos, Deltans but civilians in the country are worried. Though they sympathise with army over the loss of the personnel and the loss of arms, they also want justice for the innocent citizens of the affected Delta Communities.

As the panel goes on, the troops are in the communities and tension continues to heighten in the land.