…as Tinubu grants DHQ, CDS full authority to bring perpetrators to justice

…More condemnation trails killing

The killers of men of the Nigerian Army in Delta State last week may be in for the worst nightmare of their lives as the authorities, including President Bola Tinubu, have declared an all-out war to apprehend them and make them face the full wrath of the law.

Officers and men of Operation Delta Safe, including a commanding officer, two majors, one captain, and 12 soldiers deployed to quell a communal crisis in Okuoma community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State were on Thursday, March 14, 2024, gruesomely murdered, alongside a civilian.

The Director of Defence Information, Brig. Gen Tukur Gusau, confirmed the incident in a terse statement issued Friday, saying the incident had been reported to the Delta State government.

The dastardly killing has since attracted severe condemnation, including from President Tinubu; the Nigerian Senate; the Delta State governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, the senator representing Delta Central Senatorial District, Ede Dafinone; presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 election, Atiku Abubakar; his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi; human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN); the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), and many more, with each calling for an investigation into the incident and for the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators.

President Tinubu, in a message on Sunday evening, described the killing as “unprovoked” and “dreadful”.

“As the Commander-in-Chief, I join all well-meaning Nigerians and the men and women of our armed forces to mourn and express my profound grief over the needless death of our gallant soldiers,” Tinubu said.

“I extend my profound condolences to the families of these fallen soldiers, their colleagues, and their loved ones. The military high command is already responding to this incident. The cowardly offenders responsible for this heinous crime will not go unpunished,” he said.

The President said the killing was a further demonstration of the dangers servicemen and women face in their line of duty.

“I salute their heroism, courage, and uncommon grit and patriotism,” Tinubu said.

“As a nation, we must constantly remember and honour all those who have paid the ultimate price to keep our nation safe, strong, and united. The officers and men who died in the Okuama community have joined the pantheon of great men and women who gave their all, with honour, in the service of our fatherland.

“Members of our armed forces are at the heart and core of our nationhood. Any attack on them is a direct attack on our nation. We will not accept this wicked act,” he said.

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Tinubu said the Defence Headquarters and Chief of Defence Staff have been “granted full authority to bring to justice anybody found to have been responsible for this unconscionable crime against the Nigerian people”.

“My government will not relent until we achieve peace and tranquillity in every part of Nigeria,” he said.

In a similar vein, the Senate has condemned the gruesome murder of the soldiers, calling for the culprits to be made to face the full consequences of their actions.

The Senate, in a statement on Sunday signed by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Nigerian Army, Senator Abdulaziz Yar’Adua, noted that the sacrifices made by the Commanding Officer, three officers, and 12 soldiers during the distressing incident would forever be remembered.

“I wish to commend the swift response of the Chief of Defense Staff in directing an immediate investigation to apprehend those responsible for this heinous crime. It is crucial that justice is served and those behind this criminal act are brought to account for their actions. The Nigerian Army’s unwavering focus on upholding peace and security in our nation is a testament to the resilience and dedication of our Armed Forces,” the statement said.

“The Senate Committee on the Nigerian Army stands resolutely alongside the Defence Headquarters and the Nigerian Army in seeking justice for the fallen heroes. We shall spare no effort in supporting the necessary investigations and legal processes to ensure that those responsible for this crime face the full consequences of their actions.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with you, the families of the fallen heroes, and the entire Armed Forces as we honour the sacrifice and service of our brave personnel,” it said.

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Musa, had earlier ordered the immediate arrest and investigation of the killers of the military personnel, according to a statement by the Director of Defence Information, Brig. Gen Gusau, titled ‘Situation Report on the Attack and Killing of Military Personnel on Peace Mission By Okuoma Community’.

Narrating the sequence of events, Gusau said in the statement, “The troops of 181 Amphibious Battalion, Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State, while on a peace mission to Okuoma community in Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State was surrounded by some community youths and killed on Thursday, 14 March 2024.

“The unfortunate incident occurred when the troops responded to a distress call after the communal crisis between the Okuoma and Okoloba communities, both in Delta State.

“The reinforcement team led by the commanding officer was also attacked, leading to the death of the commanding officer, two majors, one captain, and 12 soldiers.

“The CDS, General Christopher Musa, has directed the immediate investigation and arrest of those involved in the heinous crime. The occurrence has been reported to the Delta State government.”.

The statement affirmed that the military remained focused and committed to its mandate of maintaining peace and security in the country, adding, “So far, a few arrests have been made while steps are in place to unravel the motive behind the attack.”