Okuama residents trapped in forests, send SOS to Tinubu, Oborevwori

Felix Aikhojie
Felix Aikhojie
President Bola Tinubu

Residents of Okuama, Omosuomo, and other communities in Ughelli South Local Government Area, Delta State, still confined in the forests since the ongoing Army clearance operations in their domains over the killing of 17 soldiers on March 14, weekend, have sent distress signals to President Bola Tinubu and Governor Sheriff Oborevwori to save their lives.

They complained that many are dying of hunger, and require urgent medical care in their hiding places.

The residents struggled to contact the leadership of their communities and relatives living in Warri and other cities to pass their message to President Tinubu and Governor Oborevwori.

Similarly, the facilitator of Niger-Delta Democratic Union, NDDU, and Warri-based lawyer, Dr. Akpo Mudiaga-Odje, has called on the Federal Government and the National Boundary Commission, NBC, to demarcate the boundaries of all communities in the country, and gazette them to stem the inter-communal crises rocking the country.

Correspondingly, another Delta lawyer and activist, Lawrence Oseya, declared Sunday that it is wrong for the Army to deny the governor of Delta State, Sheriff Oborevwori, access to the Okuama community where the tragic incident happened

Fleeing residents still hiding in the forests – Okuama indigene

An indigene of Okuama, who lives in Warri, told Vanguard: “Most of my relatives are still hiding in the forests because of the unfriendly military men. They have abandoned their phones and communicate strictly from person to person now.

“My uncle and cousins that escaped and would ordinarily have come to my family house in Warri could not do so as not to invite trouble for us.

Our relatives taking cover in the bush – Abizor, Omosuomo chair

The chairman of Omosuomo Federated Communities in Ughelli South, Chief Henry Abizor, in a communication, entitled “Okuama killings: Attack on Omosuomo Federated Communities by the Military and razing down buildings, we are calling on both state and federal governments to come to our rescue.”

The letter read: “We, the peace-loving people of Omosuomo Federated Communities, from Ewu Clan in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, unequivocally call on the government of Delta State, under the leadership of Sheriff Oborevwori, and President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Bola Tinubu to come to our aid.”

“Most of our people remain in the bush for days running, for fear of the military coming for another operation.

“Our people are seriously in pain and psychological trauma, receiving both native and unorthodox treatments to recover from the shock.

“We condemn taking of human life, especially that of innocents. We sympathize with the families of those military personnel killed at Okuama by some criminal elements. To the innocents who died during the ugly incident at Okuama, we sympathize and pray that all the departed souls, rest in peace.

“The invasion of Omosuomo Federated Communities twice on March 20 and 24, 2024, resulted in looting of residents’ properties, money amounting to millions of naira from locked-up stores as they came in with five war boats with uniformed men, who disembarked with sporadic shootings that sent residents running for their dear lives.

“Locked doors were broken as they searched homes and around without seeing anything they were searching for. The soldiers assembled those, who could not run away in the community town hall where the initial statement of peaceful visitation turned to mass beating, humiliation, and molestation of both the aged men and women.

“The young ones who could not take refuge in the communities were tortured to stupor. Our people are living very far from Okuama and Okoloba. We do not share land boundaries with any of these communities.

“Buildings were set ablaze, with properties worth millions of naira destroyed. This is painful and oppressive.”

Gazette boundaries of all communities —Mudiaga-Odje, lawyer

Speaking, constitutional lawyer, Dr. Mudiaga-Odje called on the National Boundary Commission, NBC, to come out with a map and survey plans, which the Federal Government should gazette, designating well-identified and settled boundaries of communities in Nigeria.

“This is the gravamen of the matter, which is our collective quest and aspiration to forestall future recurrence of this kind of avoidable trajectory of tragedy.”

“The National Boundary Commission is a body established by law and vested with the exclusive authority to demarcate territories or communities within Nigeria.

“Accordingly, we now expect a more proactive approach from the commission to establish with arithmetic certainty, all lands and boundaries of every community in Nigeria.

“It should come out with a map and survey plans, which should be gazetted by the Federal Government, reflecting such well cut out and negotiated boundaries of our communities in Nigeria.

“This will go a long way to avert future community clashes as in the Okuama/Okoloba debacle.

“Indeed, most communal crises are because of land and boundary claims. Contending communities lay claim to each other’s enclaves, especially where there is a mineral and natural resource of economic value on the land.

“These contending communities, in a bid to outwit each other, usually draw up shylock boundaries that go beyond their real territorial boundaries,” he said.

He pointed out, “Equitable demarcation and accurate boundary adjustments through negotiable settlements will forestall future communal crisis in Nigeria.”

It’s wrong to prevent Oborevwori from accessing Okuama — Oseya, lawyer

Another lawyer, Frank Oseya, said, “The role of the Army in the aftermath of the ugly incident so far leaves a stale taste in the buds.

“To have razed the Okuama community ( scene of a crime) and to have gone ahead to burn neighbouring communities along the coastline down to Bayelsa State is not only an erasure of critical evidence, but it is also an act preemptive ( wrongly so ) of investigation.

“To have disallowed the Governor of Delta State- the Chief Security Officer- of the State from gaining access to the community for on-the-spot assessment of the situation is patently discourteous of protocol.

“I have looked at our laws, just to be sure I did not miss the latest amendment, and I am yet to find where the Nigerian Army is donated with investigative powers. The police have that power. It is a strange procedure that the King of Ewu, declared wanted by the military authority, turns himself in, and the police hand him over to the Army. For the Army to do what exactly?

“Let it be made clear that the Army is an interested party in this whole brouhaha, it cannot be the investigator, the prosecutor, and the judge in its cause. As spooky as the events of March 14th and 15th in the Okuama community, we cannot say for certain- at least for now – who the masterminds were. There are still too many accounts, and no less grey areas and questions begging for clarification and answers.

“This is a clarion call, therefore, and a reiteration of the call for the Federal Government to set up a high-powered investigation panel or a commission of inquiry to unravel the immediate and remote causes of the Okuama sad event.

“Meanwhile, the muted idea to turn the Okuama community into a military barrack must be roundly condemned too, as that would amount to ethnic cleansing. The Federal authorities must be careful in going about this whole thing not to worsen an already bad situation.

“Fish out the few unscrupulous elements that killed those officers, and men of the Nigerian Army, yes! However, in doing so, we must not set the children’s teeth on edge because their fathers have eaten soured grapes.”

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